May 28, 2009

In Today's Issue:

Key Congressmen Issue Draft of Food Safety Legislation


On On Tuesday, Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA) and leaders of the House Energy and Commerce Committee released a draft of their Food Safety Enhancement Act of 2009. This bill will serve as the legislative driver for the House on food safety for this year. United expects that the committee to hold hearings on this legislation as early as next week, and move to pass a bill out of committee during June.

It remains unclear if the full House will take up the bill prior to the August congressional break due to a crowded legislative calendar. An early review of the draft shows many challenges for the food industry in general, with significant user fees for food facilities and importers, inflexible and difficult traceability provisions, a new country of origin labeling requirement for food ingredients, and the ability for FDA to quarantine geographic regions based on outbreak information.

The produce-specific provisions in the bill are generally similar to a bill presented earlier this year by Reps. Jim Costa (D-CA) and Adam Putnam (R-FL), as well as food safety legislation from Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL).

"We're pleased that Chairman Waxman understands the need for commodity-specific flexibility in how FDA approaches produce," said Robert Guenther, United Fresh Senior Vice President of Public Policy. "However, there's a long way to go before food safety legislation finally passes the Congress and we’ll be working to drive sound scientific policy at each step along the way."

Click here for more information on United’s Food Safety Policy Priorities, or contact Robert at 202-303-3400.

Vaché Speaks at Retail Conference in Pennsylvania

Food Protection
United VP of Supply Chain Logistics Dan Vaché (center) with Dr. Xuetong Fan, USDA-AMS (left) and Chuck Martin, ACME Markets (right)

Education highlighted United Fresh Vice President of Supply Chain Management Dan Vaché’s presentation on traceability during the eighth annual conference of the Pennsylvania Food Merchants Association in Harrisburg last week.

"In addition to simply complying with the milestones of the Produce Traceability Initiative, it is important for merchants to understand the reasons for and forces behind the creation of each," said Dan. "I was particularly impressed at the number and depth of questions from the attendees. There is a strong need for continued education across the industry on the processes involved in PTI compliance."

The conference comes as retailers in Pennsylvania and across the country begin to formulate their internal PTI teams, many with a sense of urgency to meet the initiative’s seven milestones to be completed by 2012.

The cost of the PTI's implementation, a subject raised by many in the industry, was one that again surfaced in Harrisburg. But as one participant stated, "The cost of a recall is a monster to the supply chain and we need an industry wide process to minimize the market impact when there is a food safety issue".

For more information on the PTI and United’s efforts on traceability, contact Dan at 202-303-3400.

Industry Members Participate in California Recall Training Event

RecallThis week, more than 40 produce industry professionals representing a wide range of commodities and products participated in United’s popular Training for a Recall, Communicating Under Fire course, sponsored by Syngenta. The training sessions, conducted at the Embassy Suites in Seaside, Calif., featured presentations covering a broad range of issues related to produce recalls, including FDA expectations, recall liability, traceability and crisis management.

"Recalls can be painful, or they can be very painful," said David Gombas, senior vice president of food safety and technology at United Fresh, who led training exercises at the event. "Taking the time to prepare for a recall in advance can make a big difference."

Session participants heard from FDA investigator John Liu from the agency's San Francisco District, as well as United General Counsel David Durkin, a specialist in food safety laws and regulations.

"FDA inspectors often do not understand exactly what they're looking for," Durkin said during his presentation. "Therefore, it's important for companies to know their rights and responsibilities to ensure compliance, without letting inspectors simply go on fishing expeditions." As part of his overview on legal considerations of an FDA recall, he also previewed provisions of pending federal food safety legislation.

A highlight of the event was a mock traceability exercise, which gave attendees a chance to test their recall management skills using a real-world scenario. In addition to the recall seminar, United Fresh is hosting media training for participants, geared for working with reporters during recall situations.

United Fresh hosts another recall and media training event in West Palm Beach, Florida, October 28-30, 2009. Contact Victoria Backer at 202-303-3400 for more information.

China's New Food Safety Law Goes into Effect Monday

ChinaUnited Fresh has applauded the spirit of a new law passed to improve the quality of produce from China. Passed by the Standing Committee of China's National People's Congress (NPC) the country’s first comprehensive Food Safety Law (FSL) will go into effect on Monday.

"Given the large amount of Chinese produce and other food that the U.S. imports, continuous monitoring and enforcement are essential if China is to be successful," said Dr. David Gombas, senior vice president of food safety and technology.

The FSL, which has been five years in the making, provides the government with a legal basis to strengthen food safety control from production to purchase, covering food production, processing, consumption and regulation, as well as the creation of a state-level food safety commission to oversee the entire food monitoring system.

Under the FSL, the Chinese Departments of Health, Agriculture, Quality Supervision, Industry, and Commerce have each been tasked with making and implementing safety standards, evaluating risk and monitoring food production and circulation sectors. The law also calls for the quick release of information concerned with food safety issues, as well as punishment for officials and firms who act irresponsibly or unlawfully.

In an effort to keep Americans informed, the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service has provided an unofficial translation of the first implementation regulation of the FSL, which can be found here.

United's New Communications VP Meets with California Members

Ray and Ernie
United Fresh VP of Communications Ray Gilmer with Ernie Farley, Sundance Berry Farms

Traceability, food safety and other priorities were discussion topics during visits to United Fresh members in the Salinas Valley Tuesday by United Fresh staff. Ray Gilmer, vice president of communications, joined with Jeff Oberman, Vice President of Trade Relations and head of United's western regional office, to meet with members to see production practices and learn how producers and processors are meeting challenges in food safety, traceability, labor management and other areas.

The day included visits to Sundance Berry Farms, Ocean Mist Farms, NewStar Fresh Foods and Mann Packing's Fresh Leaf Farms. At each stop, members demonstrated systems that contribute to improved quality, food safety and traceability.

"The dedication to quality and meeting the demands of the market can be seen at every operation," said Ray. "It's clear that producers here are poised to meet future challenges in marketing, traceability and other areas."

In addition to the production tours, United Fresh staff met with Eric Lauritzen, Monterey County Agricultural Commissioner, and Jim Bogart, president and general counsel at the Grower-Shipper Association of Central California, to discuss industry concerns.

Campaign to Grow Produce Power in High Gear

CapitolJust as it does anywhere else, progress in Washington takes support. The Campaign to Grow Produce Power in Washington was established to help members of the produce industry lend critical support to further industry initiatives in the nation's capital. With the 2009 Washington Public Policy Conference around the corner in September and numerous pieces of potentially impactful legislation on the floor of both the House and Senate, industry support is needed to help underscore the produce message.

As Members of Congress and the Administration work to shape policies that will undoubtedly affect businesses large and small on a range of topics from food safety policy to labor to child nutrition, industry members who contribute to the Campaign are helping to advance our industry's position on these important issues.

Members interested in more information may contact Claudia Wenzing at 202-303-3400 or log on to the campaign website here.

New Member Welcome

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

  • AgWorks Solutions, Washington, D.C.
  • Perishable Products Export Control Board, Cape Town, South Africa
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.

Upcoming United Fresh Events
Upcoming Events

News & Views


News and Views

Fresh veggies for needy families

New website hopes to spark food safety changes

California Democrats say Obama neglecting parts of the Golden State

The climate bill debate continues

Boutique farms get cream of the crop for their interns


Poll says Canadians don’t trust safety of food firms

UK campaign hopes for "farm of origin" labeling

In Singapore, home-grown vegetables are in demand

Non-E.U. produce imports rise in Spain

Poor outlook for South America

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