November 19, 2008

In Today's Issue:

European Commission Approves School Fruit Scheme

European UnionToday, the European Commission (EC) approved the European Union (EU)-wide School Fruit Scheme (SFS), providing €90 million ($US113 million) a year to allow all 27 EU countries to implement free school fruit and vegetable snack programs. With final approval from the EC’s Council of Agriculture Ministers during meetings in Brussels this week, so culminates more than a year and a half of intense planning and policy work under the leadership of the EC’s Directorate-General for Agriculture and Rural Development (DG AGRI) Commissioner Marianne Fischer Bols, Director General Lars Hoelgaard, and Felix Mittermayer.

United Fresh, together with colleagues at Freshfel in Brussels and European public health organizations, played a leadership role in building a strong policy case for these funds with the DG AGRI. Dr Lorelei DiSogra is slated to deliver a keynote address at the SFS Conference in Brussels, December 15-16, where she will be the lone American representative. "I am just thrilled that that the EC has approved the funding for the SFS. It’s been an honor to work with DG AGRI and my European public health colleagues on this critically important child nutrition policy initiative. As an association, we’ve worked tirelessly to bring this program to schools across the US, and it is great to see it expand to Europe," she said.

Funding will become available to member countries for the 2009-10 school year following acceptance of an implementation plan from each country. The SFS, as outlined in the Strategy for Europe on Nutrition, Overweight and Obesity and Related Health Issues, aims to encourage children to eat more fruits and vegetables and continue these healthier eating habits into adult life. For more information on the SFS or the December conference, please contact Lorelei at 202-303-3400.

Federal Government Announces Final E-Verify Rules for Federal Contractors
EverifyThe federal government has announced its final rule requiring mandatory e-verification of the immigration status of employees for all federal contractors and their subcontractors. The E-Verify Federal Contractor rule will take effect January 15, 2009. However, commercially-available, off-the-shelf items (COTS) such as produce are exempt.

In June, the federal government issued a proposed rule which would require government contractors and subcontractors to use the E-Verify system to check the legal immigration status of their employees. Currently, enrollment in E-Verify is voluntary. Since then, United Fresh and a number of other agricultural entities immediately began raising questions about the scope of this rule and its impact upon federal commodity procurement for civilian and military use. Additionally, concerns were raised about the uneven application of the rule upon packaged and bulk commodities, the ambiguity surrounding the definition of subcontractors and their relationship to producer-owned marketing associations, and other technical issues in the rule. The centerpiece of those comments is United’s position that the exemption in the interim rule that exists for commercially-available, off-the-shelf items (COTS) should be applied to fresh produce. As a result, the final rule includes the requested COTS exemption for produce. "We are pleased that the federal government ruled in this manner, helping to relieve a significant burden to produce firms who decide to accept or bid on federal government contracts," said Kam Quarles, vice president of legislative and regulatory affairs for United Fresh. "We are continuing to review other aspects of this rule and will provide more details upon completion." For more details, contact Kam at 202-303-3427.

New Report Analyzes Salmonella Outbreak Response, Makes Recommendations
SalmonellaOn Monday, the Produce Safety Project (PSP), an initiative of The Pew Charitable Trusts at Georgetown University, released the latest analysis of the public health system’s response to the last summer’s Salmonella Saintpaul outbreak. The report, Breakdown: Lessons to Be Learned from the 2008 Salmonella Saintpaul Outbreak, concludes that the outbreak exposed weaknesses in the public health system and that certain areas of the system are in critical need of reform. In particular, the report focuses on food safety policy, the public health system’s organization, capacity and effectiveness in the outbreak response, and risk communications with the media and the public.

Highlights and recommendations from the report include

  • "The need for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to use its existing statutory authorities to establish mandatory and enforceable safety standards for fresh produce. While FDA officials said the outbreak showed the need for these standards, they said Congress needs to pass legislation to grant it explicit authority to do so. However, the report notes that FDA has already used existing authorities to put in place preventive safety standards for seafood in 1995 and for juice in 2001.
  • The need for organizational reforms throughout the public health system for a more coordinated outbreak response. The report raises questions about how timely and effectively data was shared between public health agencies and if it contributed to a delayed identification of jalapeno and Serrano peppers as a vehicle for Salmonella Saintpaul.
  • The need to have established and unified risk communication plans in place before an outbreak. The report documents “dueling” public health messages from various agencies announcing the outbreak, and questions why the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention changed its presentation of data numerous times in the middle of the outbreak."

United Fresh supports produce safety standards that are federally mandated, commodity-specific, risk-based and that apply to both imported and domestic fresh produce. United Fresh has testified in Congressional and FDA hearings to our position and other produce organizations throughout the industry have also shown support for these principles. In addition, United Fresh has testified that transparency, clearly defined authority, industry involvement and better risk communication are critical to better outbreak management. The PSP report provides information and insights that will help public health authorities and industry as we work together to determine how best to prevent outbreaks and improve outbreak detection and response. For more on the PSP report, contact Patrick Delaney, communications manager at 202-303-3417.

Better Sleep Makes Better Produce Executives
Dr. MaasTo perform at your optimum potential, you need to be cognitively sharp, which means a fully alert, energetic and positive you. Your success depends on your ability to concentrate, remember, make critical and creative decisions, communicate persuasively and be productive all day long, and longer if need be.

None of this is possible without quality sleep.

Headlining this year’s Produce Executive Development Program, is Cornell professor, world-renowned sleep expert and author of Power Sleep Dr. James Maas. Stephen H. Weiss Presidential Fellow, Professor and past Chairman of Psychology at Cornell University, Dr. Maas explains how healthy sleep has been proven to be the single most important determinant in predicting longevity, and how it can contribute to your professional and personal success every day. During this fascinating session, Dr. Maas will explore the intricacies of sleep, and you'll learn how to increase your daytime alertness, psychological mood, productivity, creativity and quality of life. Better sleep, as Dr. Maas points out, makes better executives.

For more information or to register, contact Victoria Backer at 202-303-3400 ext. 408

Take a Closer Look at Italy’s Growth in the Fresh-cut Convenience Sector
FreshconexAs we speak, plans are underway for the 2009 Freshconex Congress, a full day educational seminar focused on the fresh-cut convenience sector in Europe. Presented by United Fresh and Eurofruit Magazine, the Congress takes place February 3 in Berlin and is located at the Fruit Logistica show, which takes place the following three days. This year's Congress will focus on the countries of Southern Europe: France, Spain and Italy.

In the Focus on the Fresh-cut Sector in Italy session, leaders from Italy’s fresh-cut convenience market will discuss new trends in the sector as well as examine and explore why fresh-cut products are leading the private label push. Speakers at the session will include Umberto Galassini, managing director of Bonduelle Italy, Giuseppe Battagliola, chief executive of La Linea Verde, and Vanes Cantieiri, who heads up fresh produce purchasing for Coop Italia, the country’s largest food retailer. The Italian fresh-cut market has experienced explosive growth in the past few years, and is now worth €700 million, so don't miss an in-depth opportunity to examine this growing market.

In addition to the Congress, the Freshconex exposition will feature business forums and exhibits geared directly toward the fresh-cut sector. Register online (today for the special price of €250 including entry to the Opening Ceremony and Official Reception of Fruit Logistica/Freshconex, the Freshconex trade show, Freshconex Business Forum, Fruit Logistica, and the Fruit Logistica Hall Forum. For more information, contact United Fresh Director of International Members Services Melissa Speed at 202-303-3400 ext. 404.

A Smash Hit at New York School
By Dr. Lorelei DiSogra
Vice President, Nutrition & Health
Dr. Lorelei DiSogra United Fresh vice president of nutrition and health Dr. Lorelei DiSogra and New York Apple Association president Jim Allen hand out apples to North Rose Elementary School students.

Last Friday, I had the honor of visiting North Rose Elementary School outside of Rochester, New York for the launch of the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Snack Program. Jim Allen, president of the New York Apple Association and Maureen Torrey Marshall, vice president of Torrey Farms, joined me in handing out fresh New York apples to the North Rose students for their morning snack. Also in attendance were representatives from the New York State Department of Education, Cornell University’s Wayne County Cooperative Extension, and local town and education officials.

A group of 5th grade students shared with us that they really look forward to the new the fresh fruit and vegetable snacks, each one emphasizing "fresh." Although these students live in the 5th largest agricultural county in New York State, they very seldom have fresh fruits and vegetables to eat at home. With much excitement, students told us about pineapple slices, grape tomatoes, cucumbers, blueberries, pears and other fruits and vegetables that they have enjoyed in the first two months of the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Snack Program there at North Rose.

Children enjoying apples North Rose students enjoy fresh New York apples.

Nancy Younglove, the school district’s food service director, emphasized the importance of the program’s opportunity for kids to explore and learn to love a wide variety of fresh fruits and vegetables. Mrs. Younglove has introduced the students to tomato salad, broccoli salad, and carrot salad – each generating an overwhelmingly positive response from the students. The school faculty and staff were also quick to tell us how their students had benefited.

I was extremely impressed with how enthusiastic the North Rose kids were about their new fruit and vegetable snack. These kids typically eat so few fruits and vegetables, which makes this snack program very special to them. Also Jim and I were ecstatic to see how thrilled they were to receive locally grown New York apples.

North Rose receives $24,750 for the current school year to provide daily fresh fruit and vegetable snacks for its 330 students. It is one of 51 schools funded in New York to implement this innovative program designed to improve child nutrition. Statewide, New York receives a total of $1.7 million this school year, with that funding expected to double in two years and triple to $5.2 million in 3 years. The 2008 Farm Bill provides mandatory funding to expand the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Snack program nationwide.

Dr. Lorelei DiSogra
Lorelei with Nancy Younglove, North Rose School Food Service Director, Maureen Marshall, Torrey Farms, Allen and David McClurg, New York Apple Association, Elizabeth Claypool Cornell University Cooperative Extension, and Cindy Miner, Superintendent North Rose-Wolcott Central School District, visit the North Rose Elementary School to see the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program in action. North Rose Elementary School is one of 51 schools in New York State participating in the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Snack Program.

For more information on the visit to North Rose, or for participating schools in your area, please contact Lorelei at 202-303-3400.

United Fresh, CDC and FDA Review Outbreak in IFT Webinar
DC IFTDr. David Gombas, United Fresh senior vice president of food safety and technology, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition Director Dr. Stephen Sundlof and Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Division of Foodborne, Bacterial and Mycotic Diseases Deputy Director Dr. Robert Tauxe came together during an informational webinar last week to discuss this summer’s Salmonella Saintpaul outbreak.

The webinar, presented by the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT), was broadcast on over 20 individual sites. In it, Dr. Tauxe described the chronology of the outbreak from May 22 when CDC was notified of the first few illnesses with the same Salmonella fingerprint, to the studies that finally identified peppers as the most likely link to the outbreak. Dr. Sundlof described the investigation from their first notification by CDC on May 30 to the investigation on the pepper farm where the Salmonella with the same fingerprint was isolated. David shared the industry perspective from the first teleconference between FDA and the tomato industry on May 31, through the efforts to provide FDA with important details about when and where tomatoes were being harvested, including efforts to clear growing regions that could not have been in production at the start of the outbreak therefore could not have been involved, and the growing frustration by the industry as evidence mounted that tomatoes were not involved at all. David also pointed out that agencies were unable to share critical information that would have redirected the investigation sooner.

"There were many lessons learned in this outbreak," said David. "But the most important is that protecting public health requires that the industry and agencies find ways to share critical information. Also, I can't remember when there was so much public doubt in the conclusions of an outbreak investigation. We can’t let this outbreak remain linked to tomatoes without a thorough and transparent analysis of all the information we have now. This includes epidemiological and microbiological information, tracebacks, farm investigation, harvest patterns, shelf life and distribution patterns. We owe it to consumers to re-establish their trust, and to the tomato industry that cooperated so much only to be left wondering if they ever should have been involved." For more on this webinar, contact David at 202-303-3400 ext. 411.

United Fresh Staff Outreach Spans from North to South
Jeff Oberman Last week, United Fresh Vice President of Membership and Trade Relations Jeff Oberman participated in the 40th annual Fresh Produce Association of the Americas (FPAA) Convention in Nogales, Ariz. "We value the relationships between United Fresh and our members in this region, as they represent a significant component of the produce industry," Jeff said. “We had the chance to sit down with a number of current members representing multiple sectors of the industry, who each play a part in the supply chain throughout North America. Plus, it’s a great time of year to visit Nogales and celebrate the start to the winter produce deal.” Jeff met with current FPAA leadership including Chairman and United Fresh Produce Industry Leadership Program alumnus Chris Ciruli of Ciruli Brothers/AMEX Distributing, FPAA and United Fresh board member Brent Harrison, Al Harrison Produce Company, Inc. and FPAA President, Jesse Driskill, among others.

Claudia WenzingIn addition to Jeff's visit to sunny Arizona, Vice President of Business Development Claudia Wenzing visited United Fresh members in Washington State to thank them for their continued support of United Fresh and dedication to the industry. "We realize that United's strength lies within the member companies and organizations. It's such a great experience to get out and see that strength firsthand," Wenzing said. Claudia stopped by member operations in Cashmere, Chelan, Selah, Wenatchee and Yakima, providing an overview of existing member services and programs, and discussing possible avenues for new involvement.

For more on United Fresh outreach efforts or to schedule a United Fresh Town Hall meeting in your area, contact Jeff at 831-422-0940.

Translating Policy Victories into Business Opportunities
Four SeasonsUnited Fresh vice president of nutrition and health, Dr. Lorelei DiSogra spoke at Four Seasons Produce in Ephrata, Pa. last Wednesday. Lorelei’s presentation, Growing Healthy Kids and Produce Sales, focused on recent policy victories supported by United Fresh, including the nationwide expansion of the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Snack Program (FFVP) and inclusion of vouchers for fresh produce in the Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), and how these can translate into business opportunities for produce companies. This school year in the Northeast states alone, there are over 240 elementary schools participating in FFVP with a combined budget of over $9 million to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables for students to enjoy as snacks. The funding for the FFVP will double in two years and triple in three years, so the sales opportunities to provide great tasting fresh fruits and vegetables to FFVP schools increases significantly each year. Lorelei and United Fresh would like to thank Ron Carkoski and his staff at Four Seasons Produce for their special kindness and hospitality. For more information on what these and other policy victories mean for your business, log on to

New 2009 Chairman’s Roundtable Supporters
Chairman's RoundtableUnited Fresh’s 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 the following companies who have committed to the Chairman’s Roundtable in 2009:

  • A & J Produce Corporation, Bronx, N.Y.
  • California Giant Berry Farms, Watsonville, Calif.
  • G.O. Fresh, Minneapolis, Minn.
  • Pacific Tomato Growers/Pacific Triple E, Palmetto, Fla.
  • R.C. Farms, Gonzales, Calif.

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’s strength in areas that do not generate their own revenue. Members of the Chairman's Roundtable enjoy special recognition throughout the year for their support. For more information on the Chairman’s Roundtable, please contact Director of Membership Miriam Miller at 202-303-3410.

New Member Welcome
WelcomeEach week, United Fresh welcomes its newest partners in building a stronger produce industry:
  • Fresh Farms, Rio Rico, Ariz.
  • Turbana Corporation, Coral Gables, Fla.

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 or Miriam Miller.

News & Views
News and Views Student gardens catching on as school nutrition takes a front seat

FDA opens three Chinese offices

U.K. Foreign Secretary in showdown over Israeli produce

U.S. Naval testing facility in Bahamas looks to patronize local produce growers

Australian Food Safety Week a huge success

Rising costs worry farmers

What America really eats

Farm groups welcome Obama

U.S. to work with China on food safety strategy

Ex-Taiwan president calls for improved traceability and food safety network