October 8, 2009

In Today's Issue:

United Fresh, PMA Respond to Top 10 Riskiest Foods List

In response to the release of a list of the "Top 10 Riskiest Foods" by the Center for Science in the Public Interest this week, United Fresh and the Produce Marketing Association have issued a joint statement urging CSPI to clarify multiple inaccuracies contained in the report.

"As you know," stated the letter, "... the produce industry is committed to ensuring the fresh fruits and vegetables we produce provide consumers with a safe and healthy eating experience every bite, every time."

The joint letter emphasized industry initiatives to increase food safety accountability, including the Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement, United and PMA’s participation in the non-profit Partnership for Food Safety Education, and both associations’ call for mandatory regulation to help ensure the safety of the food supply.

"By focusing your 'Top Ten' release solely on the food products listed, you are presenting a misleading picture to the American public," continued the letter. "As you well know, food handling is often the cause of such outbreaks. And while you do provide some clarification in the full report, the reality is that most consumers and reporters will not go to the website for more complete information."

Upon release of the list, CSPI Staff Attorney Sarah Klein commented that "consumers can only do so much to make sure they are not getting sick."

Both associations took special exception to Klein's characterization of the consumer's role in ensuring a safe food supply as small.

"That's simply not accurate. Consumers and other food handlers play a huge role in preventing illnesses, and they do need more information on safe handling," stated the letter.

United Fresh President and CEO Tom Stenzel and PMA President and CEO Bryan Silbermann, authors of the letter, expressed worry that the CSPI's list could further discourage Americans from getting the healthy amounts of fresh fruits and vegetables they need.

"The lack of clarity and misleading way the information was presented could very well discourage consumers from eating healthy fruits and vegetables. That is unfortunate considering that obesity is at epidemic proportions and so few Americans consume the recommended amounts already."

For a full transcript of the response letter, please click here.

Salad Bar Transforms Students into Fruit and Vegetable Lovers

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Drew Taylor and Dr. Lorelei DiSogra join UCLA pediatric residents at Hooper Elementary School in Los Angeles.

Last Friday, United's Vice President of Nutrition and Health Dr. Lorelei DiSogra traveled to Los Angeles to speak to a group of UCLA's pediatric medical residents and congressional staff from Senator Barbara Boxer's office on the benefits of salad bars.

Dr. DiSogra underscored the importance of translating positive research results into groundbreaking public policy, encouraging the group of young pediatricians to become advocates for improving child nutrition. Following the presentation, the doctors presented Senator Boxer's staff with a letter urging her to champion a bill to promote a national salad bar policy.

Afterwards, Drew Taylor of Taylor Farms joined the group for a visit to Hooper Elementary School in South Central Los Angeles to hear from students and school administrators on the success of the school's two salad bars.

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A Hooper Elementary School student enjoys a healthy serving of fruit and vegetables from the school salad bar.

"Research on school salad bars, done by Dr. Wendy Slusser at UCLA, is the theoretical underpinning of our policy goal that every school should have a salad bar. Visiting Hooper School at lunch instantly crystallizes the effectiveness and benefits of school salad bars as we watched more than 1200 young students load up their plates with fresh broccoli, baby carrots, salad and Gala apples" said Dr. DiSogra. "Later this fall, we plan to invite Dr. Slusser to speak at congressional briefings on Capitol Hill in support of a national school salad bar policy."

For more information, contact Dr. DiSogra at 202-303-3400 ext. 403.

United Applauds DHS Decision to Rescind "No-Match" Rule

Social Security AdministrationIn the Federal Register yesterday, the Department of Homeland Security rescinded their Social Security "No-Match" regulation which targeted employers with undocumented workers.  This ends a two-year legal battle between the federal government, business groups, labor organizations, civil liberties and immigration rights groups.  United Fresh served as one of the business plaintiffs in this legal battle.

DHS' Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency issued a final regulation on August 15, 2007 governing the Social Security Number No-Match letters that employers receive for withholding employees' Social Security allocations. If an employee's Social Security Number does not match the government record, the Social Security Administration sends a letter to the employer notifying him or her of the discrepancy. Under the No-Match rule - also called the Safe Harbor rule - the SSA would have been required to further include information telling employers that they would be required to resolve discrepancies or face liability.

"For many of our members, the burden of correcting SSA errors is a time consuming process, and in order to comply, they will have to develop new policies and procedures at a great cost to produce industry members across the country," said United Fresh Senior Vice President of Public Policy Robert Guenther.

On September 11, 2007, United Fresh joined six other plaintiffs, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, National Roofing Contractors Association and the American Nursery and Landscape Association in filing a Motion to Intervene that challenged the regulation on several grounds, including violations of the Regulatory and Flexibility Act and of the Administrative Procedure Act.  Among other claims, the suit cited the severe economic hardship that businesses could endure in order to immediately comply with the regulations.  The groups concluded that further analysis was needed in order to understand the real burden the measure would place on businesses, and that it was incumbent upon the federal government to assure the program be executed correctly.  Subsequent to that effort, the U.S. Small Business Administration, Congress, and groups such as the National Federation of Independent Businesses began expressing concern with this regulation.

One month later, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California issued a preliminary injunction in the No-Match litigation, thereby blocking implementation of the rule until the Court had a chance to fully examine it. Since that time, this regulation has continued to be blocked by the courts.  Once this rescission this goes into effect - 30 days from today - the lawsuit becomes moot and is expected to be dismissed by the courts at that time.

"From the outset of this effort," said Guenther, "we have been committed to making sure our members fully understand - and are prepared to comply with - this regulation. At the same time, however, we will continue to oppose processes that create uncertainties and disruptions throughout a broad sector of our produce workforce."

United Fresh Testifies at USDA Leafy Greens Hearing

Attendees listen carefully during Tuesday's hearing in Columbus, Ohio.

United Fresh urged growers to strongly consider the potential benefits of a National Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement (NLGMA) at a USDA hearing held Tuesday in Columbus, Ohio. Speaking to a crowd of some 50 growers from Ohio, Kentucky, and other states, United President and CEO Tom Stenzel said that participation in the NLGMA, if implemented, would be voluntary.

"You here in Ohio can get involved in shaping the standards, ensuring local differences are allowed for, setting the funding rates, and really writing the rules of the road," he said.

The Columbus hearing was the third in a series of hearings organized by the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service to consider the NLGMA proposal, which would establish a voluntary marketing agreement for leafy greens. The fourth hearing is being held today in Denver.

Ray Gilmer, United's vice president of communications, also testified at the hearing about the potential value of the NLGMA in restoring consumer confidence in fresh produce.

United President Tom Stenzel addresses attendees during Tuesday’s hearing in Columbus, Ohio.

"Even today, there is a story in the Washington Post citing a report from the Center for Science in the Public Interest about the so-called 10 riskiest foods, including leafy greens" said Gilmer. "The science of their report is highly questionable and misleading, but news outlets like the Washington Post and CNN still run stories about it, which leaves consumers with a distorted viewpoint."

Also participating in the hearing were representatives of Western Growers Association. The NLGMA proponent group includes Georgia Fresh Vegetable Association, Georgia Farm Bureau, Produce Marketing Association, Western Growers Association, Texas Vegetable Association, Arizona Farm Bureau, Leafy Greens Council, California Farm Bureau, California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement, Grower-Shipper Association of Central California and United Fresh Produce Association.

United encourages members to participate in the remaining NLGMA hearings slated for Yuma, Ariz.; Syracuse, N.Y. and Charlotte, N.C. For more information, log on to www.nlgma.org or contact Gilmer or United Senior Vice President of Public Policy Robert Guenther at 202-303-3400.

Industry Members Invited to Test Recall Knowledge

Hamburg"How prepared is my company for a recall?"

"Does my business have the tools, skills, and plans in place to effectively handle a recall and stop it from becoming a crisis?"

Executives and business leaders of companies large and small often find themselves asking similar questions, and United Fresh invites them to test their recall knowledge with the United Fresh Recall Quiz to sample these and other difficult questions posed during a recall situation. United has designed the Recall Quiz to help industry members learn more about the tools and resources you need to be prepared and proactive during a product recall in advance of their popular Training for a Recall, Communicating Under Fire course sponsored by Syngenta, October 27-28 in West Palm Beach, Fla.

The two-day, hands-on training program teaches participants the fundamentals of a product recall, including rights and responsibilities, the role of FDA and how to limit company liability and manage customer expectations.  In addition, the course will take 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.  Space is limited, so those interested are encouraged to register today.

In addition to the recall training, United Fresh is also offering a fully customized media training session for anyone who may be called on to speak on behalf their company or organization.  For more information about these programs, click here or contact Julie Jacocks, United Fresh Education coordinator at 202-303-3400 ext. 405.

United Looks at Audits and Harmonization at New Orleans Conference

National Restaurant AssociationDr. David Gombas, United Fresh senior vice president food safety and technology joined the National Restaurant Association's Quality Assurance Executive Study Group Meeting this week in New Orleans to present an update on the produce industry and food safety.  Dr. Gombas briefed technical representatives from 20 major restaurant and foodservice chains on lessons learned by the produce industry in its efforts to improve produce food safety.

"The fresh produce industry is faced with over a dozen different food safety standards, managed and audited by dozens of standard owners and audit organizations", Dr. Gombas told attendees. "This has led to audit fatigue for customers as well as suppliers, with confusion by both as to which standards and audits are acceptable and which do not improve food safety."

David described two projects underway by the United Fresh Food Safety and Technology Council: the Audits Benchmarking Matrix, which will provide a side-by-side comparison of the quality systems that assure the reliability and integrity of the major standard owners and audit organizations used by the fresh produce industry; and the Produce GAP Harmonization Initiative, which will attempt to build on the similarities among all commonly used standards to develop a single, harmonized food safety standard for North America GAP audits.  United Fresh members should expect to hear more about both initiatives in coming weeks.

United Fresh Extends Global Outreach This Week at Macfrut Exposition

MacFruitBoard Member Alessandro Turatti, Turatti Srl, Membership Vice President Jeff Oberman and Melissa Speed, director of international member services, are on site in Cesena all week and will provide a full update in next week's Inside United Fresh.

"This is a great opportunity to meet companies within key sectors of the fresh and fresh-cut industries, learn about their businesses, and share the many solutions United Fresh can provide on a global level," said Speed.  

Turatti provided an overview on Trends and Perspectives for Technological Innovation in Fresh-Cut Produce during his presentation to the opening general session on Monday, also sharing the value that companies around the world can receive through membership within United Fresh.

United Fresh would like to thank Turatti for hosting the United Fresh contingent and for sponsoring United's exhibit at the exposition.

Upcoming Complimentary Livecast Teaches Innovation in a Recession


Next Tuesday, United Fresh members are invited to a complimentary livecast with world-renowned innovation strategist and Dartmouth business professor Vijay Govindarajan.  As the first featured speaker in the United Fresh Executive Education Livecast Series, presented in partnership with Leading Authorities, Govindarajan will teach participants how to innovate in a recession so that they emerge stronger on the other side.

He'll discuss the three projects facing business leaders who want to innovate, even in challenging times, including improving performance of today's business; collectively repeating the successes of the past and creating a better future.

This special event will take place on Tuesday, October 13, 2009, at 1:00 EST.  For more information and to register, click here.  This complimentary livecast is if the first of four events in the Livecast Series open to United Fresh members.  Each livecast features live streaming video, PowerPoint and interactive audience engagement, followed by a question-and-answer session.  For more information about the full Executive Education Livecast Series, click here or contact Julie Jacocks, United Fresh education coordinator at 202-303-3400 ext. 405. 


New Member Welcome

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

  • Auburn University Detection and Food Safety Center, Auburn, Ala.
  • Francis Produce, Greenville, S.C.
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 or Miriam Miller at 202-303-3410.

Upcoming United Fresh Events
Upcoming Events

News & Views


News and Views

Texas Democrats call on USDA to fix state food stamp program

Michigan State University scientists land $14.4M to improve quality of fruit

GS1 US launches Foodservice Initiative with top manufacturers, distributors and operators

Sen. Gillibrand hosts New York Farm Days

Ancient practice gets an ultramodern boost in Florida


China's greens

In Russia, bananas stay firm

Disease fears over bumblebees brought in by UK fruit growers

Chinese imports a "danger to Australian apple industry."

Chilean agricultural office opens for business in South Korea

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