May 20, 2010

In Today's Issue:

Technical Working Group Releases First Draft Harmonized Standard

The Technical Working Group (TWG) of the Produce GAPs Harmonization Initiative released its first Draft Harmonized Audit Standard late last week at the group’s meeting at the Rosemont, IL, headquarters of U.S. Foodservice.

The draft represents another major step by the TWG toward establishing a single audit standard for an industry that has been plagued by myriad auditing bodies and standards.

"While it is still rough," said United Fresh Senior Vice President of Food Safety and Technology Dr. David Gombas, "this draft is ready for the industry to review for its applicability to the range of operation types, sizes, locations and fresh produce commodities grown and handled in North America."

Led by McDonalds' Suresh DeCosta, the TWG, which now numbers over 100 industry stakeholders, has chosen a process for the harmonization effort that began with the recognition that the many existing standards were developed with the best expertise available and have been accepted by at least some suppliers and customers. Given this acceptance, the TWG sought to consider each of those standards and select the wording that best met the spirit of harmonization. Thirteen standard owners submitted their standards for consideration and many of them joined the group to ensure the intent of their standards was understood.

"We are very interested in hearing from all stakeholders, from growers to retailers, ways to improve the standard" said DeCosta. "We are particularly looking for recommendations to improve its applicability to different size operations, different growing regions, different production practices and the widest range of commodities. If any company was wondering when it would be the right time to get involved, the time is now."

With the release of the Draft Harmonized Standard, members of the TWG will begin the process of editing and adjusting the document, to ensure that the standards are auditable, scalable, flexible, appropriate to the scope of regions, commodities and production practices that are to be included, as well as other applicable specifications.

A copy of the Draft Harmonized Standard is available from the United Fresh website here. All interested industry stakeholders are encouraged to attend the group’s upcoming meeting, June 17-18 in Houston, TX, and should contact United's Erin Grether at 202-303-3400, ext. 402 or for more information. 

National Fruit and Vegetable Alliance Meets with First Lady's Let's Move Team

At its Pennsylvania Avenue headquarters today, United Fresh hosted fellow members of the National Fruit & Vegetable Alliance (NFVA) prior to the group's meeting at the White House with First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let's Move! team.  

The alliance consists of public and private partners who work together to increase access and demand for fruits and vegetables for improved public health.

"It's important that we continue to build support from the White House for increasing fruit and vegetable consumption as a key strategy in fighting childhood obesity," said United Fresh President Tom Stenzel.

"We discussed with the White House team a number of initiatives for increasing access and availability of fruits and vegetables, including empowering parents through the Fruits and Veggies: More Matters campaign, getting more produce into inner-city and rural "food deserts," and changing the school food environment through the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Snack Program and our new Salad Bar in Every School campaign."

Members of the NFVA include American Cancer Society, American Diabetes Association, American Frozen Food Alliance, American Heart Association, Canned Food Alliance, Centers for Disease Control, National Alliance for Nutrition & Physical Activity, National Cancer Institute, National Council of Fruit & Vegetable Nutrition Coordinators, Produce for Better Health Foundation, Produce Marketing Association, United Fresh and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Agriculture Organizations Oppose EPA Regulation of Greenhouse Gases

United Fresh has joined a coalition of close to 50 agriculture groups in signing onto a letter this week in support of Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski's resolution to oppose the Environmental Protection Agency's attempt to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act.

After publishing its "tailpipe rule" impacting mobile greenhouse gas emitters, it became apparent that EPA would next look toward stationary emitters. It has been announced that regulation of stationary sources will begin January 2, 2011, when these sources will be affected through such programs as Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) and Title V operating permits.

"If Congress does not take action to halt these EPA actions, these emissions regulations could have a significant impact on the bottom lines of many agricultural producers because they will see their input costs increase as a result of the regulation on other sectors," said Robert Guenther, United Fresh senior vice president of public policy. "Agriculture could really see an indirect impact."

There have also been signs that EPA does not only intend to regulate large operations, but wants to begin phasing in standards for smaller emitters as well, which could mean regulating companies that emit between 100 and 250 tons of greenhouse gas annually. 

With EPA estimates that show more than 37,000 farms emitting above the Clean Air Act threshold, agriculture could be impacted directly with these new regulations. These employers will eventually be required to obtain operating permits under Title V, but below the 25,000 tons per year threshold that EPA had proposed as a starting point to phase in permit requirements. The final EPA "tailoring rule" estimates the average cost for these permits is $23,200 per permit, which would cost farmers more than $866 million, simply to obtain the required permits.

Many in the agriculture community view Congress as the ones who should debate the climate proposals impacting greenhouse gas emissions, in lieu of EPA issuing costly regulations.

"These dramatic increased costs serve to show that EPA should be the ones leading this process," argues Guenther. "But Congress should not defer to a regulatory agency on a matter that could have such a dramatic impact on the economy."

For more information or questions about this resolution or EPA's regulation of greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act, contact Guenther at 202-303-3400, ext. 409.

United Fresh Responds to Reported Link Between Pesticides and ADHD

Multiple reports have surfaced this week citing the study of a speculated link between levels of organophosphate pesticides in fruits and vegetables and attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) published in Pediatrics, an academic journal covering pediatric medicine. United Fresh, however, has cautioned against overreaction to the reports.

"While United Fresh certainly supports ongoing research into the causes of ADHD, but is concerned that misinterpretation of this single study could be counterproductive to children’s health," said President and CEO Tom Stenzel in a statement Monday.

"The U.S. government and public health authorities around the world agree that the benefits of eating fruits and vegetables far outweigh any potential risk of low levels of pesticide residues," continued Stenzel. "In fact, the USDA's 2008 report on pesticide residues referenced by the study found that 98 percent of fresh fruits and vegetable samples had no detectable residue levels at all. Of those few that were detectable, the report states “the vast majority were well below established tolerances," which are determined by rigorous scientific review by the U.S. EPA as safe levels. It is a disservice to imply that the public should be concerned about the safety of fruits and vegetables in general when 98 percent of produce have no detectable residues at all."

"U.S. health authorities recommend that Americans actually need to double their consumption of fruits and vegetables to protect their health. We must be extremely careful not to frighten consumers away from following that overriding health advice," Stenzel concluded.

For additional information on the study, please contact United Fresh at 202-303-3400.

Deadline for Grower Achievement Award Approaching

May 31 marks the last day applications will be accepted for the Grower Achievement Awards.  

Sponsored by Syngenta and in partnership with Meister Media Worldwide and United Fresh, the award honors grower operations that have taken production agriculture to new levels of innovation, commitment to food quality and safety, and technological advancement.

Honorees will receive an all-expenses-paid trip to United's Washington Public Policy Conference, September 14-16 at the Gaylord National Hotel and Convention.

Click here for more information or to submit a nomination today.

June Inspection Course Provides Hands-On Produce Training

Next month, United Fresh and the USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service will host the next installment of the Produce Inspection Training Program at the USDA Fresh Products Branch Training Center in Fredericksburg, VA.  

Designed to help attendees gain a deeper understanding of each facet of the produce inspection process, this is a practical, hands-on program for all segments of the produce supply chain. The weeklong course, June 7-11, is offered in two parts, beginning with the two-day "Fundamentals of Produce Inspection" which covers essential knowledge, terminology and practical information about produce inspection. Next, attendees will spend three days in the "Commodity Labs" where they'll learn from USDA experts how to apply the principles from the fundamentals course to hands-on product inspections. The labs for June course will include grapes, lettuce, potatoes, strawberries and tomatoes, as well as up to seven additional commodities customized based on the class' most common requests.

Companies may register employees for the course by clicking here. For more information, contact United Fresh Education Coordinator Julie Jacocks at 202-303-3400 ext. 405.

FDA Extends Comment Period on Proposed Produce Regulation

In a response to requests for an extension, FDA has announced that they have extended the deadline for receiving comments on Preventive Controls for Fresh Produce to July 23 of this year. The previous deadline was Monday, May 30. 

Through a teleconference and a web conference, United Fresh has collected comments on the fifteen topics in which FDA is particularly interested, ranging from how a mandatory fresh produce rule should be structured to how compliance with any mandatory standards could be enhanced or enforced, particularly for imports.

FDA's open docket is accessible through, at docket no. FDA-2010-N-0085.

United Fresh members are encouraged to view the docket and either submit their own comments or provide comments to Dr. David Gombas, United Fresh senior vice president food safety and technology, for inclusion in the United Fresh version.

New Additions, Wedding Bells for United Fresh

A busy few months are in store for six members of the United Fresh family.

Senior Vice President of Member Services Victoria Backer and husband Nick, as well as Director of Meetings and Events Leslie Howard and husband Justin will each welcome bundles of joy into their families this spring. 

In addition to new babies, Political Affairs Manager Angela Bezon, Convention Services Coordinator Jill Grigg, Convention and Industry Relations Vice President John Toner, and Communications Manager Patrick Delaney will all tie the knot in the coming months.

Bezon and fiancé Chetan Tiwari will be married July 24 in Elba, N.Y., Grigg will wed fiancé Josh Mersfelder June 12 in Raleigh, N.C., Toner and fiancée Amy Carle will marry June 5 in Brant Lake, N.Y., and Delaney will marry fiancée Katie Hennessy May 29 in Alexandria, Va.

Congratulations to the newest members of the United Fresh family.

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:

  • BASF, Research Triangle Park, NC

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.

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