April 30, 2009

In Today's Issue:

Food Safety Conference Moves Industry Toward Harmonization

Global Conference
Attendees at last week's Global Conference on Produce Food Safety Standards.

Some 300 stakeholders meeting at the United Fresh Global Conference on Produce Food Safety Standards last week in Las Vegas began to forge a common industry mission to drive toward harmonization of produce industry audit standards.  "This conference provided a framework for consensus from grower through retailer and foodservice on the need to drive harmonization and benchmarking of audits," said Dr. David Gombas, senior vice president for food safety and technology.  "I was frankly gratified at the breadth of participation by leading companies throughout the supply chain, and their depth of commitment to this goal," he said.  The conference was sponsored by Chiquita/Fresh Express and the Dole Food Company.

Attendees heard from representatives of 16 auditing bodies and standard owners in a side-by-side forum, giving rise to the conclusion that despite all the different food safety standards, actual practices required are more than 90% the same.  In breakout groups, attendees had robust discussions on ways the industry can move forward on reducing the audit burden, while enabling better information on the reliability of suppliers. 

"This conference was a major step forward in the process of working to harmonize food safety standards and audits," said United Fresh Chairman Jim Lemke, C.H. Robinson.  In closing remarks at the conference, Lemke said that the United Fresh Board and leadership is committed to moving this agenda forward, and will reach out to all allied association partners and individual companies to come to the table to work toward a common goal of uniform standards.

In his concluding remarks, Dr. Gombas added, "We need to work toward science-based standards that make sense for the industry, that auditors can use in a consistent manner, that inform customers about the important aspects of their suppliers, and that rebuild consumer confidence in the safety of fresh produce." The Global Conference presentations and proceedings will be available in the coming weeks on the United Fresh website.

United Fresh Research & Education Foundation, Bayer CropScience Team Up to Form Center for Global Produce Sustainability

(L-R) John Smith, Director, Horticulture Region, Bayer CropScience, Tom Stenzel, President and CEO, United Fresh and Tom Lovelace, Chairman, United Fresh, field questions from press during a briefing at last week's United Fresh 2009.

The United Fresh Research & Education Foundation announced at last week’s convention that it will form a new Center for Global Produce Sustainability, designed to help companies across the fresh fruit and vegetable supply chain enhance their businesses through sustainability. The Center will initially be funded through a $1.1 million endowment over four years from Bayer CropScience.

"Sustainability has been one of the most important issues discussed among our Board of Directors, our Global Advisory Council and other leadership groups over the past several years," said United Fresh immediate past Chairman Tom Lovelace at the show's opening general session. "United has been working with a number of allied partners to better understand and define sustainability as it pertains to our fresh produce supply chain. Now, with this great support from Bayer CropScience, we will be able to intensify those efforts, and also begin to develop real tools and programs to help companies from grower through retail and foodservice to proactively manage sustainability in their businesses."

"Bayer CropScience is pleased to make this commitment to the United Foundation to collaborate with the fruit and vegetable industry in enhancing sustainability," said John Smith, director of the Horticulture Region for Bayer CropScience. "In this particular market, understanding the views of the entire food production supply chain is critical to producing enough safe and affordable food for the ever-expanding world while protecting and enhancing the environment for the future. We cannot achieve our goal alone, which is why this Center will focus on enhancing relationships with fruit and vegetable growers, the food chain and research partners in the U.S., and globally, to ensure meaningful dialogue and advances with regard to sustainability."

"The commitment announced today by Bayer CropScience is a true testament to its vision in serving the fruit and vegetable industry. Our work in sustainability cannot be a short-term effort, but itself must be sustainable in order to provide our growers, packers, processors, wholesalers, retail and foodservice customers the tools they need. We are truly appreciative of the Bayer CropScience commitment to make this possible," Chairman Lovelace said.

For more information on the Center, contact United Fresh Vice President of Communications Ray Gilmer at 202-303-3400 ext. 425.

United Fresh Provides Facts to Address Swine Flu Uncertainty

Swine Flu
Photo courtesy AP

United Fresh is in daily communication with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as well as other government agencies as part of an effort to bring members the most current information on the current swine flu outbreak. "After conversations and conference calls with CDC and other agencies, United Fresh has been assured there are no indications that the swine flu is transmissible by food, including fruits and vegetables," said United Fresh Senior Vice President of Food Safety and Technology Dr. David Gombas. Additionally, officials from the Mexican Embassy, as well as U.S. Customs and Border Protection, assure that all points of entry into the United States remain open, with no current plans to close. "We recognize that there is significant concern about this flu outbreak, but it's important that all industry members only take action based on the science and facts involved. Government officials have been clear that food is not a vehicle for transmitting this illness," Gombas said.

More information on the situation can be found from the CDC at the following websites:

United Urges All Sprout Growers To Comply With FDA Guidance

On Friday April 24, United Fresh sent a member alert urging all sprout growers to strictly comply with FDA guidance for food safety practices, and encouraging retailers to only buy sprouts from suppliers who comply with these practices. The recent alfalfa sprout Salmonella outbreak is believed to be related to inadequate compliance with these standards, which have been shown to be effective in preventing contamination in the marketplace, according to Dr. David Gombas, senior vice president of food safety and technology. In FDA's press statement April 26, the agency recognized United's actions, saying it "appreciates that the produce industry has reinforced this message and reminds retailers that it is prudent to sell sprouts from growers who follow FDA's recommendations."

FDA's Guidance Document for the safe production of sprouts gives clear direction to seed producers, seed conditioners, distributors, and sprout producers on important steps that must be taken to ensure the safety of sprouts. It is important to remember that sprouts can be produced safely when in compliance with correct preventive controls. It is the responsibility of all parties in the sprout supply chain to ensure that these preventive controls are in place to protect consumers, and to protect the overall industry’s ability to provide healthy, fresh sprouts to the public.

Twelve Leaders Chosen for Prestigious Leadership Class 15

Leadership Class #15
Members of Leadership Class 14 are recognized at United Fresh 2009 as members of Leadership Class 15 are announced.

United Fresh has announced the 12 new fellows who will take part in the 2009-2010 United Fresh Produce Industry Leadership Program, sponsored by DuPont Crop Protection:

  • Andrew Bivens, Westlake Produce Co., Los Angeles, Calif.
  • John Cameron, Desert Glory, Ltd., Arlington, Texas
  • Allen Davis, Dole Fresh Vegetables, Inc., Monterey, Calif.
  • Tracie Levin, M. Levin and Co., Inc., Philadelphia, Pa.
  • Phil Gruszka, Grimmway Enterprises, Bakersfield, Calif.
  • Jason Hollinger, Earth Source Trading, Inc., Ephrata, Pa.
  • Mike Laws, Frontera Fresh Logistics, Naples, Fla.
  • Neil Merritt, Ready Pac Foods, Inc., Irwindale, Calif.
  • Greg Mixon, SunnyRidge Farm, Inc., Winter Haven, Fla.
  • Andrew Pandol, Pandol Brothers, Inc., Delano, Calif.
  • Bryan Roberts, Save-A-Lot, Earth City, Mo.
  • Nichole Towell, Duda Farm Fresh Foods, Inc., Oviedo, Fla.

During the upcoming program year, class members will participate in a number of educational events and events centered on four core focus areas of the program: leadership development; business relationships; government and public affairs and media and public communications.

The class also will take part in customized field and facility tours, train with expert educators and meet with key industry leaders and innovators. The program begins in June with the first trip to Central and Northern California, followed by trips to Washington, D.C., Wilmington, Del., Culiacan, Mexico, and Las Vegas, Nev. for the 2010 United Fresh convention, where the class will graduate.

"We'd like to extend our congratulations to the new class and thank all of the candidates who applied for this year's program," said Advisory Committee Chairman, United Fresh Board Member and leadership class 6 alumnus Mike Martin of Rio Queen Citrus. "Narrowing the field down to 12 applicants was an extremely difficult task. We are proud of the members selected for this year's class and are confident that this program will help them develop into powerful and influential leaders that will guide our industry forward."  The program has graduated more than 160 program participants since its inception in 1995.

To be considered for the program, candidates must submit an application including two essays detailing why they would like to participate and what they consider to be the most important challenges facing the produce industry. The applications are then reviewed by an Advisory Committee comprised of United Fresh Board members and leadership program alumni. Through the selection process, the committee is responsible for assessing each candidate based on their experience and expertise, as well as developing a class that is balanced and representative of the industry.

Traceability Demo Center a Rousing Success

Demo Center

Among the new features at last week's United Fresh 2009 convention, the Produce Traceability Demonstration Center quickly became a main destination at the show. Designed to help educate attendees on the seven milestones of the Produce Traceability Initiative (PTI), the Demo Center allowed solutions providers the opportunity to interact with attendees and other exhibitors, answering questions and engaging with an industry eager to learn more.

"The Demo Center created a destination area for the industry to get answers in one place to all their questions about the PTI," said Kerry Farrell, FoodLogiQ vice president of sales and Demo Center exhibitor. "As a solution provider, we gained tremendous value by participating in the Demo Center. It brought us in direct contact with growers, packers, shippers, and retailers who were interested in solutions."

"The Demo Center crowd never thinned over three expo days," said Dan Vachè, United Fresh vice president of supply chain management. "Between one-on-one discussions with service providers, and our roundtable discussions with industry leaders, we got to tackle most all of the questions and concerns from each attendee."

"As a United Fresh member we were pleased to see the interest and focus on the topic across the tradeshow," said Elliott Grant, Founder and CMO of YottaMark. "The Traceability Demonstration Center provided a great opportunity for growers and shippers to talk directly to vendors in one convenient location and to judge for themselves the differences between solutions offered."

DiSogra Keynotes Gatherings at Columbia and Tufts Universities

Lorelie DiSogra
Lorelei with Dean Eileen Kennedy, Friedman School of Nutrition Science & Policy, Tufts University

Invited to participate as a keynote speaker on "Global Strategies for Increasing Children's Consumption of Fruits and Vegetables," United Fresh Vice President of Nutrition and Health Dr. Lorelei DiSogra emphasized the benefits, effectiveness and policy developments of the U.S. Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Snack Program and European School Fruit Scheme during recent speeches at Columbia University in New York and Tufts University in Boston.

DiSogra urged faculty, alumni and students to become actively engaged in nutrition policy initiatives, especially those focused on increasing fruit and vegetable consumption. Dr. DiSogra, who holds three graduate degrees from Columbia University, spoke at her alma mater's Centennial Nutrition Program Conference before traveling to Boston to keynote the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy Alumni Reunion at Tufts University.

"I was honored to share United Fresh's accomplishments in nutrition policy at these esteemed universities and thrilled to see our priorities recognized as global public health strategies" said Lorelei.

For more information on all of United's efforts toward better child nutrition, visit www.unitedfresh.org.

Salute to Leadership Raffle Helps Raise Funds for Foundation Programs ...and Wedding

Gina Nucci came to Las Vegas last week with hopes of improving the odds for her business, and left with a little something extra for herself. Gina was the winner of the $25,000 Grand Prize in the United Fresh "Salute to Leadership" Raffle. In a time when all of us could use some extra cash, the windfall is especially timely for the director of foodservice marketing at Mann Packing.

"This will help pay for the wedding!" Gina told the crowd assembled at the Venetian Hotel for Thursday night's Awards Banquet. She and fiancé Kevin Hinks will be married November 21 of this year. Net proceeds from the raffle will benefit the programs of the United Fresh Research and Education Foundation.

Attendees Vote for Best New Products at United Fresh 2009

New Product Award Winners
The proud team from PakSense shows off their award-winning Ultra Wireless Label

The most innovative new products in the produce industry were on display in Las Vegas last week, with attendees voting during the expo for the best products in the show... Winners were recognized in each of five categories:

All United Fresh 2009 exhibitors were eligible to submit products, and each product was viewed and voted on by attendees at the three-day show. Winners were recognized in each of five categories. They were:

"The most unique thing about these awards is that they're not chosen by a panel of judges or the association, but are voted on by peers at the show," Said John Toner, vice president of convention and industry relations.

More on the winning products can be found online at http://virtualmarketplace.unitedfresh.org.

New Member Welcome

Each week, United Fresh welcomes its newest partners in building a stronger produce industry:

  • Coupons, Inc., Mountain View, Calif.
  • C.R. England, Inc., Salt Lake City, Utah
  • Edge Sales and Marketing, Pleasanton, Calif.
  • Global Source Packaging, Kansas City, Mo.
  • Kevin and Rushit, Inc., Sterling Heights, Mich.
  • KLLM Transport Services, Jackson, Miss.
  • Max World, Inc., San Antonio, Tex.
  • Muranaka Farm, Moorpark, Calif.
  • ProHealth LLC, Carrolton, Tex.
  • Sun-Maid Growers of California, Kingsburg, Calif.
  • The Sachem Company, Oak Park, Ill.
  • W.R. Vernon Produce Co., Inc., Winston-Salem, N.C.
  • Yucatan Foods, Los Angeles, Calif.
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 at 202-303-3400.

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