October 8, 2008

In Today's Issue:

Tomato Food Safety Guidance Document Now Available in Spanish
The Lineamientos de Inocuidad de los Alimentos Específicos para Tomate Fresco en la Cadena de SuministroThe 2nd Edition Food Safety Guidelines for the Fresh Tomato Supply Chain , published by United Fresh and the North American Tomato Trade Work Group (NATTWG) is now available in Spanish. The Lineamientos de Inocuidad de los Alimentos Específicos para Tomate Fresco en la Cadena de Suministro provides the latest food safety guidance related to water, workers and soil factors and includes components for all companies along the fresh tomato supply chain, including retailers and foodservice distributors. Over the past 12 months, more than 40 scientists and industry experts from academia, government and the fresh tomato industry have reviewed the latest food safety research findings and industry practices in order to revise this first edition of the guidance document, published in 2006 by NATTWG. “As one of the original publishers of tomato guidance document, United Fresh wanted to also provide a Spanish version for workers, growers and business partners on both sides of the border,” said Amy Philpott, vice president of communications at United Fresh. Copies of the Spanish edition can be downloaded free of charge.

Supply Chain Leaders Endorse Traceability Plan
BarcodeUnited Fresh, the Produce Marketing Association and the Canadian Produce Marketing Association announced yesterday that 34 industry leaders representing every link in the fresh and fresh-cut produce supply chain have endorsed a new plan developed by the Produce Traceability Initiative (PTI). The plan will move the supply chain to a common standard for electronic traceability by 2012 using a standardized system of GS1 case bar-coding for all produce sold in the U.S. The 34 companies endorsing the plan are members of the PTI Steering Committee, and include Food Lion, LLC Chief Operating Officer and Committee Chair Cathy Green. “We’ve seen the need for supply chain-wide, electronic traceability across the industry so that we’re able to trace product more quickly and efficiently than we are now,” says Green. The Committee first met in January and since then has been working to establish industry traceability best practices and set goals for their adoption and accountability. To read more about the plan and for a full list of endorsing companies, click here for the full press release.

Work on Farm Bill Pays Off in Specialty Crop Research Grants
USDA LogoUnder the new U.S. Farm Bill, which United Fresh and many of our industry members worked hard to negotiate, the industry will receive increasing annual investments in specialty crop research over next 10 years. The first of these annual allocations was announced today. Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has awarded more than $28 million to further study critical specialty crop agriculture issues through the Specialty Crop Research Initiative. A total of $28,365,000 was disseminated in 27 grants to universities and partner research facilities in 17 states. Each award required 100 percent matching funds from non-federal sources, doubling the impact of the grants. Funded projects will address research and extension needs for crops that span the entire spectrum of specialty crops and, with few exceptions, the projects of award recipients addressed key needs in more than a single crop. Established by the 2008 Farm Bill, SCRI supports the specialty crop industry by developing and distributing science-based knowledge and assets to address the needs of specific crops and their regions in the following five areas of focus: plant breeding, genetics and genomics; pests and diseases; production efficiency, productivity and profitability; innovation and technologies and food safety.

United Fresh Serves on Council to Improve Foodborne Outbreak Response

Achieving better cooperation between federal, state and local agencies during a foodborne outbreak investigation is the focus of the Council to Improve Foodborne Outbreak Response (CIFOR), an interagency coalition comprised of representatives of those same governmental authorities. The group has been meeting since 2006 and continues to work on improving communication between all levels of public health agencies. To complement their efforts, CIFOR recently initiated an industry working group including trade associations such as the National Restaurant Association and the Food Marketing Initiative, companies like U.S. Foodservice, YUM! Brands, Wal-Mart, Cargill and General Mills, as well as the Centers for Disease Control, the Food and Drug Administration and various state public health agency representatives. United Fresh’s Dr. David Gombas serves on the working group representing the fresh produce industry.

At the working group’s first meeting this month, David briefed the group on the industry’s Produce Traceability Initiative. “To be clear, companies in the produce industry have effective traceability practices today,” David told the group. “What we lack is a uniform language and standards across the supply chain. The Produce Traceability Initiative is a voluntary effort by all stakeholders to agree on a common solution that uses existing systems and flexible practices to ensure if a particular case code and lot number needs to be traced, everyone in the supply chain knows almost immediately whether or not – and if so, when – they touched that lot.” For more information on CIFOR or the Produce Traceability Initiative, contact David at 202-303-3400 ext. 411.

Australian Farmers Resort to Trading Water
Australian Crest          Water

Fresh water is clearly important to all of us and none of us is exempt from the pressures that increasing usage has on our water supplies - if you don’t believe us, just visit World Water where fresh water supplies and usage are tracked by country. At least one country is taking water matters into its own hands. For Australia – the world’s driest inhabited continent – there is simply not enough water to support the nation’s cities, households, industries and agricultural needs. Australia’s planting sector must rely on a unique trading system where water is traded through independent brokers. These brokers understand the regulations that guide the market and bring buyers and sellers together. Water is managed by Australian state governments which award entitlements to rural and urban areas and industries. The entitlement provides the owner a share of water from a river system, but years of drought have left the rivers and storage basins at low levels, and as such, allocations in recent years have been small to nonexistent. The government attributes the crisis to overuse and has launched a 10-year plan to address urban and rural water shortages. As for the rest of us, we’ll be watching how this plan plays out.

Illinois Public Health Agencies Briefed on Produce Safety Efforts
Illinois Seal “The produce industry continues to increase and improve its food safety practices, even if outbreak investigations are unable to demonstrate what went wrong to result in the outbreak” was the central message by Dr. David Gombas, United Fresh senior vice president of food safety and technology, to an audience of over 200 food safety and public health officials at the annual Illinois Food Safety Seminar in Champaign, Ill. Citing the industry’s recent efforts in developing food safety guidance documents as well as standards and compliance programs for leafy greens and tomatoes and the close cooperative efforts between the industry and Food and Drug Administration, David also cautioned the audience against the trap of “if one is good, two is better, require three to be sure. Audit standards that ‘raise the bar’ without a demonstrated reduction of risk are just added costs, and divert resources from other important efforts.” United Fresh Vice President of Communications Amy Philpott said of David’s presence at the seminar, “United Fresh knows that state health agencies play a critical role in outbreak investigations. It is absolutely critical that we reach out to them as well as to federal agencies. David opened some doors for us in developing relations with these state health officials.”

Lineamientos de Inocuidad de los Alimentos para Tomate Fresco
Lineamientos de Inocuidad de los Alimentos para Tomate FrescoUnited Fresh anunció hoy que la edición segunda de los Lineamientos de Inocuidad de los Alimentos Específicos para Tomate Fresco en la Cadena de Suministro está disponible en Español. Publicado por United Fresh y la North American Tomato Trade Work Group (NATTWG) para usar por todas partes de la cadena de suministro, el documento incluye los lineamientos de inocuidad de los alimentos específicos para tomate fresco. Se encuentra gratis el documento aqui.

Attention All ARIZONA and CALIFORNIA Growers!
IrrigationUnited Fresh, the Western Growers Association, the Grower Shipper Association of Central California, the California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement, the Produce Marketing Association and the California Leafy Greens Research Board have joined in an effort to urge their California and Arizona grower members to join the Produce Industry Microbiological Testing Database. The Database, which is currently collecting 2007 generic E. coli testing results for irrigation water in California and Arizona growing regions, is intended to confidentially aggregate growers’ test results into a database that can demonstrate the overall microbiological quality of irrigation water in those growing regions. There is no cost for growers to participate, but the Database holds huge potential benefits. By using the collected data to refute speculations about contaminated irrigation water, the Database can provide a scientific basis for better water testing metrics and demonstrate progress in Good Agricultural Practices. For more information, or if your company is testing irrigation water in California or Arizona and have not yet signed up to participate, contact Dr. David Gombas, United Fresh senior vice president of food safety and technology at 202-303-3400 ext. 411.

United Fresh Participates in STOP Food Safety Teleconference
Safe Tables Our Priority (STOP)“A key lesson learned from this summer’s Salmonella Saintpaul outbreak was that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and all our industry partners must find ways to work together to better communicate risk and protect public health during a foodborne outbreak investigation,” said Dr. David Gombas, United Fresh senior vice president of food safety and technology, to over 80 members of Safe Tables Our Priority (STOP) during a teleconference last week. “It became clear during this investigation that FDA and CDC could not share critical information with the industry that would have enabled us to help them,” he added. Also participating in the call was Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), FDA Associate Commissioner Dr. David Acheson, and STOP member Rita Bermstein, whose daughter became critically ill during an E. coli O157:H7 outbreak linked to leafy greens. STOP is a national nonprofit public health organization representing consumers and dedicated to preventing illness and death from foodborne pathogens. “Consumers and consumer advocacy groups play important roles in the food safety discussion,” said Amy Philpott, vice president of communications at United Fresh. “United Fresh is reaching out and establishing relationships with the many players that will be at table when food safety legislation and regulations are discussed next year.”

News & Views
News and Views

Former Basketball Star Wins Genius Grant for Produce Innovation

Loopholes Persist in COOL

Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Snack Program Flourishes in North Carolina School

GAO Cites Food Safety as Key Issue for Incoming President

Australia and New Zealand Begin Testing Chinese Fruits and Vegetables

West Virginia Octogenarian Ag Commissioner Runs For 11th Term

GoTrace Global Traceability Conference to be Held in New Zealand

Chilean Company Designs More COOL-Conducive Labels

Connecticut Mayor Declines to Renew WIC Contract

Malaysia to Test All Imported Chinese Produce