April 29, 2010

In Today's Issue:


Food Safety & Technology Council Releases Audits Benchmarking Matrix

A working group of United's Food Safety & Technology Council has completed development of the Audits Benchmarking Matrix to enable side-by-side comparisons of the third-party audit organizations and standards most commonly used by the U.S. produce industry.

"In 2009, United Fresh hosted the Global Conference on Produce Food Safety Standards - the first-ever opportunity for the produce industry to hear directly from 16 auditing organizations how they assure the quality of their audits and standards, as well as why their audits should be trusted," said Dr. David Gombas, United Fresh senior vice president of food safety and technology. "The Audits Benchmarking Matrix is a direct output from that conference, enabling audit customers to compare the quality systems of these organizations and make informed choices of which audit programs to accept."

The Audits Benchmarking Matrix working group, led by Disney Consumer Products' Gail Murray, invited all of the audit organizations involved in the Global Conference to provide written responses to specific questions designed to elicit information about their internal quality programs. Questions asked in the Audits Benchmarking Matrix range from which program features most assure the reliability of the audits performed by the organization, to listing their requirements for auditor experience in the food industry.

The Audits Benchmarking Matrix allows users to select and compare any of eight organizations that perform pre-farm gate - or GAP - audits, seven organizations that perform post-farm gate - or GMP - audits, and four organizations whose standards have been benchmarked by the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI). 

"Trust is the most important factor in deciding whether to use an audit organization," said Gombas. "This means trust in both the audit process and in the auditor. The Audits Benchmarking Matrix allows interested parties to compare what these companies say about themselves from the convenience of a desktop."

The Audits Benchmarking Matrix is freely accessible from the United Fresh website here, and comments about the Audits Benchmarking Matrix can be sent directly to Dr. Gombas at 202-303-3400 ext. 411.


Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance Begins Discussions on 2012 Farm Bill

During last week's United Fresh show in Las Vegas, the Steering Committee of the Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance came together to begin discussions concerning the 2012 Farm Bill.

The group was joined via teleconference by U.S. Representative Dennis Cardoza (D-CA) who was a prominent figure in fighting for specialty crops across the country in the 2008 Farm Bill.  Rep. Cardoza spoke of the challenges that will be faced in the next farm bill and opportunities to build on successes from 2008.

In addition, the Steering Committee appointed Tom Nassif of Western Growers, Mike Stuart of the Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association and John Keeling of National Potato Council as co-chairs of the Alliance, and United Fresh Senior Vice President of Public Policy Robert Guenther as the group's secretary.

"While it seem we just completed work on the 2008 Farm Bill, Congress is beginning to look at how the next farm legislation could be shaped to help the agriculture community," said Guenther. "This will include discussions of how current programs for specialty crops have been implemented as well as how new programs could help improve the competitiveness of specialty crops."

The Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance was formed in 2006 and consists of organizations that represent fruits, vegetable, tree nuts, and wine grape producers, along with nursery and landscape operations. Over the next several months, the House Agriculture Committee will hold a series of field hearings across the country to examine the prospects of the next farm bill. Members of the Alliance will be testifying at these hearings discussing the important role specialty crops play in U.S. agriculture.


United Fresh 2010: PTI Roundtables Draw Overflow Crowds

In the return of the most popular element of the 2009 United Fresh show, the Traceability and Logistics Demo Center at United Fresh 2010 lived up to its billing, hosting four roundtable discussion sessions covering the Seven Milestones of the Produce Traceability Initiative, and drawing crowds that spilled outside of the Demo Center and into the aisles.

Held over two days, the roundtables drew a wide range of participants large and small, including retailers, wholesalers, grower/shippers, marketers and solution providers including GS1 US, each relaying their progress at various stages in meeting the milestones.

"The roundtables resulted in a better understanding of the challenges all participants in the supply chain face to attain whole chain traceability," said United Fresh Vice President of Supply Chain Management Dan Vaché.

Retailers present at the roundtables related their commitment to the PTI and openly expressed their desire to have their trading partners strive to meet the milestones.

Spirited and lively, the roundtables regularly continued past their allotted 45-minute schedules, with several attendees requested more open forum sessions to interact with their colleagues.

"It was rewarding to have such open and honest comments and discussion in a public forum," added Vaché. "As an industry, we can't make any progress on issues like traceability without every stakeholder's confidence that he or she can share concerns and successes with counterparts and industry leaders." 


United Fresh 2010: DiSogra Named Packer's Produce Person of the Year for Consumption Efforts as United Donates Salad Bars

In one of the most memorable early moments of United Fresh 2010, United's Vice President of Nutrition and Health Dr. Lorelei DiSogra was named The Packer's Produce Person of the Year. Interestingly, however, DiSogra was not on hand to receive the award when initially announced.

"In true form, Lorelei was actually in the staff office working," United Fresh President and CEO Tom Stenzel told the crowd assembled for Tuesday's General Session. "If she had been at the craps table, I'm not sure what I would have done."

Recognized by The Packer for her leadership on child nutrition and consumption issues, including the inclusion of vouchers for fruits and vegetables in the WIC food packages, nationwide expansion of the USDA's Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Snack Program, and most recently, the championing of salad bars in schools as an effective means of increasing consumption, including United's current Salad Bar in Every School campaign, DiSogra has led the industry to significant victories throughout her career and for the past five years with United Fresh.

"There are so many that work so hard to bring these programs to fruition," said DiSogra. "If we all continue to work together, we can make the goal of increasing children's consumption of fruits and vegetables a reality."

The award came as DiSogra was preparing to donate a pair of salad bars to two elementary schools in the Nye County School District in a ceremony Wednesday. Under DiSogra's leadership, United's Salad Bar in Every School Campaign, in collaboration with the Vollrath Company and the Cambro Manufacturing Company, donated the salad bars to J.G. Johnson Elementary School and Manse Elementary School in Pahrump, NV.

On hand for the event were officials from Nye County School District, Nevada Department of Education, United Fresh and other produce industry leaders. The campaign is a philanthropic produce industry initiative to donate salad bars to schools to aid in increasing children's fruit and vegetable consumption.

Photos from the events can be found here.


United Fresh 2010: Keynote Speakers Address Economy, Child Nutrition, Food Safety

Attendees to United Fresh 2010 last week were treated to world-class education and networking, but showgoers also capitalized on keynote addresses from thought leaders in three key industry areas.

In his address to during the Tuesday General Session at United Fresh 2010, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush reminded the assembled attendees of the work left to do to guide the industry out of the recent economic doldrums into a more prosperous environment.

Outlining each of a five-point plan for economic recovery, Bush emphasized the importance of a sound and practical tax code, including the role of such a code in the success of small businesses, which comprise a significant portion of the produce industry. Also, Bush touched on the recent movement to tax based on communal good and include incentives for beneficial and healthful products.

"We ought to be taxing the things we want less of," said Bush, "...and place lesser taxes on the things that we need more of."

In addition to taxes, the former governor strongly underscored the importance of sound and meaningful immigration reform, pointing to its critical role in the produce industry and receiving boisterous applause from audience members.

"We need to have a progressive immigration system in our country," said Bush. "Immigration is a source of our greatness."

At the show's Breakfast General Session Wednesday, officials from New York City SchoolFood, the office that oversees the city's school foodservice operations, addressed the challenges and successes of feeding 1.1 million students each school day in the nation’s largest school district, as well as the importance of school salad bars in that effort. Eric Goldstein, chief executive, and Jorge Collazo, executive chef underscored the importance of increased consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables to the health and welfare of New York City kids.

"Under the leadership of these two men, the largest school district in the country has become a model for how effective salad bars can be at raising consumption," said United Fresh Vice President of Nutrition and Health Dr. Lorelei DiSogra. "Given how imperative it is for the industry to unite behind the effort to increase consumption, their message was both necessary and well-received."

Later in Wednesday's General session, FDA Deputy Commissioner for Foods Michael Taylor addressed the current progress on and the continued need for comprehensive food safety legislation in The Future of Food Safety Legislation and Produce Regulation. One of the highest food safety sources in the federal government, Taylor outlined his vision for a workable food safety system that respects the intricacies and unique traits of the industry.

"We need to be risk based and we need to be scale appropriate. We've got to target the significant hazards. We can't just go and set standards that we don’t believe will addressing the significant hazards and are improving food safety," said Taylor. "We need input from this association and colleagues throughout the industry."

Photos from the events can be found here.


United Fresh 2010: Streaming Telecast Brings United into a New Dimension

Attendees to the show floor at United Fresh 2010 undoubtedly noticed some new elements at this year's show, including a full television production set as United Fresh embarked on the produce industry's first-ever live webcast. Ten winners in United's Retail Produce Manager Awards Program took part in Winning Retail Strategies: Secrets of the Retail Manager Award Winners, a panel moderated by Perishables Group Executive Vice President Steve Lutz and broadcast live to the Web on United’s latest multimedia offering, UnitedFresh.TV.

"This broadcast represents an unprecedented leap for United Fresh," said Ray Gilmer, United Fresh vice president of communications. "No longer is the trade show confined to the conference room and expo hall, it’s beamed directly to the desktop. UnitedFresh.TV allows the association to extend the value of events like the annual convention far beyond show floor."

More than 300 viewers from 29 states pointed their browsers to UnitedFresh.TV to watch the retail award winners provide insight and perspective - live and in real time - on the current state of the retail produce industry from the viewpoint of their own produce aisles. United Fresh 2010 exhibitor and member N2N Global even tuned in to the broadcast on the large projection screen in their booth, enabling passers-by to watch both the live event and the broadcast from the show floor. Also, the video highlight packages posted on UnitedFresh.TV from the show received more than 10,000 downloads in 14 countries.

The broadcast and video segments are currently archived at UnitedFresh.TV.


United Fresh 2010: Reception Honors Women in Produce, Features Mann's Koster

At a show that saw the ushering in of River Point Farms' Steffanie Smith as United Fresh Chairman and United's Dr. Lorelei DiSogra honored as The Packer's Produce Person of the Year, there was perhaps no better exclamation point to the second day of United Fresh 2010 than an evening honoring the countless contributions of women to the produce industry.

United's annual Reception Honoring Women in Produce finished off a full day of events Wednesday and featured a special keynote address from Mann Packing Company Chairman and United Fresh Board Member Lorri Koster.

"Lorri is one of those progress-drivers in the produce industry," said United Fresh President and CEO Tom Stenzel. "In addition to building a stalwart career within her own company, her commitment to leadership on the local and national level has benefitted our entire industry."

The annual reception has become one of the most popular elements of the United Fresh show. Photos from the events can be found here.


United Fresh 2010: Attendees Recognize New Product Award Winners

Recognizing new product and process development in six categories each year, the United Fresh New Product Awards were handed out Thursday at United Fresh 2010 in Las Vegas.

"New product development is one of the primary reasons we host a trade show along with the educational programs at our annual convention," said United Fresh President and CEO Tom Stenzel. "Our goal is to drive innovation and adoption of new technologies to help boost value to the consumer and profitability to the industry. These awards recognize the ability of companies to bring that innovation and new technology to market year in and year out."

Winners of this year's awards are:

Best New Packaging: Fresh Express Artisanal Salads, Chiquita Brands
Best New Food Safety Solution: VoiceCode, YottaMark
Best New Processing Equipment: FogTunnel Produce Treatment System, AgSolutions, Inc.
Best New Fruit Product: Chiquita Fresh & Ready Avocados, Chiquita Brands
Best New Packing/Processing Equipment: Ulta Bagger (Girbagger) Bagging Machine, Giro Pack
Best New Vegetable Product: Ready Pac Bistro Seasonal Salads, Italiano & Waldorf, Ready Pac Foods, Inc.

"New and improved products stimulate the growth and profitability of our industry," said John Toner, vice president of convention and industry relations for United Fresh. "The awards honor the results of years of R&D and the foresight of companies in bringing new innovation to the marketplace. Congratulations to this year’s award winners."  

Photos of the winners can be found here.


United Fresh 2010: Global Conference Tackles Pressing Issue of Sustainability

Upon the official closing of United Fresh 2010 on Thursday evening, many industry members chose to remain in Las Vegas for Friday's Global Conference on Produce Sustainability, a one-day symposium on the growing role of sustainability and sustainable business practices in the produce industry.

"The Global Conference on Produce Sustainability brings together experts from all points in the supply chain to explore the opportunities afforded by sustainable produce industry practices," said United Fresh Vice President of Environmental Affairs and Sustainability Rob Neenan. "Minimizing environmental impact, corporate social responsibility and economic profitability are the cornerstone principles that will define sustainable practices for every segment of the produce industry."

"On a global level, it is becoming increasingly critical to have an overall sustainable approach to business," said United Fresh President and CEO Tom Stenzel. "It is a way to add value, improve efficiencies and invest in the long-term for future generations. This conference is a milestone event, bringing together representatives from the entire produce industry supply chain to work towards advancing sustainable practices."

Over 150 people attended the conference, which was the inaugural event for United's new Center for Global Produce Sustainability. Funding for the Center and for the conference was provided by Bayer CropScience.

Speakers at the Global Conference provided a range of perspectives on sustainability but all agreed that this issue will be an area of considerable interest and activity in the produce supply chain. Jeff Dlott, President of SureHarvest, discussed how evolving retail grocery marketing practices and new information technologies are converging to change the amount and types of information about products that is available to shoppers. Some consumers may base their buying decisions on whether a product meets perceived environmental or social criteria.

Several speakers reviewed the challenges associated with developing objective and accurate metrics for measuring sustainability. Deverl Maserang provided an overview of Chiquita's ongoing corporate responsibility initiatives, including a number of major environmental and community projects in several countries, while USDA Under Secretary Molly Jahn discussed how the agency is focusing some of its funding and policy priorities on environmental and sustainability issues and establishing a positive connection between farmers and consumers.

"While some companies feel growing pressure from government and some buyers surrounding sustainability, many companies are beginning to realize the very practical benefits of reducing input costs, recycling and reusing materials, turning waste streams into positive benefits, and more," Stenzel said. "It's our goal to help companies throughout the produce supply chain find those opportunities to make sustainability a win-win-win for the environment, their communities and their own bottom line."


United Fresh 2010: With a Solid 2010 Show in the Books, United Fresh Looks to New Orleans in 2011

More than 4500 members of the fresh produce industry converged on Las Vegas last week for United Fresh 2010. With representatives from each segment of the industry, the annual United Fresh show was hailed as a success by attendees, exhibitors and industry leaders alike.

"The industry has certainly embraced the United Fresh show as a place for the key players in produce to gain worthwhile information, glean valuable development opportunities and get tangible results for businesses in all market segments," said United Fresh President and CEO Tom Stenzel.

Packing the exhibit hall at this year's show were 250 exhibitors, including 75 new exhibiting companies.

"New exhibitors are a great asset for any show," said United's Vice President of Convention and Industry Relations John Toner. "They bring new experiences and opportunities for show attendees, and new perspectives to the trade show as a whole."

The association now looks to carry the success of the 2010 show to United Fresh 2011, May 2-5 at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans.

"Las Vegas has been a fantastic home for United Fresh over the past three years, and gave us a great sendoff this year," said Toner. "As we look forward, we’re very excited to build an even better event next year in New Orleans."


Guenther Takes Traceability Message to Spice Trade Industry

Traceability was on the docket Sunday, as United Fresh Senior Vice President of Public Policy Robert Guenther traveled to Florida to participate in the American Spice Trade Association’s annual meeting.

Guenther discussed how the produce industry is tackling traceability, focusing mainly on what led the industry to undertake an effort to harmonize traceability standards along with the challenges and opportunities that confront the produce industry as this process moves forward.

"When it comes to tackling the difficult process of traceability, produce is not unique in the food," said Guenther. "We can learn a lot by sharing ideas and discussing the challenges and how we address those challenges with other food sectors in order to create effective traceability programs."

The American Spice Trade Association represents the interests of approximately 175 member companies that grow, dehydrate, and process spices.  ASTA’s members include U.S.-based agents, brokers and importers, as well as foreign companies that grow and ship spices to the U.S.


Fresh-Cut HACCP Short Course Returns to the University of Georgia

This May, United Fresh will again partner with University of Georgia on the Fresh-Cut HACCP Short Course workshop designed to establish an in-plant HACCP program for the fresh-cut produce industry. 

The three-day course, May 18-20, will provide a unique program of lectures and work group discussions from a broad-based faculty of food microbiologists, HACCP experts, and authorities from academia, industry and government. The work group sessions provide interaction with HACCP authorities who have developed and implemented successful HACCP programs in fresh-cut processing plants.

In the hands-on laboratory participation, the participants will learn which microbial testing tools to use to document and verify company sanitation programs, how to interpret microbial results and which standardized procedures are best for consistent microbial analysis in testing fresh-cut produce.

The goal of the interactive sessions is to assist participants in developing a Food Safety Plan that they can implement in their specific operations.

As an added bonus, this year's course is now accredited by the International HACCP Alliance, and successful completion of the course and exam will provide course attendees with HACCP certification.

For more information or to register, click here or call 706-542-2574 or email efs@uga.edu.


June Produce Inspection Training Program Coming Soon

The next offering of United's popular Produce Inspection Training Program will take place June 7-11 at the USDA Fresh Products Branch National Inspectors' Training and Development Center in Fredericksburg, VA. The program, developed by United Fresh and the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service is the only opportunity for members of the produce industry to train under USDA inspectors and learn the metrics by which USDA inspects and grades fresh produce.

The program is offered in two specialized courses, Fundamentals of Produce Inspection and Commodity Labs. Upon completion of both courses, attendees receive a certificate of recognition from United Fresh and USDA-AMS. The Fundamentals of Produce Inspection is a prerequisite of the Commodity Labs course and focuses on topics such as inspection essentials, PACA, sampling procedures, and general market principles. The three-day Commodity Labs course applies the fundamental principles to real product inspections. Each Commodity Labs course will include the five most commonly requested commodities: grapes, lettuces, potatoes, strawberries and tomatoes, and will be customized with additional commodities based on the attendees’ most common preferences (up to 12 total).

Class size is limited and on a first-come, first-served registration basis. Attendees may register for the training seminar here or by contacting Julie Jacocks, United Fresh education coordinator, at 202-303-3400 ext. 405.


Chairman's Roundtable Thanks 2010 Supporters

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

  • 3M, St. Paul, Minn.
  • McEntire Produce, Columbia, SC

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 Chairman's Roundtable enjoy special recognition throughout the year for their support.  For more information on the Chairman's Roundtable, please contact 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:

  • Adams Marketing & Consulting, Monterey, Calif.
  • Agrícola Duke SPR de RL, Obregón, Mexico
  • Alliance Internacional, Vero Beach, Fla.
  • Bebo Distributing, McAllen, Texas
  • Better Produce, Santa Maria, Calif.
  • The Equinox Group, Laredo, Texas
  • Fibre King, Clontarf, Queensland, Australia
  • ONEsource Facility Solutions, Atlanta, Ga.
  • Trimble Navigation Limited, Corvallis, Ore.
  • Vitacress Salads, Ltd., Hampshire, United Kingdom
Welcome

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

Never too early for a Farm Bill – Des Moines Register

Medfly restrictions eased for California Hass avocado growers – KFMB-TV

Bills mean changes for Colorado food growers – Sterling Journal Advocate

Farmers push for AgJOBS – Hermiston Herald

Farm labor bill fails in California State Senate – Canisteo Valley News

INTERNATIONAL NEWS:

Zambia flower and food exports hit by ash flight ban – BBC News

Food processing center to be set up in Pakistan – Associated Press of Pakistan

New Zealand growers call for country of origin labeling – Stuff.co.nz

Japan finally opens market to Taiwan-grown dragon fruit – Focus Taiwan

Iowa National Guard unit to help Afghan farmers – Des Moines Register


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