September 3, 2008

In Today's Issue:

FDA Seeks Comment on Produce Guidelines

In a major development with implications for future produce safety standards, the Food and Drug Administration published yesterday a Federal Register notice seeking public comments on its 1998 Guide to Minimize Microbial Food Safety Hazards for Fresh Fruits and Vegetables, commonly referred to as Good Agricultural Practices or GAPs guidelines.  “We believe FDA’s action today begins its own comprehensive look at produce safety guidance and standards, both on a comprehensive and commodity specific basis, in advance of potential food safety legislation pending before Congress,” said United President Tom Stenzel.  “The questions FDA is asking about the 1998 guidance provide a pretty clear roadmap of their interest in relative rankings of risk, more comprehensive compliance with GAPs across the entire industry, and enhanced traceability.” 

United’s former food safety and microbiology committees were instrumental in drafting industrywide guidance in the mid 1990s that helped shape FDA’s own thinking at the time.  That process will now be replicated, with the Food Safety & Technology Council taking on the mission to help update FDA on scientific advances and changes in industry practices since that time.  “Although FDA’s guidance document is now 10 years old, it has proven effective in outlining the primary risk factors and preventive controls for growing and harvesting the vast majority of fresh produce commodities,” said Dr. David Gombas, senior vice president food safety and technology.  “But we have learned much in these past 10 years, so the Council has a big job to help ensure any revisions to the guidelines are appropriate.” 

With FDA’s action today, the FDA/Produce Town Hall meeting on September 11 is even more critical for attendees at next week’s Washington Public Policy Conference.  Be sure to register today, so we can save room for you at this important FDA meeting.  Please contact Dr. David Gombas about any of FDA’s fresh produce regulatory activities.

Sold Out Recall Course Wraps in Yakima, Preps for Los Angeles

Last week, over forty industry members from Washington, Oregon and beyond, gathered in Yakima, Washington for United Fresh's 4th "Training for a Recall, Communicating Under Fire" course.  During the sold-out program, attendees from all segments of the supply chain, from quality assurance managers to marketing directors to CEOs, learned the skills and applications needed to handle a product recall effectively and efficiently.  The next recall course, and last in 2008, is scheduled October 1-2, at the Sheraton Gateway Los Angeles, adjacent to the Los Angeles International (LAX) Airport.  This two-day course focuses 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.  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.  The Los Angeles course is expected to sell-out and the hotel reservation deadline is September 9, so be sure to reserve your spot today!  For additional registration and housing information, contact United Fresh Education Manager, Beth Berman at 202-303-3405.

United Fresh Legal Counsel, David Durkin, Olsson, Frank & Weeda, talks about limiting liability during a product recall

Yakima attendees were "grilled" in media interviews during a mock recall exercise

Advisory Lifted on Serrano & Jalapeno Peppers

In an August 28th media call, FDA and CDC announced that the Salmonella Saintpaul outbreak appeared to be over and the FDA lifted its advice to avoid Mexican jalapeno and Serrano peppers.  In other words, jalapeno and Serrano peppers from all sources including Mexico are safe to consume.  FDA found a positive sample of the Salmonella Saintpaul strain in irrigation water on one farm in Mexico; however, they believe the outbreak is over because illnesses have significantly diminished and their field investigation indicates peppers possibly related to the outbreak, are no longer in the market.  United Fresh will continue to keep you updated as new information becomes available.  In the meantime, please feel free to contact Amy Philpott, Vice President, Communications, (202) 303-3400 ext. 425 or Dr. David Gombas, Senior Vice President, Food Safety and Technology, (202) 303-3400 ext. 411.

Idaho Association Veteran Retires After 28 Years

The accolades were abundant at the annual convention of the Idaho Grower Shippers Association this past weekend as President Dave Smith retired after 28 years service to the association.  “Dave is one of the true stalwarts of the produce association community,” said United President Tom Stenzel in presenting him a plaque at Friday night’s banquet honoring his service to the industry.  “Dave effectively advocated Idaho’s and the potato industry interests on the national level, and he also always enlisted the support of Idaho’s Congressional leaders for fruit and vegetable causes beyond their own self interest.  More importantly, Dave has been a fast friend since I attended my first produce convention in Idaho 15 years ago, just two weeks after starting at United,” Tom said.  Dave was recognized by a number of industry leaders upon his retirement, and was awarded the Russet Aristocrat Award, IGSA’s highest honor.  Congratulations also to Travis Blacker who becomes IGSA’s new President.  Both Dave and Travis will be at this year’s Washington Public Policy Conference next week to pass the mantle of leadership in meetings with the Idaho Congressional delegation.

Dave Smith (far left) has been a tireless voice for Idaho, joining Pat Kole of the Idaho Potato Commission and Steve Ottum, Potandon Produce, in promoting Idaho's mascot "Spuddy Buddy" to Congressmen and staff from across the country

International Affairs, Marketing Specialist Join United Fresh Staff

Today, United Fresh welcomed two new members to its staff, bringing on board diverse expertise in the fields of marketing and international relations.  Melissa Speed joins the staff as the new Director of International Member Services, and Marinell Saville will take on the role of Marketing Manager.  Speed brings to the association over 8 years experience in international program management providing technical support to developing countries undergoing the process of democratization.  She has significant experience working with international municipalities, government agencies and non-profit organizations.  Most recently, she served as the Director of the Fire Corps Program for the National Volunteer Fire Council, a program of the Department of Homeland Security.  Marinell Saville, in her role as Marketing Manager, will be responsible for managing the association's marketing and attendee outreach for the convention.  She comes to the association with an extensive background in marketing and PR, most recently as the marketing coordinator for The Charles Hotel in Boston, Mass., where she focused on developing marketing campaigns and convention promotions.  She also boasts a brief stint in the political arena, serving as an intern for her Congressman, Phil Gingrey (GA).  Melissa and Marinell are just a few of the many United Fresh staff members working on your behalf every day.  At United Fresh, we are proud to serve our members and the industry.  Feel free to contact us anytime at 202-303-3400.

Melissa Speed, Director,
International Member Services

Saville, Marketing Manager


New Member Welcome

Each week, United Fresh welcomes its newest partners in building a stronger produce industry:

  • Bailey Farms, Inc., Oxford, NC
  • Chilean Avocado Importers Association, Aptos, CA
  • DeMoulas Market Basket, Tewksbury, MA
  • Fairway Market, New York, NY
  • North Carolina State University, Kannapolis, NC
  • SunFed, Rio Rico, AZ
  • Tropical Express, Alexandria, VA

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.

News and Views

Farmworkers Leaving the Valley in Search of Jobs
Farm workers are leaving the Fresno Valley in search of jobs due to drought and economic desperation. A few are commuting to the Salinas valley while others are looking to travel to Alaska, Washington and North Carolina.

Foodmakers Won't Be Rushing to Irradiate Greens
The federal regulators have given the food industry permission to sell irradiated spinach and lettuce but there are several hurdles for the industry.

Pest Found Near San Diego Could be Citrus Greening
A pest never before seen in California, that can cause citrus greening, has been trapped near San Diego.  It is currently being sent to the U.S. Department of Agriculture entomological laboratory in Washington D.C. for investigation.  

Schools Seek Virginia Produce
Local schools in Virginia want to serve more Virginia-grown produce in school lunches, but the schools need to first connect with local farms that have crops to sell.

Concerns Remain as Salmonella Outbreak Comes to an End
The salmonella outbreak comes to an end, but still concerns remain. The produce industry has lost millions of dollars and lost jobs. 

Chattanooga: Fresh Produce for All
Crabtree Farms hopes to attract residents in inter-city Chattanooga to organic produce by allowing them to use food stamps.