April 1, 2010

In Today's Issue:

FDA Leadership, Posters Headline Food Safety Demo Center

Three officers from the Food and Drug Administration will join United Fresh members and guests in the inaugural Food Safety Demo Center at United Fresh 2010, April 20-23 in Las Vegas.

With health care reform behind them, Congress is expected to move quickly on food safety legislation, which promises big changes for the fresh produce industry. Attendees to the Food Safety Demo Center will have the opportunity to be one step ahead of the food safety curve with the added insight of the FDA.

Domenic Veneziano, director of the FDA's Division of Import Operations and Policy will discuss FDA's import regulatory policies and inspection practices at the border

Additionally, former United Fresh Senior Vice President of Food Safety and Technology and current FDA Senior Advisor for Produce Safety Dr. James Gorny will discuss what FDA has learned from the mandatory Reportable Food Registry and describe newly released guidance for compliance.

Finally, Dr. Samir Assar, FDA's director of Produce Safety Staff, will discuss FDA's plans for GMP Modernization and what changes the fresh-cut and other GMP-regulated facilities can expect in that regulation.

Also in the Demo Center, Drs. Assar and Gorny will discuss FDA's current thinking on a proposed rule for produce safety and how the industry can best provide input as FDA develops a proposed regulation that could affect all field operations.

"Each presentation in the Food Safety Demo Center will offer unprecedented opportunities for access to FDA officials at the center of the regulatory aspect of our industry," said Dr. David Gombas, United Fresh senior vice president of food safety and technology. "It is critical for each member of the industry to understand how new policies and regulations will affect his or her business."

As the produce industry's only dedicated exhibit area focused exclusively on food safety solutions for all points in the fresh and fresh-cut produce supply chain, the Food Safety Demo Center will help attendees answer pressing questions in this all-important industry field.

The Demo Center will also feature cutting-edge research on food safety and quality assurance of produce from national and international researchers and organizations, providing information and new technologies to the produce industry. Sponsored by the California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement, the research posters will be available for viewing at all times that the show floor is open and researchers will be available at their posters to discuss their research on Wednesday, April 21 from 4:30–5:30 PM. For a full list of posters and abstracts, please click here.

"Given the importance of food safety within the fresh produce industry, the Food Safety Demo Center became a must at this year’s show," said Dr. Gombas. "Visitors to the center will be able to learn about advances in best practices, audit harmonization, pending legislation and more, all in one stop."

For more information, or to register for United Fresh 2010, visit www.unitedfresh.org or call 202-303-3400.

Advisory Committee Converges on Washington; Marshall Elected Chair

USDA-AMS Deputy Administrator Robert Keeney, left, and United Fresh Senior Vice President of Public Policy Robert Guenther during Monday's reception welcoming new appointees to the USDA Fruit and Vegetable Industry Advisory Committee in Washington, D.C.

In a speech before the newly-appointed members of the USDA Fruit and Vegetable Industry Advisory Committee this week, United Fresh President and CEO Tom Stenzel emphasized industry progress on two key initiatives – produce traceability and the harmonization of Good Agricultural Practice (GAP) audits.

"This is not a shy bunch," said Stenzel. "The committee and its members are fully engaged in both topics. It is a great sign for the progress of the industry's efforts."  

United Fresh, which has hosted a reception for the members of the committee since helping get the body itself chartered in 2001, did so again this year, this time in the venerable House of Representatives Agriculture Committee hearing room.

The reception allowed committee members to get to know each other while interacting with USDA officials, congressional staff and other D.C.-based leaders at the forefront of fruit and vegetable issues. 

New USDA Fruit and Vegetable Industry Advisory Committee appointees and United Fresh members Lisa McNeece, right, of Grimmway Farms and Rebecca Wilson of Tom Lange Company during Monday’s welcome reception at the Longworth House Office Building in Washington, D.C.

"United also congratulates former chairman Maureen Marshall of Torrey Farms and member Mike Hollister of Driscoll's, who were elected by their peers to serve as chairman and vice chairman of the committee, respectively," added Stenzel.

In addition to the appointments of Marshall and Hollister, the committee also appointed four working groups - food safety and traceability, commodity procurement of fruits and vegetables, labor and immigration, and a group to provide input on the USDA "Know Your Farmer; Know Your Food" program.

Stenzel, Vaché Address Traceability Issues at California Meeting

United Fresh president and CEO Tom Stenzel, left, and Vice President of Supply Chain Management Dan Vaché present during last week’s annual meeting of the California Grape and Tree Fruit League. Photo courtesy CGTFL.

Driven by high member interest in the Produce Traceability Initiative, United Fresh President and CEO Tom Stenzel and Vice President of Supply Chain Management Dan Vaché spoke before a standing-room-only crowd last week at the 74th Annual Meeting of the California Grape and Tree Fruit League.

"Like any other industry initiative, there are bound to be questions," said Vaché. "Given the wide range of member progress we've seen on the PTI Milestones, the opportunity to field constructive questions and hear concerns from the industry is of great value to us as we continue working towards whole-chain traceability."

"In light of recent concerns expressed by participants in the fresh produce supply chain, Tom and Dan's presentation on the Produce Traceability Initiative was a very timely and informative one," said League President Barry Bedwell. "Their discussion helped put PTI and its associated goals into the proper perspective as we move toward the next milestone."

Auditor Workshop Gets Fresh Tomato Supply Chain Members on Same Page

United Fresh Senior Vice President of Food Safety and Technology Dr. David Gombas, far right, presents before this week's tomato auditor workshop in Maitland, Fla.

More than 60 auditors, buyers, growers and government officials came together in Maitland, Fla., this week to coordinate efforts on the use of the new Food Safety Programs and Auditing Protocols for the Fresh Tomato Supply Chain.

"These sessions were designed to orient and calibrate tomato auditors in the use of the new tomato food safety standards," said United Fresh Senior Vice President of Food Safety and Technology Dr. David Gombas. "The standards can be used by any size tomato field, packing house, greenhouse or repacking operation in North America. We expect that suppliers and buyers alike will find that use of these harmonized standards facilitates and reduces costs in their food safety verification systems."

Hosted by the Florida Tomato Exchange, the auditor training workshop is the first of its kind, and the only scheduled to date. During the workshop, facilitators led discussion on the protocols’ four modules: Open Field Production, Harvest and Field Packing; Greenhouse; Packinghouse; and Repacking and Distribution.

Facilitators at the training included Dr. Gombas, Reggie Brown of the Florida Tomato Exchange, Darden Restaurants' Larry Robertson, Dr. Martha Roberts of the University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, Ed LaClair of NSF Davis Fresh, California Tomato Growers' Ed Beckman, Jack in the Box's Andy Kesler and Joshua Funk of KFC.

Also at the session, Capt. Thomas Hill, environmental health officer with the FDA's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, gave a presentation on some of the agency's observations from past field inspections.

"We hear a great deal about audit fatigue at FDA," said Capt. Hill. "Having these protocols in place and training auditors in how to apply them should help reduce that issue."

"The most important part of the process this week was to have the auditors see the completed standards and checklists, while at the same time giving each auditor a forum to share his or her comments and concerns," said Darden's Robertson. "This approach has really validated the development of the audit protocols."

The Commodity Specific Guidelines for the Fresh Tomato Supply Chain, 2nd Edition and audit protocol documents, as well as the respective checklists are available for download in both English and Spanish by clicking here.

Koster and Stenzel Tackle Issues at Salinas Town Hall

United Fresh President and CEO Tom Stenzel speaks before a Town Hall meeting in Salinas, Calif., last week.

More than 125 attendees from across California packed the Salinas Ag Center last week to welcome United Fresh President Tom Stenzel and Grower-Shipper Association of Central California Chairman and United Fresh Board Member Lorri Koster of Mann Packing for the latest in a series of United Fresh Town Hall events.

Stenzel highlighted United's new Salad Bar in Every School initiative and the dramatic impact the industry has seen already from the Fruit and Vegetable Snack Program and inclusion of fruits and vegetables in the WIC program that rolled out nationally in October of last year. Other issues discussed at the event included the future of food safety legislation and the Produce Traceability Initiative, as well as immigration reform.

United Fresh member Lisa McNeece (left) of Grimmway Farms, President and CEO Tom Stenzel and Board Member Lorri Koster of Mann Packing during last week's United Fresh Town Hall meeting in Salinas, Calif.

"United Fresh strives to gain input from our members and the industry at large during these regional Town Hall events," said Stenzel. "We were particularly pleased to see that our Salinas Town Hall had representation from all segments of the industry, including growers, shippers, processors, distributors, retailers and foodservice operators, as well as a number of industry suppliers."

United Fresh extends a special thanks to the Grower-Shipper Association's Koster and Jim Bogart, as well as Monterey County Agriculture Commissioner Eric Lauritzen for co-hosting the Salinas Town Hall.

For more information about these events and others, please contact United Fresh Vice President of Membership Jeff Oberman at 831-422-0940.

Fourth Annual Executive Development Course Hits a High Note

Participants listen during the United Fresh Produce Executive Development Program at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y.

Industry executives from across North America and as far as Israel and France gathered on the Ivy League campus of Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., March 14-19 for the fourth annual United Fresh Produce Executive Development Program.

Developed in partnership with Cornell's Food Industry Management Program, the course aims to help produce industry executives sharpen their business skills, navigate economic challenges and learn effective tools to advance their companies.

This year's sold-out course featured a range of executive-level programming such as negotiation and conflict resolution, leading through change, financial strategy, as well as produce and food industry analyses. In addition to the expert Cornell instructors, the participants also had a unique opportunity to hear from guest "professors" Jim Prevor, Produce Business president and editor-in-chief, Pro*Act President and CEO Steve Grinstead and Bruce Peterson, president of Peterson Insights.

"In a single classroom, some of the produce industry's brightest and most promising executives got the opportunity to learn together and share ideas about the challenges and opportunities they face," said United Fresh Vice President of Communications Ray Gilmer, who welcomed the group. "It's a very heady experience for the participants and a program that undoubtedly makes our industry stronger."

The next Produce Executive Development Course will take place in March 2011. For more information, please contact United Fresh Senior Vice President of Member Services Victoria Backer at 202-303-3400 ext. 408.

Volume Up, Prices Down in Latest Fresh Facts Report

The volume of fresh fruits and vegetables purchased by American grocery shoppers increased over the past year, according to United's Fresh Facts on Retail report for the fourth quarter of 2009.

The report shows an overall weekly volume increase for fresh produce of 6 percent over Q42008, as well as dollar sales increases for some categories of fresh fruit and vegetables, often a result of lower prices.

"While lower prices attracted more consumers to the fresh produce department, we see mixed results in the overall impact in volume and sales," said Victoria Backer, United Fresh senior vice president of member services, foundation.  "However, unlike the past few quarters, we are starting to see a slight increase in overall produce sales, up 0.5% compared to the third quarter of 2009, which is a positive sign in today's unstable economy."

Fresh Facts on Retail is produced in partnership with the Perishables Group and sponsored by Del Monte Fresh Produce, and 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.

In addition, the report's Quarterly Spotlight feature explores the industry's organics category, looking at price, volume and dollar sales levels for the top 10 organic fruit and vegetable commodities and the factors driving those trends.

In this report, in terms of weekly dollar sales per store, we see apples were the top organic fruit variety at $143, followed by berries and bananas.  In organic vegetables, packaged salads accounted for $331 in weekly dollar sales per store, followed by carrots and lettuce.

Fresh Facts on Retail can be downloaded free of charge for 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 Julie Jacocks, United Fresh education coordinator, at 202-303-3400 ext. 405.

Thousands of Reasons to Register for United Fresh 2010!

United Fresh members can now download and view the list of attendees to United Fresh 2010 by clicking here.

United Fresh continues to set the bar for produce convention innovation, and these folks certainly won't miss out on the many new programs and features at United Fresh 2010, so why should you?

If you're not a member, click here for more information on how United Fresh can help you grow your business.

Inside United Fresh 2010: Changing Consumer Trends to Headline Retail-Foodservice Super Session

Attention retailers and foodservice operators!

You are cordially invited to take part in a special Super Session at United Fresh 2010 that will explore "Shifting Consumer Trends at Retail & Foodservice."

Uniquely focused on the retail and foodservice audience, attendees will hear from Bob Goldin, executive vice president of Technomic, about how the economy is affecting consumer shopping and consumption behavior. Goldin will share insights about today’s changing consumer dynamics and how this will impact where consumers spend their food dollars in the years ahead. A 25-year veteran of fact-based research and consulting firm Technomic, Goldin has established his practice as the "go-to" source for food industry information.

The Retail-Foodservice Super Session is hosted by Retail-Foodservice Board Chairman Reggie Griffin of The Kroger Company and Vice Chairman Mitch Smith of McDonald's Corporation. The Super Session will take place on Thursday, April 22 and is open to United Fresh 2010 Convention Package or All-Access Pass holders.

Interested in joining your retail and foodservice colleagues for this dynamic session? Register for United Fresh 2010 today!

Time is Running Out for Great Vegas Entertainment!

Congratulations to Shannon Torrey of Torrey Farms, winner of last week's United Fresh Show-A-Week Giveaway. Shannon is headed to see Phantom of the Opera at The Venetian.

Each Friday from now until United Fresh 2010, we'll draw one lucky winner from all registered attendees and send them to see an evening of fantastic Las Vegas entertainment completely free!

This week's Show-A-Week Giveaway: Criss Angel: Believe

Register now for United Fresh 2010 to be automatically entered for your chance to win two tickets to a Las Vegas show during United Fresh 2010, April 20-23. We update the list each week with new registrants, so the sooner you register for United Fresh 2010, the greater your chances to win!

Attendees must be paid in full to be eligible and may win only once. Tickets will be valid for shows on April 20 and April 21, 2010.

Previous Winners:

Susan Reimer-Sifford, Darden Restaurants - Viva Elvis by Cirque du Soleil
Emily Fragoso, Coast Produce - KÁ by Cirque du Soleil
Greg Kurkjian, Mann Packing Company - Jersey Boys
Hillary Brick, The Giumarra Companies - Mystére by Cirque du Soleil
Mike Aiton, Prime Time International - Phantom of the Opera
Becky Baker, Potandon Produce - Blue Man Group
Steven Karr, Pride Pak Canada - Criss Angel: Believe
Mike Scuderi, Costa Fruit & Produce - Jersey Boys
Maria Buffone, Sobeys - KÁ BY Cirque du Soleil
Jack Bertagna, Castellini Company - Blue Man Group

United Fresh 2010 Show-A-Week Giveaway is sponsored by:

New Member Welcome

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

  • All Seasons Fruit Supply, Bakersfield, Calif.
  • Burger King, Miami, Fla.
  • LEK & Associates, Wenatchee, Wash.
  • Pacific Southwest Container, Modesto, 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 at 831-422-0940 or Miriam Miller at 202-303-3410.

Upcoming United Fresh Events
Upcoming Events


News & Views
News and Views

Maryland bill would allow state ag secretary to define "local" – American Farm

Arkansas GOP Senate hopefuls make pitch to farmers – Forbes

Bill would add funds for nutrition – AGWEEK

Jamie Oliver tackles fast food in schools and at home – Boston Globe

Struggling families depend more on school lunches – AP


In Vietnam, imported fruit, meat samples found to be contaminated – Viet Nam News

In Canadian labor, employers have responsibility too – Chatham Daily News

Guide to food laws for small Irish producers launched – Irish Times

Japan ready to strike food safety deal with China – Press Trust of India

Melbourne to get new $300M fruit and vegetable market – Thinking Australia

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