September 24, 2008

In Today's Issue:


Food Safety Legislation to Be Introduced in House This Week
Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), chairperson of the House Agriculture Appropriation Subcommittee and recent speaker at United Fresh’s Washington Public Policy Conference, held a hearing last week focusing on food safety and problems that were highlighted during the recent Salmonella outbreak. At the hearing, she announced that she will introduce legislation this week to turn the food safety division of the Food and Drug Administration into a separate food safety administration within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. In particular, her bill will establish an independent agency solely devoted to regulating food safety standards and protecting consumers. Her legislation will also call for the commissioner of the Food Safety Administration to be appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate. “Reforming the food safety laws of this country continues to be a top priority for many in Congress and we will see increased attention to this issue in 2009 as Congress and a new Administration arrive,” said Robert Guenther, senior vice president of public policy for United Fresh. Food safety was one of the top issues discussed at the Washington Public Policy Conference where attendees visited over 120 congressional offices and participated in a town hall meeting with FDA.

EC Harmonizes Rules on Pesticide Residues
The European Commission (EC) introduced a new regulation, (EC) No 396/2005, earlier this month aimed at simplifying the rules concerning pesticide residues. The new rule, which is a joint effort by the European Commission, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the member states, provides for Maximum Residue Levels (MRLs) for pesticides in products of plant and animal origin. Previously, traders and importers were required to consult 27 different lists of national MRLs. The EC believes the new regulation will provide for more efficient and effective business practices. For a detailed list of the MRLs and the products to which they apply, visit the EC website or contact Melissa Speed, director of international member services at United Fresh, at 202-303-3404.

COOL Deadline Approaches
Next Tuesday, September 30, 2008, is the last day to submit comments to USDA on the COOL Interim Final Rule. To review the Interim Final Rule and what it means for your business, we invite you to download the latest version of the United Fresh COOL Compliance Guide (available free of charge to all United Fresh members.) Also available for you to review are the PowerPoint slides from the produce industry COOL webcast held on August 8, 2008, and the PowerPoint slides from the regional workshops that United Fresh co-hosted with the Food Marketing Institute in August. Answers to your questions about the interim final rule can also be found at the United Fresh COOL Resource Center and USDA’s COOL website.

USDA Agriculture Marketing Service Administrator Lloyd Day speaks at the COOL Policy to Business Impact Forum at the United Fresh Washington Public Policy Conference, held this September 10-12 in Washington, DC.

United Fresh will be submitting comments on the COOL Interim Final Rule. For more information or questions about the COOL Interim Final Rule, please contact Robert Guenther, senior vice president of public policy at United Fresh, at 202-303-3400 ext. 409.


New USDA COOL Information Sessions Announced
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has announced that it will hold three informational sessions on the Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) regulation. These sessions will be held in College Station, Texas on September 26, Minneapolis-Lakeville, Minn. on October 7 and Los Angeles, Calif. on October 9, and will be relevant to all segments of the produce industry supply chain. If you plan to attend any of the informational sessions, USDA asks that you complete a registration form prior to your attendance. For additional information about the meetings, an agenda and driving directions, please click here.

New Policy for Travel to U.S. from Visa-Waiver Countries
United Fresh would like to bring to your attention new visa requirements that will impact travel to the United States as of January 12, 2009. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has announced the creation of a new Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA). The new system, which went live on August 1, 2008, requires that visitors from visa-waiver countries (most European countries) register online before they travel to the U.S. DHS will review the applications, and if approved, visitors will receive authorization to enter the United States within 72 hours. Once approved, authorization is good for a period of two years and allows for multiple entries into the U.S. Individuals who wish to visit the U.S. are encouraged to register at least 72 hours prior to their first trip to the U.S. The European Commission is also considering a similar online system for visitors from the U.S. and other countries. If you have any questions, please contact United Fresh International Member Services Director Melissa Speed, at 202-303-3400 ext. 404.

FDA Takes a Look at Produce Traceability
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will hold two meetings before the end of the year to address produce traceability. The first will be held in College Park, Md. on October 16 and the second will be in Oakland, Calif. on November 13. According to a statement on the FDA website, the purpose of the meetings is " ... to stimulate and focus a discussion about mechanisms to enhance product tracing systems for fresh produce and to improve FDA's ability to use the information in such systems to identify the source of contamination associated with fresh produce-related outbreaks of foodborne illness."

As a key player in the traceability discussion, United Fresh will participate in both meetings, as we have been working closely with the Produce Marketing Association and the Canadian Produce Marketing Association to develop the industry’s Produce Traceability Initiative (PTI) action plan. PTI is aimed at enhancing produce traceability through the use of a common language. FDA is aware of the recommendations within PTI and has pledged a continued dialogue with United Fresh and our partners.

At the meetings, FDA hopes to address concerns on specific issues ranging from the scope of traceability and the costs, benefits and logistics of standardization, to FDA's role in enhancing produce traceability. If you would like to attend the FDA produce traceability meetings, you must register on the FDA website. Questions about registration, requests to make an oral presentation and submission of written material for the presentation should be directed to Deborah Harris, EDJ Associates. For more information about any of FDA’s fresh produce activities, contact Dr. David Gombas, United Fresh senior vice president of food safety and technology at 202-303-3400 ext. 411.


Texas Produce Sees Opportunities in WIC and School Snack Program
Last weekend, Dr. Lorelei DiSogra, vice president nutrition and health at United Fresh, spoke at the Texas Produce Convention in McAllen, Texas. Moderating a panel on “New Opportunities to Market Texas Produce” Lorelei and Robin Roark of the Texas Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Programs discussed the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Snack Program, the Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), and the School Lunch and Breakfast Programs as examples of programs that are expanding demand for fresh fruits and vegetables and provide marketing and sales opportunities for the state’s produce industry. Texas will receive more than $2 million this school year to fund the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Snack Program in 85 schools. For the Texas produce industry, this translates into an opportunity to provide 40,000 school children with great tasting Texas fresh fruits and vegetables every school day. The Texas WIC program, one of the largest in the country, plans to launch the fruit and vegetable vouchers as part of their new food packages in August of 2009. This could translate into almost $90 million in new produce sales per year statewide. Texas is also a leader in setting standards to improve the healthfulness of school meals. Lorelei and Robin highlighted opportunities for more salad bars in schools, and fresh-cut fruits and vegetables in school meals. For a list of the schools participating in the Texas Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Snack program or for any additional information, contact Dr. Lorelei DiSogra.

Leadership Class Experiences a Power-Packed Visit to the East Coast
The 12 fellows in this year's Produce Industry Leadership Program came to Washington, D.C. to experience for the first time the Washington Public Policy Conference and become the newest grassroots advocates for the produce industry. Members of Leadership Class 14 were seen everywhere - from exhibiting in Fresh Festival and marching on Capitol Hill, to seeking information from the FDA and attending the United FreshPAC dinner. It's evident the class developed a fondness for the political scene in Washington. After the excitement of WPPC, the class traveled to Wilmington, Del., the national headquarters for DuPont Crop Protection, to learn about future initiatives DuPont is taking in growing global markets, food safety, sustainable packaging and emerging food products. The class also visited the Port of Wilmington, the largest banana port in North America, to see Dole Fresh Fruit Company’s banana warehouse for ripening. The group then boarded the Dole Chile vessel for a tour led by the ship’s captain. The class rounded out the trip with intensive media training to learn the essentials of perfecting camera-ready interviews, and capped the trip with delightful dinner with the DuPont Crop Protection Executive Leadership Team. The team includes Jim Collins, Vice President & General Manager; Rik Miller, Director Marketing & Sales; John Chrosniak, Regional Director - North America; Ed Makowski, Director Strategic Planning & Six Sigma; Alex DeDominicis, Global Finance Manager; David Peet, Director Operations; and Scotty Crowder, Account Manager. The Leadership Program is presented through the United Fresh Research & Education Foundation and is made possible through a generous grant from DuPont Crop Protection, sponsor of the program since its inception in 1995. For more information, contact Beth Berman, United Fresh education manager, at 202-303-3405.

 


Chairman’s Roundtable Welcomes Its Newest Member
The United Fresh Chairman's Roundtable provides extra support for programs in government relations, food safety, nutrition policy and other areas to help grow the produce industry. We are pleased to recognize our most recent Chairman’s Roundtable Member:
  • Condies Foods, Salt Lake City, UT
The Chairman's Roundtable is an opportunity for United Fresh member companies to contribute above and beyond their basic dues. Roundtable members are industry leaders who set the pace in building United Fresh's strength in areas that do not generate their own revenue. Members of the Chairman's Roundtable enjoy special recognition for their support throughout the year. For more information on the Chairman’s Roundtable, please contact Director of Membership Miriam Miller.

Green Chilies and Potatoes
"Green chilies and potatoes. Preferably in a stew." That was the answer when we asked Patrick Delaney about his favorite fruit or vegetable. On September 8, United Fresh welcomed Patrick to the newly-created post of Communications Manager. Patrick will handle all incoming press inquiries, as well as research and proactive media outreach. Additionally, he will play a key role in providing content development and editing for United Fresh publications. "Being new to the industry, I’m continually impressed with the level of candor and eagerness to help shown by our members. I look forward to meeting and working with each of them in the months and years to come," he says. A 27-year-old native of Kansas City, Mo., Patrick comes to United Fresh from a Bethesda, Md. public relations firm where he oversaw media research, planning and project management for General Motors, M&M/Mars, Unilever, Procter & Gamble and British Petroleum/AMPM among others. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in Political and Persuasive Communication from George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., and has considerable experience in copyediting, promotions and strategic communication. A former search and rescue medic and ski instructor in Winter Park, Colo., Patrick spends his free time playing soccer and softball, enjoying live music and cheering on his Kansas Jayhawks. He can be reached at 202-303-3400 extension 417 or pdelaney@unitedfresh.org.

Patrick is just one 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.


New Member Welcome
Each week, United Fresh welcomes its newest partners in building a stronger produce industry:
  • Van Ryn Associates, Nipomo, CA
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 & Views

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National Restaurant Association announces food safety conference

More details on COOL specifics

Allegations of price-fixing by California tomato processors

Senators Grassley, Harkin, Chambliss and others work to clarify sticking point in Farm Bill

Irradiation, food safety and leafy greens in California

BellTower launches high-speed telephone food recall and safety information service

Kiwis sound off about food safety in New Zealand