August 12, 2010

In Today's Issue:


Senate Pledges to Move on Food Safety Legislation

In a memorandum issued today, Senate Health, Education Labor and Pensions Committee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA), Ranking Member Mike Enzi (R-WY), authors of the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (S. 510) Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Judd Gregg (R-NH) and lead co-sponsors Chris Dodd (D-CT) and Richard Burr (R-NC) have pledged their commitment to moving forward with the Senate's food safety legislation in the coming weeks.

"Any 100-year-old plus structure - like our nation's food safety system – needs improvements,” said the memorandum. “With this announcement today, we aim to not just patch and mend our fragmented food safety system, we hope to reinforce the infrastructure, close the gaps and create a systematic, risk-based and balanced approach to food safety in the United States. The FDA Food Safety Modernization Act will place more emphasis on prevention of food borne illness and will provide new tools to respond to food safety problems. We look forward to working with our respective leaderships to take up this bipartisan legislation as soon as possible."

United Fresh responded to the news with enthusiasm. "We have long supported the framework of this bill,” said United Fresh Senior Vice President of Public Policy Robert Guenther. “We look forward to seeing its final language as it hits the Senate floor for debate, and we maintain that whatever policies it enacts for fresh produce be specific to each individual commodity and risk, based on sound science, and contain no exemptions based on size or scope of operation."

According to the memorandum, a full manager’s package for S. 510 will be released today via the committee’s website at http://help.senate.gov/.


United's Gombas Elected Vice Chair of IAFP Committee

Dr. David Gombas, United’s senior vice president of food safety and technology, was elected to a two-year term as vice chair of the Fruit and Vegetable Safety and Quality (FVSQ) Professional Development Group (PDG) of the International Association for Food Protection (IAFP). David succeeds Jack Guzewich, FDA Senior Advisor for Environmental Health, who assumes the position of PDG chair.

IAFP is an international association of food safety individuals and the FVSQ PDG includes over 160 academic, government and industry professionals involved in food safety and quality research, policies and operations for fresh fruit and vegetables.

"I look forward to working with Jack and the rest of the PDG, many of whom are also members of the United Fresh Food Safety & Technology Council," said David. “Because of their mutual interests, I anticipate opportunities for collaboration and cross-training between the PDG and the FS&T Council on several produce food safety initiatives.

Questions regarding IAFP or the Fruit and Vegetable Safety and Quality PDG can be directed to Dr. Gombas at 202-303-3400, ext. 411.


Retail-Foodservice Board Super Session Tackles Food Safety on Small Farms

As part of the 2010 Washington Public Policy Conference, United’s Retail-Foodservice Market Segment Board will hold a session devoted to discussing the role of retail and foodservice companies in ensuring the safety of produce they purchase from smaller farms and suppliers.

The Role of Buyers in Assuring Small Farm Food Safety will take place Wednesday, September 15, and will feature discussion leaders and speakers including Kent Killibrew, quality assurance manager for Ahold USA Corporate Brands Fresh Products, Hal King, Ph.D., senior manager for food and product safety at Chick-fil-A, New Jersey Assistant Secretary of Agriculture Al Murray, and Pro*Act’s Director of Food Safety Michael Jantschke.

"Retail and foodservice companies know that the produce they buy and sell to consumers must be safe, no matter what the source," said United Fresh Senior Vice President of Member Services and Retail-Foodservice Market Segment Board Liaison Victoria Backer. "But exactly what role do buyers have in assuring that small, local or seasonal farms meet the same essential food safety standards as large commercial growers? This session is designed to discuss how government and industry are looking to buyers to help ensure the safest products available year-round."

The Washington Public Policy Conference runs from September 14-16 at the Gaylord National Hotel. More information on the can be found by clicking here.


Webinar to Address USDA's PACA Trust Proposed Rule

With USDA’s expected announcement on extending the comment period regarding their proposed rule on changes to the PACA Trust provisions, United Fresh announced last week that it will hold a webinar to discuss the USDA proposal and industry action.  The proposed rule which was published in the Federal Register on June 8, deals with post-default agreements on trust protection eligibility, which has been the subject of recent court decisions.

Since the announcement of this proposed rule, United Fresh’s Government Relations Council approved the establishment of a PACA Trust Working Group to analyze the proposed rule and provide recommendations back to the industry.  The Working Group is comprised of representatives from all sectors of the produce industry. In addition, United Fresh organized a letter from 19 allied produce organizations serving on United’s Government Relations Council, asking for USDA to extend the comment period given the new rule’s potential to significantly impact businesses practices.  

The webinar will be held on Wednesday, August 18 from 2:00 – 3:00 p.m. EST.   This webinar is free of charge, and all interested parties are welcome to participate.  To access the webinar, click here:

https://lobby.mc.iconf.net/gcc/conferencing/partaccess.asp?ba=6

Call in:  (866) 779-0773  
Meeting #: 3033409

For additional information about the proposed rule, please contact Robert Guenther, United Fresh, senior vice president of public policy.  For information about the webinar, contact Andrew Marshall, United fresh policy and grassroots coordinator. Both can be reached at 202-303-3400.

Additional Background Material:

United Fresh Briefing Paper on Proposed PACA Trust Regulations

USDA Proposed Rule on PACA Trust Protections

United Fresh and Allied Organizations Comments to USDA seeking extension of proposed rule


AMS Branch Chief's Write-Up of Baby Carrot and Sliced Apple Programs Includes Support from United Fresh

In an article that appeared in the July issue of Blueprints Magazine, USDA Agricultural Marketing Service Commodity Procurement Branch Chief David Tuckwiller describes AMS’ recent installation of a pilot program that will provide baby carrots to elementary school children in, California, Florida, Maryland, New York, North Carolina and Wisconsin, and the expansion of a current pilot program providing sliced apples in California to Colorado, Florida, Maryland, New Jersey, Texas and Wisconsin.  

United Fresh Vice President of Nutrition and Health Dr. Lorelei DiSogra was quoted in the article as supporting the USDA effort and all efforts to improve child nutrition, including the recent passage of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 last week by the U.S. Senate.

"This is a revolution! All of the stars are aligned: you've got Mrs. Obama taking this
on as her personal cause and Secretary Vilsack committed to improving school
meals ... They're shining the spotlight on this issue [and it] needs to be fixed now."

A full copy of the article can be found here.


Georgia Growers Learn How to Prepare for a Recall

"You don’t have to do anything wrong to get caught up in a product recall," and "Fortune favors the prepared" were the key takeaway messages from Dr. David Gombas presentation last week at the Georgia Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association's Be Recall Ready short course in Tifton.

Presented by GFVGA in partnership with United Fresh and former United staffer Amy Philpott of Watson/Mulhern, the one-day course provided growers and handlers with practical guidance on how to best prepare for a recall. Led by GFVGA's Beth Bland Oleson, the course featured presentations on regulatory and legal obligations by FDA Atlanta District Recall Coordinator Arnold Best and David Durkin of Olsson, Frank and Weeda, as well as real-world recall scenarios through which teams of participants had to plan and work.

Said one participant, "It was great to have Mr. Best here to tell us exactly what FDA expects, and great to hear that we have resources we can turn to if the worst happens."

For more on programs designed to prepare you for a recall, visit www.unitedfresh.org.


New Member Welcome

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

  • The Culinary Institute of America, St. Helena, CA
  • Manfredi Cold Storage, Kennett Square, PA
  • Nagata Bros. Farms, San Luis Rey, CA
  • New Leaf Food Safety Solutions, LLC, Salinas, CA
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.


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