November 5, 2009

In Today's Issue:

Industry Voices Concern over H-2A Rulemaking

In response to the potential adverse impact of proposed changes to the nation's H-2A regulations, a group of 13 produce industry leaders and advocates met with congressional and administration officials Wednesday. In a full day of meetings organized by the United Fresh Produce Association, the Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association and the National Council of Agricultural Employers (NCAE), the leaders discussed the confusion that has been generated over continued attempts to repeal reforms to the H-2A program and the impact the most recent proposed rule will have for producers.

United Fresh Board Member Alan Temple (second from right), B&W Quality Growers, addresses problems in the current proposed H-2A regulations with Small Business Administration Director of Interagency Affairs Charles Maresca (left) and Assistant Chief Counsel Janis Reyes (second from left) during Wednesday’s meetings.

"The visits provided the produce industry with a focused opportunity to share common concerns about the likely damage of the new H-2A regulations with lawmakers and federal entities that can really make a difference," said United Vice President of Government Relations and Legislative Afffairs Kam Quarles. "There are multiple facets of the proposed regulations that are simply bad for the produce industry, and effectively hamper operations that are trying to follow the rules and hire legal foreign guest workers."

The group's busy schedule included meetings with the Small Business Administration's Office of Advocacy, the USDA Office of the Chief Economist, the office of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and the offices of Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Jim DeMint (R-SC), John Cornyn (R-TX), Judd Gregg (R-NH), and Reps. Debbie Wasserman-Schulz (D-FL), Adam Putnam (D-FL), Alcee Hastings (D-FL), Connie Mack IV (R-FL), Suzanne Kosmas (D-FL), Tom Rooney (R-FL), Allen Boyd (D-FL), John Spratt, Jr. (D-SC) and Henry Cuellar (D-TX).

United Fresh members Charles Wingard (left), Walter P. Rawl & Sons, and Mike Carlton (right), Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association, speak Wednesday with USDA Agriculture Labor Affairs Coordinator Peter Feather (second from left), Deputy Chief Economist James Hrubovcak (center) and Deputy Director of Intergovernmental Affairs Oscar Gonzales (second from right).

The group included Luawanna Hallstrom of Harry Singh & Sons, Fred Leitz of Leitz Farms, Mike Bartos of Consolidated Citrus, Mike Carlton of the Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association, Jack Mendiburo of Southern Gardens Citrus, Alan Temple of B&W Quality Growers, NCAE's Frank Gasperini, Jr., Charles Wingard of Walter P. Rawl & Sons, John Young of the New England Apple Council, Ray Prewitt of Texas Citrus Mutual, Jim Bryan of Western Growers and United's Quarles and Communications Manager Patrick Delaney.

FDA to Hold Public Meeting on Traceability, United to Testify

FDAThe Food and Drug Administration announced in a teleconference this week that it will hold a public meeting in early December to address traceability systems for all foods, including fruits and vegetables.

United Fresh will be present to testify at the two-day meeting and will highlight the progress made by the Produce Traceability Initiative (PTI) toward achieving whole-chain traceability for fresh produce. United Fresh will coordinate with other PTI stakeholders in order to provide FDA with a comprehensive overview of the produce industry's efforts on traceability.

Held in collaboration with the USDA Food Safety and Information Service (FSIS), the meeting will take place December 9 and 10 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the Jefferson Auditorium of the USDA's South Building, 1400 Independence Avenue NW in Washington, D.C. All attendees must provide a photo ID to enter the building.

As echoed by United Fresh, FDA realizes that federal food safety agencies need to increase the speed and accuracy of traceback investigations and traceforward operations. The meeting will provide a venue to discuss the core elements of product tracing systems, gaps in current product tracing systems, and mechanisms to enhance product tracing systems for food. FDA and FSIS also intend the meeting to improve the ability of FDA and FSIS to use the information in such systems to identify the source of contamination during outbreaks of foodborne illness, and to improve the ability of all persons in the supply chain to more quickly identify food that is (or potentially is) contaminated and remove it from the market during traceforward operations. This discussion will help FDA and FSIS determine what short and long term steps the two agencies should take to enhance the current tracing system.

For more information on the meeting, please view the Federal Register notice here, and for more on United’s efforts toward whole-chain traceability, contact United Fresh Vice President of Supply Chain Management Dan Vaché at 202-303-3400.

United Fresh Issues Member Statement on Reports of Child Labor on Michigan Blueberry Farm

In response to reports last week of child labor violations within the Michigan, Arkansas and North Carolina blueberry industries, United Fresh President and CEO Tom Stenzel has issued a statement urging members to ensure that such practices do not occur within their operations

"I am asking each of you [members] today to redouble your efforts to ensure that no young children are ever working illegally on our farms," said Stenzel. "I know you all have policies against illegal child labor, but it is our responsibility to make sure policies don't just sit in a binder somewhere but are being enforced every day.  It is our responsibility to meet with farm managers and field supervisors to reinforce the critical importance of these policies.  It is our responsibility to teach these rules to all workers who might not understand the importance of keeping children in school and out of harvest fields.  It is our responsibility to ensure total compliance with the law."

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

United Fresh Submits Comments to FDA on Leafy Green, Tomato and Melon Draft Guidance Documents

Eastern Market
United Fresh President and CEO Tom Stenzel (right) chats with FDA Commissioner Dr. Margaret Hamburg (center) and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius (left) after July's announcement of FDA's Draft Guidance Documents for leafy greens, melons and tomatoes.

This week, United Fresh submitted comments largely supporting FDA on it's recent Draft Guidance Documents for leafy greens, tomatoes and melons. The comments were developed after a series of webinars and conference calls with United's Food Safety and Technology Council, allied association members and other industry stakeholders.

"These comments are the result of extensive collaboration between a large number of groups with significant stake in these three industries," said United Fresh Senior Vice President of Food Safety and Technology Dr. David Gombas. "As an industry, we liked a great deal of what FDA recommended in the draft guidance documents, and offered comments based on the collaborative efforts of our members and others in the industry."

FDA recently extended the comment period until January 4, 2010, for the draft guidance documents, which can be downloaded here. United's submitted comments on the documents can be found by following the links below.

United Fresh comments on FDA Leafy Green Guidance
United Fresh comments on FDA Tomato Guidance
United Fresh comments on FDA Melon Guidance

Registration Now Open for Fourth Annual Produce Executive Development Program


The United Fresh Research & Education Foundation has announced that registration is now open for the 2010 Produce Executive Development Program.  Presented in partnership with the Cornell University Food Industry Management Program, the program will be held March 14-19 at the Statler Hotel & Executive Conference Center on the Cornell campus in Ithaca, N.Y.

Now in its fourth year, the program is designed for mid- to senior-level executives looking to sharpen their executive business skills, master the ability to navigate economic challenges and learn effective tools to advance their companies.

The five-day course takes participants through a unique learning experience characterized by cutting-edge theory, industry best practices and thought-provoking discussions about critical business issues affecting the global produce industry. This premier program agenda will include Cornell professors, guest speakers, and industry experts.

Some of the topics for the 2010 course include:

  • Today’s Food Retailing and Foodservice Climate
  • Negotiation and Conflict Resolution
  • Team Dynamics and Decision Making
  • A Survival Guide to Financial Planning
  • Strategies for Growth in Entrepreneurial Environments
  • Leading through Change
  • Work/Life Balance: The Power of Sleep

In the interest of keeping class size both informative and intimate, enrollment is limited and registration is on a first-come, first-served basis. The tuition fee includes five nights lodging, instruction, books, supplies, breakfasts, luncheons and several special dinners. For United Fresh members, the registration fee is $4,995 if booked prior to January 15, and $5,500 if booked after.  For non-members, the registration fees are $7,995 and $8,500, respectively.  For more information or to register for the program, click here or contact Julie Jacocks, United Fresh education coordinator at 202-303-3400 ext. 405.

Survey of State Health Departments Shows Varying Response Procedures, Practices

A recent survey of 39 state health departments conducted by the Produce Safety Project (PSP) and Safe Tables Our Priority (STOP) has found that the response and investigation of outbreaks varies greatly from state to state and may in some cases lead to delays in public-health response.

The PSP/STOP survey asked about the types of questions and questionnaires administered to victims of foodborne illness, the time frame in which they were completed, and how states collected and stored the resulting data for calendar year 2007. 

"The PSP/STOP survey confirms the lack of consistency in outbreak management across the country, but the conclusions reached show a dangerous bias," said United Fresh President and CEO Tom Stenzel.  "We have repeatedly raised this concern with FDA and Congress, because our industry is too often assumed to be the culprit in foodborne disease outbreaks when federal, state or local officials must apply more rigorous and consistent analysis of the evidence.  Just consider how the tomato industry was shut down by premature and incorrect conclusions about a salmonella outbreak that was ultimately attributed to jalapeño peppers chopped up into salsa.  Investigators rushed to judgment because tomatoes had previously been identified with salmonella outbreaks, and in doing so they jumped to the wrong conclusions."

According to a statement released by PSP, 25 of the 39 states responding to the PSP/S.T.O.P. survey asked victims about specific produce items, despite an increase in the number of multi-state outbreaks of illnesses linked to fresh produce over the past several years.

"The fresh produce industry more than any sector wants consistent, scientific and thorough investigation of potential causes of foodborne illness," continued Stenzel. "We are totally dependent upon the scientific integrity of investigations, and strongly support a nationally consistent training and regulatory program."

United Fresh Produce Association Announces Special Activities, Headquarters Hotel for Fruit Logistica/FRESHCONEX 2010

FRESHCONEX and Fruit Logistica

United Fresh and its members are excited to play a significant role in the upcoming FRESHCONEX and Fruit Logistica trade fairs to be held February 2010 in Berlin.  As a result, United Fresh has named the Berlin Marriott Hotel as its headquarters hotel.  A special block of rooms have been reserved at the hotel, and can be booked for EUR 175 per night.  The Berlin Marriott will serve as a key gathering point for United Fresh members and activities.  Please click here to link directly to United's registration page.

On Tuesday evening, February 2, United will host a member welcome reception at the Berlin Marriott, sponsored by Global Advisory Council Member Klaus Klische of Fresh Factory.  Earlier in the day, United Fresh and Fresh Factory will host an optional city tour for members and guests that will include visits to local retail stores to see the latest innovations and trends in the German retail market. 

The FRESHCONEX and Fruit Logistica trade fairs will take place February 3-5, and in addition to hosting its own booth in Hall 1.1 of the FRESHCONEX expo, United Fresh and Market Intelligence, publisher of Eurofruit Magazine, will once again partner to deliver daily educational sessions in the FRESHCONEX Business Forums.  The forums will focus on new innovations in fresh convenience packaging, new niche marketing approaches for fresh convenience, food safety, and improving product integrity through supply chain technology.  

Finally, on Thursday, February 4, United Fresh will continue its tradition of hosting a reception in the trade fair for members, visitors and guests in the United Fresh booth. 

For more information on United's activities at FRESHCONEX and Fruit Logistica, please contact Melissa Speed, United Fresh director of international member services, at +1 202-303-3404.

FDA Holds Conference Call to Discuss Upcoming CGMP Survey

Conference CAll

FDA has launched an effort to modernize the Current Good Manufacturing Practices for Foods (CGMP) with a survey sent to 2,700 randomly chosen facilities.

The survey seeks information about key issues relevant to the food CGMP modernization effort, including use of food-safety plans, hazard-analysis and risk-based preventive controls, employee training, sanitation, personal hygiene, allergen controls, process controls, post-production processing, supplier approval practices, and recordkeeping.

United Fresh members and other industry stakeholders are encouraged to join FDA's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition on a conference call Monday, November 9 in order to discuss the survey. The conference call will provide an opportunity for members of the produce industry and of the food industry as a whole to ask questions and gather further information on the CGMP survey.

The conference call will take place on Monday, November 9 at 4:00 p.m. EST. Those interested may dial in to 888-603-9692 and use passcode 4213533 to participate. Click here for more information on the CGMP survey.

Complimentary Livecast Teaches the Art of Influence

Joseph Grenny

United Fresh members are invited to participate in a complimentary livecast featuring bestselling author and business thought-leader Joseph Grenny. Combining insights of behavioral scientists and business leaders, Grenny will explain each step of the influence process and answer questions such as how to motivate others to change; how to become faster, more agile, and more productive; how to consistently grow revenues - even in down markets; and how to replace bad behaviors with powerful new skills.

The event is complimentary for United Fresh members, and will take place Wednesday, November 11, at 12:30 p.m. EST.  For more information and to register for this online session, click here.  This is the second of four events in United's Executive Education Livecast Series.  For more information about the full series, click here or contact Julie Jacocks, United Fresh education coordinator, at 202-303-3400 ext. 405.

Chairman's Roundtable Thanks 2010 Supporters

United's Chairman's Roundtable provides extra support for programs in government relations, food safety, nutrition policy and other areas that help to grow the produce industry. We are pleased to recognize the following companies who have committed to the 2010 Chairman's Roundtable:

  • John Vena, Inc., Philadelphia, Pa.
  • Paramount Citrus, Delano, Calif.
  • Torrey Farms, Elba, N.Y.

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 Fresh'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 United Fresh Director of Membership Miriam Miller at 202-303-3400 ext. 410.

New Member Welcome

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

  • Agricultural Marketing Services, Miami, Fla.
  • Giorgio Fresh Co., Temple, Pa.
  • Growing-Up International Corporation, Nantou, Taiwan
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

Seed processing facility opens in Pasco, Wash.

Tater tots out, apples in for upstate New York school district

FDA smackdown pits bacteria against bacteria

Mississippi farmers look to DC for help

Intolerance, poor conditions scaring off migrant workers


Commission proposes concrete actions to improve functioning of the food supply chain in the EU

Laotian health officials toughen up on food safety

DHL opens new airborne freight facility in Australia

Vietnamese Nam Roi grapefruit set to penetrate US

A shorter trip from farm to fork in Ontario

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