October 1, 2008

In Today's Issue:

COOL Law Goes into Effect, United Fresh Sends Comments to USDA

USDA Agricultural Marketing Service Administrator Lloyd Day speaks at the Washington Public Policy Workshop on Country of Origin Labeling

On Tuesday, the long-anticipated law establishing mandatory display of country of origin information for fresh produce to consumers went into effect nationwide. Along with the new law, comments on the Interim Final Rule (IFR) that will be used to implement these new Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) requirements were due to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) that same day. The IFR, which was published on August 1, 2008, will serve as the regulatory framework for the COOL law until all comments are analyzed. USDA will then publish a final rule that will be the foundation of how the COOL law will be implemented. United Fresh submitted comments to USDA encouraging the Department to follow Congressional intent and accurately implement the changes incorporated into 2008 Farm Bill. In particular the United Fresh comments call for:
  • Ensured clarity of the rule that compliance to this law allow for adequate time to comply
  • USDA to fully comply with the no new record-keeping requirements as is prescribed in the 2008 Farm Bill
  • USDA ruling that exemption of commingled covered products should be maintained
  • 50% labeling in bulk bins should constitute sufficient consumer information
  • USDA to allow for country and state abbreviations to be utilized
  • USDA to clearly articulate that COOL information from suppliers can be provided in any form to retailers
  • USDA to clearly state what is considered a pre-labeled product and what are the record-keeping requirements for such a product
  • USDA to refrain from initiating user fees to operate this program and that staff time shall not be taken away from other important produce programs administered by USDA.

“Working together as an industry, and working together with government, it’s time to make sure we achieve this original intent of the law with the greatest efficiency and cost-effectiveness possible,” said Robert Guenther, senior vice president of public policy at United Fresh.

Over the past week, United Fresh has spoken to many media outlets about COOL. Some in the media, along with consumer groups, have portrayed this new law to be a substitute for food safety. As we stated in our comments to USDA, we strongly agree with USDA that COOL is a not a food safety law. Industry members know that produce safety is in the hands of the growers, distributors and retailers of the product. Produce can be grown safely in countries around the world, or produce can be grown without adhering to appropriate safety standards. That is not dependent upon a country sticker on a label, but upon the commitment of the persons along the entire supply chain. With COOL information becoming more widespread, the industry needs to help consumers understand that geography cannot become shorthand for food safety. For more information, contact Robert at 202-303-3400 ext. 409.

School Proclaims the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Snack Program a “Fantastic” Success

Nutrition services staff count out the Sunkist Pineapple Pals for each classroom

“Fantastic” was the word Belshaw Elementary School Principal Bill Bolio used to describe the school’s involvement in the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Snack Program. Belshaw Elementary students, teachers and nutrition services staff started participating in the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program at the beginning of the school year. On Monday, Dr. Lorelei DiSogra, vice president of nutrition and health at United Fresh, accompanied by California Department of Education and school district officials, visited the school, located in Antioch, Calif., to see the program first hand. The group visited both a first and a fourth grade classroom where the snack that day were fresh-cut pineapple spears called Pineapple Pals. The snacks were a hit with the students in both classrooms, who were eager to talk about all of the new fruits and vegetables they had tried in the first month alone – nectarines, broccoli, cauliflower, jicama, plouts, pears, and daikon, just to name a few. The school’s snack menus for September and October include a wide variety of fresh fruits and vegetables and school officials believe it’s already benefitting Belshaw’s 650 students by helping them increase their fruit and vegetable consumption. Each morning the nutrition services staff spends 45 minutes preparing each classroom’s snack and teachers devote 15 minutes mid-morning to snacktime. Belshaw Elementary is only one of more than 100 schools that will be funded in California to participate. For more information, please contact Lorelei at 202-303-3400 ext. 403.

First grade and fourth grade students enjoy their fresh-cut spears of pineapple on Monday morning

USDA Awards $234 Million to Promote U.S. Food and Agricultural Products Overseas
It was announced today that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has funded over $234 million in fiscal year 2008 for the Market Access Program (MAP) and the Foreign Market Development Program. Funds for these programs, which were included in the 2008 Farm Bill, will be directed to 70 U.S. trade organizations to help promote American agricultural products in international markets. MAP funding will go toward activities such as market research, consumer promotions for retail products and seminars to educate overseas consumers, while funds for the Foreign Market Development Program are directed toward reducing market impediments, improving the processing capabilities of importers, modifying restrictive regulatory codes and standards in foreign markets and identifying new markets and uses for U.S. products. Both the Market Access Program and the Foreign Market Development Program are administered by USDA’S Foreign Agricultural Service. To view a list of the organizations receiving funds under these programs, please click here.

For more information about this announcement, please contact Robert Guenther, senior vice president, public policy at (202) 303-3400 ext. 409.

United Fresh meets with California Agriculture, Education and Public Health Officials
Following a visit to Belshaw Elementary School, in Antioch, Calif., United Fresh Vice President of Nutrition and Health Dr. Lorelei DiSogra traveled to Sacramento to participate in two meetings with officials from California’s Department of Education, Agriculture, and Public Health to discuss the state’s State Nutrition Action Plan (SNAP.) At the SNAP meeting, Lorelei presented United Fresh’s policy priorities for the 2009 Child Nutrition Reauthorization and discussed broader policies that United Fresh will support in the upcoming legislation. California Department of Education’s Brenda Padilla was especially excited about the prospect of a National Salad Bar Policy. Brenda, one of California’s first school food service directors to put a salad bar in her cafeteria, was instrumental in marketing this concept to many other schools as an effective strategy to increase fruit and vegetable consumption among students. Following the SNAP meeting, Education, Agriculture and Public Health officials met with Lorelei to present their collaborative plans for enhancing the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Snack Program. California, funded at $2,755,357 this school year, has selected the first 25 schools to participate in the program and will select another 100+ schools in November. Within three years, approximately 400 California elementary schools will implement the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Snack program. For more information, contact Lorelei at 202-303-3400 ext. 403.

Mayor, NBA Star Ensure Healthier Meals in the Big Apple
In an unlikely pairing, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Phoenix Suns Center Shaquille O’Neal have teamed up to promote the first city-wide set of nutritional standards for meals served by municipal agencies in the nation’s largest city. With the measures, New York becomes the first major American city to adopt such a policy. The new standards will apply to snacks and meals served in public schools and after school programs, senior centers, correctional facilities, child care centers, homeless shelters, public hospitals and parks, among others. These nutritional benchmarks will ensure that the more than 225 million snacks and meals served annually by the city will become healthier by requiring two servings of fruits and vegetables with each meal, as well as offering healthier beverages like skim or 1 percent milk and meals with more fiber and less sodium. Also in conjunction with the new policy, the city will phase out deep-fried foods from its menus. “The measures taken in New York by Mayor Bloomberg and Mr. O’Neal are in the same spirit as our efforts with the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program, and we applaud the city’s foresight,” said Lorelei DiSogra, United Fresh Vice President of Nutrition and Health. The city’s agencies have been given six months to comply with the new standards.

United Fresh Staff Heads to Los Angeles for a Lesson in Crisis Control

“Training for a Recall: Communicating Under Fire,” the popular United Fresh product recall training course kicked off today in Los Angeles to a sold-out crowd at the Sheraton Gateway. Now in its fourth installment, the course features leaders in the crisis communication field including Food and Drug Administration Los Angeles District Recall Coordinator Larry Howell, liability specialist David Durkin of the law firm of Olsson, Frank and Weeda and Jim Mulhern of nationally-recognized communications group Watson/Mulhern, among others. Started in 2007 and conducted nationally several times each year, the course provides crucial education and resources in a real-world and real-time scenario to attendees from every link in the supply chain. United Fresh staff utilizes tested and proven crisis communication methods to help prepare participating companies for future crises large and small. The three-day course includes two days of extensive instruction on how to prevent a product recall from becoming a crisis, followed by a third day of media training, in which participants are put in live, on-camera interview situations and given valuable insight on the delivery of messages, liability, and imaging consistency. This week’s course is the last for 2008, but the 2009 schedule will be posted soon on the United Fresh website. For more information on this and other United Fresh Education and Research Foundation programs, contact Beth Berman, Education Program Manager at 202-303-3400 ext. 405.

Freshconex Registration Now Open!
On Tuesday, United Fresh and Eurofruit Magazine announced the opening of registration for the 2009 Freshconex Congress. This year’s event will be held in Berlin on February 3. The Congress, held annually in conjunction with Fruit Logistica, offers cutting-edge information and development for the fresh-cut convenience business. The full-day event will feature educational sessions focused on the latest trends in the international fresh-cut industry. Some of this year's topics include trends in the Southern European fresh-cut convenience sector, the effects of new technologies, an in-depth focus on the Italian fresh-cut sector and a special breakdown of the latest in seed technology developed expressly for the fresh-cut market.

The Congress is a key part of Freshconex, an annual event tailored to meet the needs of the fresh-cut sector. Directly following the Congress, the 3-day event will feature product displays from the fruit and vegetable segment, product preparation equipment and technology, packaging and labeling, ingredients and additives, point-of-sale technical accessories and vending machines. Register here or contact Melissa Speed, International Member Services Director at 202-303-3400 ext. 404 for additional information.

Member Relations Task Force Gets Members Involved With United Fresh

The Member Relations Task Force is a great opportunity to serve the association by reaching out as an ambassador to your colleagues in the industry and providing direct feedback to United Fresh staff and board leadership on United Fresh benefits and services.

The Task Force works to increase participation and feedback from the association's current members and build relationships with prospective ones. Roger Harkrider of H-E-B, Inc. who will be serving as 2009 Co-Chair and immediate past Co-Chair Nelia Alamo encourage members to volunteer for service on this valuable member opportunity. Face-to-face meetings are planned for early November 2008 in San Antonio, Texas and next May at the United 2009 Show in Las Vegas, Nev.

Don’t miss this chance to get involved with United Fresh! The 2009 Member Relations Task Force welcomes interested volunteers. Contact Miriam Miller at 202-303-3400 ext. 410.

New Member Welcome
Each week, United Fresh welcomes its newest partners in building a stronger produce industry:
  • Kaliroy Produce, Nogales, AZ
  • University of Florida, Gainesville, FL
  • Dream Foods International, Santa Monica, 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
GAO Issues Statement on FDA Oversight

California Leads the Way with Menu Labeling Law

USDA Conducts COOL Q&A with Reporters

Researchers Contend Roots of Leafy Greens Do Not Absorb E. coli

USDA Nixes Tracing Program, Citing Cost

The Holes in America’s Food Safety Net

FDA Looks at Mandatory Traceability

Contaminated Santa Cruz Farm Wins $1M Verdict

New Competition for Fresh & Easy