August 13, 2008

In Today's Issue:

Latest Edition of Tomato Food Safety Guidance Document Now Available
More than 40 scientists and experts from academia, government and the fresh tomato industry have contributed to the Second Edition of the Commodity Specific Food Safety Guidelines for the Fresh Tomatoes Supply Chain. Published this week by United Fresh Produce Association (United Fresh) and the North American Tomato Trade Work Group (NATTWG), this document provides the latest food safety guidelines for the fresh tomato industry, and it includes components for companies along the entire supply chain, including retailers and foodservice distributors. In a press release yesterday, Reggie Brown, chairman of NATTWG, executive vice president of Florida Tomato Exchange and the recipient of the 2008 United Fresh Technical Award for his work in food safety said, “The second edition of the guidelines represents current understanding of conditions and controls that should be considered by every company in the tomato supply chain.” For more information, please contact Dr. David Gombas, senior vice president of food safety and technology at United Fresh.

Industry Gets COOL Education
With new mandatory country of origin labeling (COOL) regulations going into effect September 30, United Fresh is making sure that the industry has access to COOL education and can get answers to all the COOL questions. Last Friday, United Fresh partnered with 16 other state, commodity and regional associations to hold a webcast that more than 400 produce industry members attended. This webcast is available online thru November 8, compliments of the co-sponsors:

American Mushroom Institute
California Citrus Mutual
California Grape & Tree Fruit League
California Strawberry Commission
Florida Citrus Packers
Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association
Florida Tomato Exchange
Fresh Produce Association of the Americas
Georgia Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association
Grower-Shipper Association of Central California
Idaho Grower Shipper Association
National Potato Council
National Watermelon Association
Northwest Horticultural Council
Texas Produce Association
U.S. Apple Association
United Fresh Produce Association

United Fresh COOL education doesn’t stop there. This week United Fresh is holding three, in-person workshops in partnership with Food Marketing Institute (FMI) and American Meat Institute (AMI) to bring retailers and suppliers together. Yesterday 120 attendees attended the joint Baltimore, MD COOL workshop where United Fresh Senior Vice President of Public Policy Robert Guenther spoke, and another 150 attendees are attending the Chicago, IL workshop today where United Fresh President Tom Stenzel is speaking. On Thursday, Robert will be in San Jose, California to once again address more than 130 suppliers and retailers who have registered to learn about COOL together at the final United Fresh/FMI/ AMI workshop.

Also, Robert is on the road this week to Lafayette, LA where he is explaining COOL to Brookshire Grocery Company’s corporate and regional produce teams during a company meeting. He’ll also be in D.C. to give the “Complying With COOL in Your Business” workshop at the annual United Fresh Washington Public Policy Conference. This COOL business forum is scheduled on Thursday, September 11.

Finally, even if you missed all these COOL opportunities, United Fresh members can get a FREE copy of the latest COOL Compliance Guide, or non-members can download it for just $25. For more information about COOL, contact Robert at 202-303-3400 ext. 409.

The Best Kept Networking Secret in the Industry
Meet presidents, vice presidents and heads of produce, retail and foodservice companies! Meet senators, representatives and heads of state! The Washington Public Policy Conference (WPPC) isn’t just about advocacy – it’s also about networking with produce companies and buyers. WPPC offers an intimate and exclusive setting for spending time with friends and getting to know new business contacts. In the words of one, first-time WPPC attendee, “WPPC is the best kept networking secret in the industry!”  In between speaking with Members of Congress and advocating on behalf of the industry, there is plenty of time to network at the Fresh Festival Reception on Capitol Hill, at any of the breakfast or lunch general sessions, or on the bus to the FDA Headquarters or a foreign Embassy. This is a non-stop business opportunity.  Register for WPPC today and advocate for the produce industry while also developing your business contacts. For more information about WPPC, please contact Angela Bezon at abezon@unitedfresh.org or 202-303-3400.

Produce Industry Speaks to Food Safety Experts
The International Association for Food Protection (IAFP) annual conference is arguably the premier meeting of food safety professionals in the U.S., and this year’s meeting included several sessions on fresh produce food safety. United Fresh Food Safety and Technology Council members Will Daniels, Earthbound Farm, and Dr. Barry Eisenberg, River Ranch, spoke to the group. In a “breaking session” on Wednesday, United Fresh’s Dr. David Gombas provided a produce industry perspective to the Salmonella saintpaul outbreak that the industry has been dealing with since the end of May.  Following presentations by CDC and FDA on the ongoing investigation, David briefed the more than 200 attendees on the lost opportunities of leveraging industry knowledge to expedite the current investigation.  Among the lessons learned, David noted, “Lack of transparency [by the Agencies] hindered communication and the ability of industry to assist.  Had CDC and FDA been able to share more real-time information from their investigation, the industry may have been able to help clear tomatoes and point the Agencies to another source sooner. The industry has dozens of resources in each sector that are highly motivated to assist, and that can provide important information, if they are given the necessary information and opportunity to help.”  For more about the IAFP, the breaking session or the ongoing investigation, contact David.

"Must Attend" Product Recall Course Comes to Los Angeles
If you haven't been to a United Fresh Product Recall Course, don't miss out on this opportunity! In response to a growing demand, on October 1-2, 2008, the United Fresh Foundation will hold its fifth "Training for a Recall, Communicating Under Fire" course at the Sheraton Gateway Los Angeles, conveniently located by the Los Angeles International Airport. This two-day course  will focus on all aspects of a product recall, including the legal liability, working with the FDA, the importance of traceability, and how to apply a crisis communication plan to product recall situations. This hands-on educational program is designed to bring together industry members throughout the supply chain, from quality assurance directors to marketing directors to CEOs. In addition to the two-day product recall course, United Fresh is also offering a half-day of media training on October 3.  Taught by communications and public affairs specialists, this course will teach participants the fundamentals of working with the media and how to deliver messages under the pressure of a real-life interview. Separate registration for the media training is required.  Due to the highly interactive nature of the program, attendance at the Recall Course and media training is limited. Past courses have sold-out, so be sure to register today! For additional registration and housing information, contact United Fresh Education Manager, Beth Berman, at bberman@unitedfresh.org or 202-303-3405.

Mandatory E-Verify System Is Being Considered
On Monday, United Fresh submitted comments pertaining to a proposed federal rule that mandates federal contractors and subcontractors verify the work eligibility of all new and current employees through the E-Verify system. For produce companies doing business with the federal government, this proposed rule has the potential to adversely impact their work as a federal contractor or subcontractor. In question is the E-Verify system’s capacity to handle the immediately increase in usage that this rule would bring about. Highlighted in our comments are several other important issues that we believe need to be addressed, as well as our assessment of the potential impact of this rule on United Fresh members. Other agricultural groups, including the National Council of Agricultural Employers, have expressed similar concerns about the proposed rule. For more information on this proposed rule, please contact Robert Guenther, senior vice president of public policy at 202-303-3400 ext. 409.

New Member Welcome
Each week, United Fresh welcomes its newest partners in building a stronger produce industry:
  • G2 Farms, Austin, TX
  • Harmons, Salt Lake City, UT
  • Spokane Software Systems, Inc., St. George, UT
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 and Views

Unveiling the Top Tomatoes
This week’s Food & Dining section of the Washington Post highlights summer tomatoes; detailing the annual Top Tomato contest, a delectable summer sandwich highlighting fresh tomatoes, and delicious recipes including tomatoes in sauces, salads and other dishes.

Leafy Greens Food Safety Program Completes First Year of Audits
The Wall Street Journal’s Market Watch reports that more than 500 inspections were completed due to the efforts of the California Leafy Greens Handler Marketing Agreement (LGMA).

Commentary: Import Labor or Import Food - - Who will decide?
Lynn Flaherty, editor of FBNews, suggests in an opinion column on the California Farm Bureau Federation website that if Congress remains disengaged and reluctant to address the lack of a legal and stable agriculture workforce, our country must decide whether to import labor or to import food.

USDA Grant Helps Fresno State Organic
The California Farmer reports that California State University, Fresno received a $250,000 U.S. Department of Agriculture grant, which will be used to increase organic agricultural research and education.

NC Gets Federal Funds For Food Safety Research
The North Carolina News Network reports that the microbiology lab at the NC State Department of Agriculture received federal funds to develop better food testing to keep Americans safe. This lab will also become part of the U.S. Food Emergency Response Network.

Washington Food Safety Fruit & Vegetable Audits Expanding Rapidly
The western Farmer-Stockman reports that in response to recent high profile salmonella and E.coli outbreaks related to specific fresh fruit and vegetables, growers in Washington state are seeking third-party verification of their farm practices in attempt to reduce the possibility of microbial contamination associated with their produce.

USDA Declares NY Counties Eligible for Disaster Aid
The Buffalo news reports that farm operators in Erie, Genesee and 15 other upstate New York counties are eligible for disaster aid because of their losses in a severe hail storm June 16.