October 22, 2008

In Today's Issue:

Fresh Facts on Retail Debuts to Strong Reviews
Produce AisleFresh Facts on Retail, a new retail sales trends report by United Fresh, debuted this week to strong reviews, with one member citing the report as “One of the most useful resources I have seen in a long time” and one that “Impacts companies of all sizes and types in our supply chain.” The new quarterly sales trend report is produced in cooperation with The Perishables Group, which gathers and analyzes actual sales data from retail supermarkets across the country, and is sponsored by Del Monte Fresh Produce. The new report can be easily downloaded from the United Fresh website, and is available free of charge to members and at a nominal fee of $50 to non-members.

Supermarket IT Leaders Discuss Produce Traceability
FMI LogoUnited Fresh President Tom Stenzel met with the Food Marketing Institute’s Chief Information Officers Committee Monday to discuss the industry’s new Produce Traceability Initiative. “For retailers, this is where the rubber meets the road. The IT officials from these companies really began to wrestle with what it will take to implement systems to scan and store the new standardized case data that will be forthcoming,” he said. “After a year of planning and shaping a broad strategy for the initiative, it was exciting to see some companies that had not been part of that process begin to wrap their heads around implementing these processes in their own companies.” United Fresh and other association partners will be working with members companies and allied associations to help bring the traceability action plan to reality.

Global Research Examines Food Consumer in 2020
Food 2020Food industry leaders gathered in San Francisco last Thursday to discuss a new global research report, FOOD 2020: The Consumer as CEO produced by leading public relations firm Ketchum. Linda Eatherton, partner and director of Ketchum’s Global Food & Nutrition Practice, hosted the meeting on the research conducted to identify concerns among consumers in the United Kingdom, Argentina, China, Germany and the United States. United Fresh President Tom Stenzel was invited to join Linda and co-host Phil Lempert of Supermaket Guru, in assessing the results of the research and drawing implications for food industry marketers. “The research showed some real differences across cultures and economies, but also some growing common trends toward greater consumer involvement in food safety, social issues and environmental dimensions of food products,” Tom said. “Clearly, the consumer-as-CEO concept is one we all need to come to grips with. Whether it’s sustainability, food safety or other issues, we need to be transparent with consumers, recognize their interests in these issues and respond to their concerns with credible factual information.” Tom told the group that, while pandering to consumer fears in food marketing is not the answer, neither is dismissing the consumer’s real interest in understanding where food comes from and how it’s produced. “These are increasingly vital parts of a product’s pedigree to consumers around the world,” he added.

Which State Will Be First to Include Fruits and Vegetables in WIC?
Food 2020New York will be the first state to launch the new Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) Food Packages that include fresh fruits and vegetables. In a meeting with United Fresh Vice President of Nutrition and Health Dr. Lorelei DiSogra, New York State WIC Director Tim Mooney confirmed that starting on January 5, 2009 mothers will receive the new fruit and vegetable vouchers worth $8 per month for themselves and $6 per month for their young children. Mooney noted that in most cases participating mothers will receive three months worth of fruit and vegetable vouchers at a time, significantly increasing their purchasing power. In total, more than $32 million in new produce sales is anticipated in the first year in New York alone. The state’s WIC program is coordinating with supermarkets throughout the state and with bodegas in New York City. The bodegas will now be required to stock fresh fruits and vegetables in order to maintain their WIC vendor certification. More than 515,000 women, infants and children participate in WIC statewide, and plans are underway for Governor David Patterson and Commissioner of Health Dr. Richard Daines to showcase the new WIC food packages to the media at a launch event in New York City. Tentative launch dates for other states include: Spring 2009 for Connecticut, Maine, and Vermont; August for Texas, and October for California, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island, and Winter 2009 for Kentucky and Delaware. United Fresh is compiling a list of launch dates by state and will make this available via the United Fresh website as soon as it is complete. For more information, please contact Lorelei at 202-303-3400 ext. 403.

Register for Last USDA Inspection Course in 2008!

The last United Fresh Produce Inspection Training Program to be held in 2008 is just two weeks away - November 3-7 - and space is going fast! Produce industry receivers, handlers, buyers, shippers and sellers looking to gain a better understanding of the fundamentals of the produce inspection process should sign up now.
Tomato Lab “My people at the Kroger distribution center make decisions on product shipping to over 265 stores, so the procurement staff needs quality training. This course provides them a solid review of the inspection process and principles." - Bob Ashcraft, Distribution Quality Assurance Manager, The Kroger Co. and 2007 program participant

Developed by the United Fresh Research & Education Foundation in partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agriculture Marketing Service (USDA-AMS), the Produce Inspection Training Program offers a comprehensive overview of USDA inspection procedures and standards through lab training courses, classroom lectures and discussion sessions with USDA trainers. Past company participants include retailers, shippers, growers, packers, wholesalers and others.

Additional courses in 2009 will be held January 26-30, June 1-5 and September 21-25, 2009. Attendees may register online for any of the training seminars now, or by downloading the registration form. For more information, contact Beth Berman, education manager, at 202-303-3400 ext 405.

GlobalGAP Conference Looks at Benchmarking Food Safety Audits
Global Gap United Fresh Senior Vice President Dr. David Gombas was among the featured presenters at this year’s GlobalGAP conference on good agricultural practices in Cologne, Germany. GlobalGAP is a benchmarking organization for “before-the-farm-gate” audit programs in 80 countries, representing over 90,000 audits in 2008 alone. The conference drew more than 400 suppliers, auditors and buyers from around the world, and attendees participated in a number of roundtable and panel discussions to review and comment on benchmarking parameters. Topics included auditor competence, food safety and non-food safety recommendations, overcoming obstacles to audits harmonization, and the coordination of audits between GlobalGAP and “after-the-farm-gate” audit programs like BRC and IFS. In his presentation entitled Managing Food Safety Risks in Produce, David told the audience “Produce standards must be consistent, involving the needs and perspectives of the entire produce supply chain, but remain flexible to differences important to specific commodities and regions, and they must be based on science, not speculation. Further, any assessment of compliance to produce standards will only be as good as the training and competence of the auditor performing the assessment. Programs must be in place and openly transparent to assure that auditors are calibrated in their interpretation of produce standards and accurate in their assessment of risks in the operations they audit.”

USDA Announces FY2008 Specialty Crop Block Grant Awards
USDA logoU.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced the assignment of $10 million to state specialty crop block grant programs. The funding is provided for in the 2008 Farm Bill and focuses on several important priorities for the fresh fruit and vegetable industry, including marketing, food safety, pest and disease research, nutrition programs and quality and technology enhancements. States with the highest production levels of specialty crops received the most block grant funds. This announcement is the third infusion of federal funding into the fruit and vegetable industry over the last three months through the Farm Bill, including $28 million for the Specialty Crop Research Initiative and $50 million school participation in all 50 states for the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Snack Program for the 2008-2009 school year. According to Robert Guenther, senior vice president of public policy at United Fresh, “Over the last few months, the fruit and vegetable industry has seen first hand the efforts of United Fresh and allied organizations in the Farm Bill with this important investment of federal funding. There has been a lot of talk lately in Washington about bail-outs and stimulus packages for the country. At the same time, the produce industry is seeing real investment – right now at $90 million – in much needed long-term research, commodity procurement, and infrastructure.” Robert continued, “This funding will continue to grow over the next 5 years and the produce industry will realize almost $1 billion in investment from these three programs alone.”

For more information about specialty crop block grants, please contact Robert at 202-03-3400 ext. 409.

United to Share Lessons Learned From Salmonella Outbreak With Restaurant Industry
National Restaurant AssociationAs Inside United Fresh readers know, this past summer’s Salmonella saintpaul outbreak and resulting investigation by state health officials, CDC and the FDA highlighted major inadequacies in the way outbreaks are investigated and reported. “From mistaken assumptions and false starts to a continuing refusal by some to recognize the hard evidence that tomatoes were likely never the cause of this outbreak, we’ve got to ensure that both government and industry identify what when wrong and make changes so that this doesn’t happen again,” said United President Tom Stenzel. Stenzel will present a review of those lessons to the National Restaurant Association’s Food Safety in the 21st Century Conference tomorrow in Atlanta. “This is an important chance to share the facts with a wide audience of foodservice leaders influential in making changes for the future,” he said. Stenzel has previously testified before Congress about what went wrong, and United has made a commitment not to allow the memory of this flawed outbreak investigation to fade away until the real problems are fixed. “When an FDA official said during our Town Hall meeting in Washington, DC last month that this outbreak would defined as a “two-commodity” outbreak, caused by both tomatoes and jalapeno peppers, we knew that our industry could not afford to let ignorance and suspicion be recorded as history,” he said.

Comments on FDA’s Latest Listeriosis Document
“Fresh and fresh-cut produce presents a unique set of risks and consequences for controls, compared with other ready-to-eat foods, as noted in the comments submitted to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) by United Fresh Produce Association on April 7 of this year. Thus, many of the recommendations in the guidance are not appropriate for these products.” These and other concerns were among the opening remarks made by the Alliance for Listeriosis Prevention (Alliance) in recent revisions submitted to FDA’s Draft Guidance for Industry: Control of Listeria monocytogenes in Refrigerated or Frozen Ready-to-eat Foods. The Alliance is a coalition of food trade associations–including United Fresh–that represents the fresh and fresh-cut produce industry. The Alliance recognized that the FDA draft guidance included recommendations that would not be practical for many food processing operations and compiled a sampling of control procedures that have worked to share with the Department. The Alliance also agreed with the United Fresh viewpoint that while fresh-cut operations should be vigilant in preventing Listeria from becoming entrenched in the processing environment, the one-size-fits-all approach recommended by FDA would not be appropriate. United Fresh further recommended deleting any and all emphasis on fresh-cut products in the original document. For more information about the FDA’s Draft Guidance for Industry, the Alliance for Listeriosis Prevention or the revised recommendations for Listeria control, contact David Gombas, United Fresh senior vice president of food safety and technology at 202-303-3400 ext. 411

Ireland Calls For Tighter Controls on Organic Fertilizers
FSAIThe Food Safety Authority of Ireland, an independent statutory and science-based body created to protect public health and consumer interest in the area of food safety and hygiene, has released the report Food Safety Implications of Land-spreading Agricultural, Municipal and Industrial Organic Materials on Agricultural Land Used for Food Production in Ireland. The report, released on October 16, asserts the need for further controls to safeguard public health in relation to land that is used for food production and that has been fertilized through land-spreading. The report states that "appropriately managed land-spreading provides a sustainable option for the utilisation of organic waste materials; however, food safety must be safeguarded and this requires the implementation of effective controls and the consistent application of good practice by all parties involved. In the absence of these measures, land-spreading of organic materials on agricultural land used for food production may pose both microbiological and chemical risks to food safety." Further, the report claims that ready-to-eat produce is at greater risk when land used for production is spread with farm-generated fertilizer or organic, municipal and industrial materials.
Department of Commerce Releases A Basic Guide to Exporting
Exporting GuideThinking about exporting but not sure where to start? In an effort to help businesses tap into the growing global marketplace, the U.S. Department of Commerce has revised and updated A Basic Guide to Exporting, a step-by-step manual highlighting the inner workings of the export process, along with case studies in which business owners from many different sectors share their international business successes. According to Doug Barry, international trade specialist at the Department of Commerce, “Numerous studies indicate that non-exporters would sell internationally if they had more information on opportunities and on the nuts and bolts of how to complete the paperwork, to reduce risk and to get paid. A Basic Guide to Exporting is intended to fill that information void and to take the exotic and mysterious elements out of exporting.” Copies of A Basic Guide to Exporting are available at bookstores, and can be downloaded here.
Meet Your United Fresh Staff: Kam Quarles
Kam QuarlesThe newest addition to the United Fresh Washington D.C.-based staff is Vice President of Government Relations and Legislative Affairs Kam Quarles. With extensive industry experience in the private and public sector, Kam joins United Fresh from the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives and previously from Sunkist Growers. An avid golfer and native of Ventura County, Calif., Kam is both a Trojan and a Patriot, holding degrees from the University of Southern California in Los Angeles and George Mason University in Fairfax, Va. The adjustment to Beltway life has proven easy for Kam, his wife Karen and daughter Cate. “It’s great being so close to the landmarks of history, and it is especially fun when we have out-of-town guests and the President’s helicopter flies overhead,” although he admits “I do miss living on the ocean, playing golf on New Year’s Eve and never having to own a snow shovel.” Growing up in the citrus industry, Kam confesses “I’m the guy who asks restaurants for extra lemons for my iced tea just to reduce overall supply.” He adds “I’m very excited about this opportunity. Throughout my career, I have served both as a member of United Fresh and later as an industry colleague. We have worked side-by-side on numerous pieces of legislative and regulatory issues affecting the industry. It’s with great pride that I join the strong United Fresh team, and I look forward to solving problems for members and putting them in the right place to take advantage of the opportunities membership in United Fresh presents.” Kam can be reached at 202-303-3400 ext. 427
New Member Welcome
Each week, United Fresh welcomes its newest partners in building a stronger produce industry: Welcome Mat
  • Mississippi State University, Starkville, MS
  • Westwood Plastics, Inc., Rockwall, TX
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 at 831-422-0940.

News & Views
News & ViewsLos Angeles Economic Development Council helps Irwindale, CA fresh-cut producer overcome obstacles

A shot in the arm for Brazilian organic products

Vegetables third, fruits fifth on list of Americans’ perceived at-risk foodstuffs

Eco-Safe Systems announces Arthur Dawson as new division head

Hong Kong to test meat and vegetables for melamine

The Greens of Wrath

Winners announced in UN potato-themed photography contest

Uruguay to upgrade port facilities