June 12, 2008

In Today's Issue:

A Message from Your Chairman

Dear Fellow Produce Industry Members,

Since last week, when FDA issued its notice on Salmonella saintpaul outbreak, you have received regular updates from United Fresh, and I hope that you are using our website to access important documents and notices concerning the situation.

FDA’s traceback investigation is obviously progressing slower than any of us would like, but despite the frustration, know that United Fresh is working non-stop on the industry’s behalf. I’d like to share some of the things that United Fresh has been doing. United Fresh is working to counter misleading news reports, helping legislators understand the industry’s processes, keeping the produce industry informed and coordinating messages with other industry groups.

Specifically, Dr. David Gombas, senior vice president of food safety and technology, is working to help in the investigation, keep our members informed, answer the media’s technical questions and drive health officials to narrow and soon end the warning so we can get back in business. Robert Guenther, senior vice president of public policy, is providing background briefings to legislators who need to address constituent calls and concerns and, in fact, he was on Capitol Hill today at a subcommittee hearing on FDA’s Food Protection Plan. Amy Philpott, vice president of communications, is keeping all of us informed, taking reporters’ calls, and coordinating with other industry groups to bring a united voice to the media and the buyer community. Finally, rebuilding consumer confidence is important and United Fresh will coordinate with industry groups to ensure that we are using resources efficiently to this end.

This is a difficult time for everyone and any food safety issue associated with fresh produce impacts the entire industry. While we continue to address the impact of this outbreak, we also look to the future. Food safety is the industry’s top priority and we must continue to support research, improve prevention and detection tools, and work with health officials to facilitate the quick and definite identification of problems when they occur. These are not easy challenges, but together we can meet them.

Please feel free to contact me or your United Fresh staff anytime.

Tom Lovelace
Executive Vice President, McEntire Produce
United Fresh Chairman of the Board

Additional Funds Sought for FDA Food Safety Initiatives
On Monday Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Michael O. Leavitt, announced that his administration is amending its original FY 2009 budget proposal, and requesting an additional $275 million designated specifically for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). These additional funds, although still dependant on Congressional approval, will be put toward improving and expanding the FDA's Action Plan for Import Safety and its Food Protection Plan, both announced in November of 2007. FDA's total proposed budget for FY2009 is $404.7 million, a 17.8% increase from last year's funding. Out of the total $275 million budget increase request, $125 million has been designated for FDA's Food Protection Plan, with the remaining funds used to address the safety of drugs medical products, and to invest in updating FDA laboratories and scientific equipment. According to FDA, the Food Protection Plan is "an integrated, risk-based strategy to help ensure the safety of domestic and imported food and feed." The plan is designed to reduce food supply threats, expand FDA's international presence, and establish protocols to ensure that foreign and domestic food facilities comply with food safety standards. The increased funds will also be used to improve the risk-based approach that FDA uses to inspect domestic and foreign food manufacturing, processing, and packaging facilities, and to conduct more targeted inspections on imported foods. FDA also intends to use the funds to address research on ways to prevent intentional and unintentional contamination, provide greater access to screening technologies that aid in identifying microbial and chemical contamination, and to respond when an outbreak of food borne illness is reported. Click here to access the full press release.

For more information about the FDA Food Protection Plan or these increased funds, please contact Dr. David Gombas, United Fresh senior vice president, food safety and technology, at dgombas@unitedfresh.org or 202-303-3411.

Institute of Medicine Starts Scientific Review of School Meals
This week in Washington, D.C. the Institute of Medicine's (IOM) Committee on Nutrition Standards for School Lunch and Breakfast began their scientific review of school meals. This study could have implications on increasing the amount of fruits and vegetables served in school meals. By law, school meals must reflect the latest Dietary Guidelines. However, it's been 13 years since USDA last revised school meals. The ultimate goal of this expert IOM committee is to provide USDA with recommendations to revise the meal patterns and nutrition standards of the National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program. The recommendations are to reflect new developments in nutrition science, increase the availability of key food groups in the school meal programs, and allow these programs to better meet the nutritional needs of children, foster healthy eating habits, and safeguard children's health. The IOM Report, including specific recommendations for revising school meal patterns, is anticipated by winter 2010. United Fresh Produce Association will have the opportunity to address the Committee at its Open Public Workshop on July 9, 2008. For more information please contact Lorelei DiSogra at ldisogra@unitedfresh.org or 202-303-3403.

Annual Washington Conference Includes NEW Twists
The 2008 Washington Public Policy Conference (WPPC) will be held September 10-12 at the Renaissance Mayflower Hotel in Washington, D.C. This conference is the largest produce industry conference in Washington, D.C. and this year we've added a few NEW twists such as visits to foreign embassies, special tours to USDA and FDA, and a debate between the 2008 Presidential candidates' policy advisors on agriculture. Throughout the conference we'll take a look at how the Farm Bill, implementation of Country of Origin Labeling (COOL), federal food safety requirements, the WIC nutrition program and the upcoming 2009 Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act can create new business opportunities for your company. You'll learn how to take advantage of these opportunities to sell more produce. Register today for one of the best Washington Public Policy Conferences yet.

Invite the President of Safeway to Speak at Your Desk
Steve Burd, President & CEO of Safeway, Inc., delivered a powerful message on healthcare to a captive audience at the Opening Keynote Breakfast at the 2008 United Fresh convention in Las Vegas. If you missed him in person, or want to see it again, we invite you download the video of his speech. Mr. Burd is a leader among the American business community in driving solutions to the health care crisis facing both individuals and businesses. In this video, hear how he has developed real world solutions that incorporate incentives for individuals to make healthy choices such as exercising and eating healthy diets, which of course include increasing fresh fruit and vegetable consumption. The video download is free to United Fresh members and $25 for non-members. Click here to download the video. For more information, contact Victoria Backer, senior vice president, member services, foundation at vbacker@unitedfresh.org or 202-303-3405.

NY Native, SC Student Joins United Fresh for Summer Internship
We are pleased to announce that Caitlin Dorman will be working in our office this summer through the United Fresh Summer Intern Program. Caitlin will be assisting the United Fresh government relations team with research projects, Hill events, and all aspects of the Washington Public Policy Conference. She is eager to learn about United Fresh and how the produce industry interacts with government. A senior at Coastal Carolina University in South Carolina, Caitlin is a Political Science major with a minor in Pre-Law. Caitlin is very active within the student body, and this past spring she was elected Student Body Executive Vice President. She is also the President of Phi Alpha Delta (Pre-Law Fraternity), Membership Education Vice-President for Alpha Delta Pi Sorority, and Chair for the Coastal Delegation for the South Carolina Student Legislature. Caitlin also tutors and mentors student athletes. Caitlin grew up in Elba, NY where both sides of her family own farms. One side of her family raises cattle while the other grows produce. Being from Elba, NY

New Member Welcome
Each week, United Fresh welcomes its newest partners in building a stronger produce industry:
  • Strategic Diagnostics, Newark, DE
  • P.F. Chang's China Bistro/Pei Wei Asian Diner, Scottsdale, AZ
United Fresh thanks all current members for their dedication to the association and the produce industry. Please let us know whenever we can be of service to you. For more details about the benefits of membership, please contact Jeff Oberman, joberman@unitedfresh.org

News & Views
Fuel Costs and Rising Food Prices
According to the Reno Gazette Journal, the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics states that food prices in the United States are rising faster than they have in about 20 years because of increased the fuel costs.

Private Sector Fights Obesity
The U.S. Department of Agriculture acknowledges 46 corporations for their efforts to promote improved nutrition to fight obesity.

Year of the Potato
The Washington Post reports that the United Nations has named 2008 the International Year of the Potato because production in emerging economies has doubled to about 182 million tons.

Bush Wants FDA to Get More Money
The New York Times recently reported that the Bush administration has asked Congress to give the Food and Drug Administration an additional $275 million in next year's budget to improve the nation's food safety.

Drought in California
On Thursday, June 5, The Huffington Post, reported that California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger declared a statewide drought.