October 1, 2009

In Today's Issue:

United Fresh Cheers as WIC Begins National Distribution of Fruit and Vegetable Vouchers

WICUnited President and CEO Tom Stenzel applauded this week's rollout by the USDA's Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) of vouchers for fruit and vegetables nationwide.

"With this landmark policy change, it is a win-win for WIC moms and kids across the United States and for the entire produce industry," said Stenzel. "WIC participants will now have access to a wide variety of nutritious fresh fruits and vegetables that can have a meaningful impact on their health and wellbeing. These WIC fruit and vegetable vouchers represent an additional $600 million worth of produce a year to more than 9 million WIC moms and kids. It’s very gratifying to know that United’s decade-long leadership on this critical policy initiative is finally benefiting so many families across the country."

Starting in 1999, United Fresh championed the addition of produce in WIC at high level meetings with USDA and the Clinton White House, and then spearheaded provisions in the House and Senate Appropriations Committees the following year. More recently, United redoubled its efforts after the very positive recommendations made by the Institute of Medicine in 2005, which called for the addition of fruits and vegetables to WIC. Change can take a long time in Washington, but this new WIC policy is a reminder that we must remain tenacious and never give up.

Starting today, WIC moms across the country will receive an $8 monthly voucher, while participating kids will receive a $6 monthly voucher good for fresh fruits and vegetables.

"With the addition of fruits and vegetables to this program," said Stenzel, "we are ecstatic that so many moms and kids will have the opportunity to enjoy more fresh produce as part of a nutritious diet."

For more information on United’s work on WIC and other nutrition initiatives, contact United Vice President of Nutrition and Health Dr. Lorelei DiSogra at 202-303-3400 or at ldisogra@unitedfresh.org.

United’s Q2 Report Looks at Retailer Efforts to Ease Consumer Burden

Retail Aisle

Over the second quarter of 2009, retailers nationwide have taken a harder look at how they can ease the burden of a tough economy by increasing in-store promotions and lowering prices of fruits and vegetables, according to the latest edition of the United Fresh Research & Education Foundation’s quarterly research report, Fresh Facts on Retail. The report measures retail price and sales volume trends for the top 10 fruit and vegetable commodities, as well as value-added, organic and other produce categories.

Highlights of this quarter's report include:

  • The average price point for all produce was 3% lower in Q2 2009 than in Q2 2008, and overall volume increased 2% compared to last year
  • In the fruit category, berries and apples decreased prices the most, down 9.1% and 12.6% respectively, however melon prices rose more than 10% from Q2 2008
  • In vegetables, tomatoes declined in price the most, down 7.8%; in contrast, lettuce increased prices the most, up 4% to $1.72
  • Weekly volume of organic fruits rose 16.6%, while volume of organic vegetables fell almost 11% from Q2 2008
  • Value‐added fruit lost dollar sales and volume compared to Q2 2008, despite a 1.3% lower retail price
  • Weekly volume of value-added vegetables fell nearly 3%, while retail price rose 1.5% over Q2 2008

In addition, a newly enhanced feature of the Q2 report is the "Quarterly Spotlight" that reports on a measure not typically included in the publication.  The spotlight section explains the use and interpretation of a more advanced measure.  This edition's "Quarterly Spotlight" examines the effects of price promotions within traditional produce.

"Retailers nationwide have made a concerted effort to increase promotions and lower prices," said United Fresh President Tom Stenzel. "This quarter's report takes a closer look at the effect those promotions had on overall produce sales."

Fresh Facts on Retail, which is produced in partnership with the Perishables Group and sponsored by Del Monte Fresh Produce, can be downloaded here free of charge to all United Fresh members ($50 for non-members).  For more information about how to obtain the report or suggestions for future category spotlights, please contact Patrick Delaney, United Fresh communications manager, at 202-303-3400 ext. 417.  For questions about specific data contained in the report, please contact Kelli Beckel at the Perishables Group, at 773-929-7013.

CDC: No U.S. States Meet Recommendations for Fruit and Vegetable Consumption

CDCAccording to a report issued this week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, not a single state in the U.S. is meeting national objectives for consumption of fruit and vegetables

State Indicator Report on Fruits and Vegetables, 2009 was released Tuesday and highlights consumption levels for all 50 states, as well as three key areas for policy improvement, including healthier food retail, the availability of healthier food in schools and overall food system support. 

"This report emphasizes that environmental and policy changes need to take place at the national, state and local to increase fruit and vegetable consumption for all Americans," said United Fresh Vice President of Nutrition and Health Dr. Lorelei DiSogra.

The Department of Health and Human Services’ Healthy People 2010 initiative aims for at least 75 percent of Americans to eat the recommended two or more daily servings of fruit and for at least 50 percent of Americans to eat the recommended three or more servings of vegetables. However, the CDC report finds that only 33 percent of adults are meeting the recommendations for fruit intake, and only 27 percent are doing so for vegetables. The data paints an even bleaker picture for American young people, indicating that only 32 percent of high school students eat the recommended servings of fruit, and only 13 percent eat the recommended servings of vegetables.

"A diet high in fruits and vegetables is important for optimal child growth, maintaining a healthy weight, and prevention of chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and some cancers, all of which currently contribute to health care costs in the United States," said Dr. William H. Dietz, director of CDC's Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity. "This report will help states determine what is taking place in their communities and schools and come up with ways to encourage people to eat more fruits and vegetables."

CDC Senior Scientist Heidi Blanck took a simpler perspective. "This is a call for states, communities, schools and families to support increased fruit and vegetable consumption."

Dr. DiSogra couldn't agree more. "United Fresh's leadership in policy changes such as the recent addition of fruits and vegetables to WIC, national expansion of the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program, and increasing access to fruits and vegetables in school meals and throughout the entire school food environment are critical steps to improving this situation."  

United Fresh Shares Food Safety Research Needs with USDA

USDA ARSJoining representatives from four national meat and poultry associations, Dr. David Gombas, senior vice president food safety and technology, was invited to brief USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) National Program officials on food safety research needs for fresh produce.

"Researchers and the fresh produce industry came together in 2007 to identify and prioritize food safety research needs for leafy greens," said David, referring to the International Lettuce and Leafy Greens Food Safety Research Meeting. "Those practical, in-field research needs still exist: to establish control strategies that growers and handlers can use to prevent, detect and eliminate contamination events.  Those needs exist for many fresh produce commodities, not just leafy greens, and members of United Fresh are willing to work with ARS researchers to ensure their research is well targeted and will enable even safer production of fresh produce."

With over 2,000 scientists in 100 research locations, ARS is USDA's chief scientific research agency, responsible for finding solutions to agricultural problems from field to table.

FDA Issues Strategic Plan for Risk Communication

FDA Commissioner Dr. Margaret Hamburg visits with attendees to September’s Washington Public Policy Conference

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued its Strategic Plan for Risk Communication Wednesday, which outlines the agency’s efforts to disseminate more meaningful public health information.  The plan also lays out a framework for the FDA to provide information about FDA-regulated products to health care professionals, patients and consumers in the form they need it and when they need it, and for how the agency oversees industry communications.

"We are committed to improving communications the public receives about the products we regulate," said Commissioner of Food and Drugs Margaret A. Hamburg, M.D. "The FDA must communicate frequently and clearly about risks and benefits and inform patients and consumers about ways to minimize risk as they become increasingly involved in managing their health and well-being."

The plan, which has gained the full support of United Fresh reflects the FDA's belief that risk communications must be adapted to the needs of different audiences and should be evaluated to ensure effectiveness. The plan also focuses on improving two-way communication through enhanced partnerships with government and non-government organizations, and focuses on policies that affect areas of high public health impact.

Past Chairman, President Visit with Florida Industry

FFVAImmediate Past Chairman Tom Lovelace and President Tom Stenzel met this past weekend with members of the Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association at the group's 66th annual convention.  Also, Stenzel spoke Tuesday at a workshop about sustainability, briefing the group on the mission and objectives of the United Foundation's new Center for Global Produce Sustainability, which was established this year by a founding grant from Bayer Crop Science.

"Our commitment is that sustainability should be an opportunity for innovation and creativity that helps companies, not a burdensome demand pushed down upon them," said Stenzel.  "By focusing on the intersection of environmental responsibility with public health and social accountability, companies should be able to enhance the third leg of sustainability - economic viability."

FDA Official Recommends Better Outbreak Coordination

FDAIn a speech last week to state and national health officials, senior FDA official Michael Taylor called for greater collaboration among those who work in investigating foodborne disease outbreaks, an objective that United Fresh has worked to achieve for several years.

"Mr. Taylor's recommendation to build stronger partnerships across all stakeholders is a very welcome sign," said United Fresh President and CEO Tom Stenzel.  "We've testified several times before Congress about the need for better coordination among federal, state and local officials and the industry, calling for a new commitment in food safety similar to the National Transportation Safety Board, which can bring immediate and substantive resources forward in a time of need.  We'll continue to work with FDA and all stakeholders in this effort."

For more on United's efforts in the food safety arena, please log on to www.unitedfresh.org.

Still A Few Spots Left in United’s Popular South Florida Recall Training Course

RecallUnited Fresh and Syngenta are teamed once again to help the produce industry take control and learn how to minimize the impact of a recall with Training for a Recall, Communicating Under Fire, October 27-29, in West Palm Beach, Fla.

This specialized training program is a two-day course that focuses on helping attendees understand the fundamentals of a product recall, including individual and corporate responsibilities, the role of the FDA, how to limit individual and corporate liability and manage customer expectations.  It also takes an in-depth look at how to build a customized communication plan in the event of a recall, and how to effectively communicate to the industry, customers, consumers and the media.

In addition to the two-day training course, United Fresh is offering a separate, customized media training session immediately following the recall training.  Designed to prepare attendees for the rigors of a real-life interview, program staff will stress the importance of adeptly navigating an interview, delivering the necessary messages and staying on point.

"This course is designed for everyone on your recall team including your management, technical, food safety, sales, marketing and communications staff," said Ray Gilmer, vice president, communications. "It combines recall protocols and communication management principles to ensure that your entire staff works together effectively and efficiently during a product recall."

Those interested in attending may reserve limited space in the training program by clicking here.  For more information and to read what past attendees have said about the program, click here, or contact Julie Jacocks, United Fresh education coordinator, at 202-303-3400 ext. 405.

Congressional Staff, UCLA Researchers and United Fresh Explore Impact of Salad Bars in Urban L.A.

UCLAUnited's Vice President of Nutrition and Health Dr. Lorelei DiSogra and Vice President of Communications Ray Gilmer will discuss United's national school salad bar initiative at several stops in Los Angeles later this week. Friday morning, Dr. DiSogra will address the effects of a national school salad bar policy during a seminar for pediatric residents at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, and later that day, DiSogra and Gilmer, along with California congressional staff and researchers from UCLA will visit the Hooper School in south central Los Angeles to observe the salad bar in action. Please check back next week for more coverage of the visit.

United Wraps Final Inspection Course for 2009, Plans for 2010

USDALast week, participants in the United Fresh/USDA Produce Inspection Training Program engaged in the weeklong course focused on fresh produce inspection at the USDA Fresh Products Branch National Inspectors' Training and Development Center in Fredericksburg, Va. The program, which includes introductory and advanced course options, combines classroom instruction on inspection principals with hands-on commodity inspection.

"This program is not only an excellent opportunity to train new employees on the fundamentals of produce inspection, but it also provides an excellent education for experienced managers to better understand the intricacies of the process," said Julie Jacocks, education coordinator.

The September course was the final inspection course scheduled for 2009; plans are currently underway for the 2010 program.  To receive information about the 2010 Produce Inspection Training Program, contact Julie Jacocks at 202-303-3405.

U.S. Partnership for Food Safety Education Launches HolidayFoodSafety.org

PFSAIn preparation for the holiday season, United Fresh, along with the other members of the non-profit U.S. Partnership for Food Safety Education have launched HolidayFoodSafety.org. The online portal for both retailers and consumers is designed to provide resources for maintaining a healthy and safe kitchen and dinner table for the holidays.

Led by the National Turkey Federation and the Georgia Pecan Commission, HolidayFoodSafety.org. provides consumers with shopping and storage tips, recipes and even resources for kids, all geared toward maintaining a safe and bacteria-free environment when preparing, serving and storing perishable products like fruit and vegetables, meat and dairy products.

Additionally, the site has downloadable signage, templates and other resources for retailers, aimed at encouraging grocery stores, supermarkets and other retailers to foster safe practices at the point of purchase.

Creators of FightBAC, the U.S. Partnership for Food Safety Education is comprised of United Fresh and 19 other associations and non-profit organizations dedicated to keeping the American consumer safe from foodborne illness. More can be found online at www.fightbac.org.

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