February 24, 2011

In Today's Issue:

CDC Study Vindicates Tomatoes in 2008 Salmonella Saintpaul Outbreak

In a study released yesterday in the New England Journal of Medicine, scientists from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provided detailed evidence linking a nationwide outbreak of Salmonella Saintpaul in 2008 to jalapeño and serrano peppers, and explained how tomatoes were mistakenly implicated in the early stages of the investigation. 

"Members of the produce industry and consumers alike should be both relieved and encouraged to see this information confirming the source of the outbreak of Salmonella Saintpaul in 2008," said United Fresh President and CEO Tom Stenzel. "The study in this week's New England Journal of Medicine underscores the fact that temporal associations based on memories of what someone has eaten weeks earlier can be useful, but not definitive, in these investigations. It's clear from the study that many sick individuals recalled eating a salsa product, but failed to recognize the peppers that were contained as an ingredient. By prematurely jumping to the conclusion that tomatoes were causing the outbreak, officials may have unwittingly allowed the outbreak to continue."

Stenzel viewed the study as a good point from which to move forward in a spirit of cooperation with FDA and CDC.

"We credit the CDC and Food and Drug Administration now for reporting these findings, as an important lesson to be learned in outbreak investigations," he said. "The fresh produce industry is 100% committed to doing all we can to prevent any contamination of any commodity from ever occurring. But these are natural products grown outside in nature, often eaten without cooking.  In the rare case in which a problem does occur, we stand ready to work with local, state and federal officials to bring the most rapid identification, traceback and removal of a product from the marketplace. We are committed to bringing our very best scientific knowledge and detailed understanding of growing areas, production processes and distribution to help government officials quickly identify and remove the real cause of any problem."

A Whirlwind Tour of Southern California for United's Leadership Class 16

The twelve members of United Fresh Leadership Class 16 wrapped up an action-packed trip to Southern California last week, completing the third of four trips for the program year.

The group started their first day of programming in Los Angeles with a kick-off presentation by program alumnus Jerry Butt, vice president of MIXTEC Group, who shared tips for companies to attract and retain top talent. Then the class hit the road and headed north toward Oxnard with stops en route to Dole and Sunkist. Once settled in Ventura County, the class had the opportunity to visit Cal Giant, Limoneria Company, Deardorff Family Farms, Duda Farm Fresh Foods, Gills Onions, San Miguel Produce and Houweling's Hot House. During the festivities the class stopped for lunch hosted by Gills and a roundtable discussion about farming in Ventura County with local industry leaders Tom Deardorff, president of Deardorff Family Farms; Steve Gill, president of Gills Onions; and Jan Berk, vice president of San Miguel Produce.

On the final day of the trip, the group took a tour of Bristol Farms retail store hosted by Senior Director of Produce and Floral Raul Gallegos, then headed to Irwindale for a tour and luncheon at Ready Pac Produce. The class rounded out their activities in Southern California with a visit to the California Avocado Commission and a stop at an area avocado grove, followed by a reception with local leadership alumni hosted by Sheri Mierau Normandin, AMC Direct; Chris Puentes, Interfresh; and Leadership Alumni Organization Chairman Wes Liefer, Pura Vida Farms.

"We'd like to extend a special thanks to all the companies who opened their doors to our leadership class," said Victoria Backer, senior vice president, member services, foundation. "The learning in the program is truly a hands-on experience, and this would not be possible without the generous time and support of these companies."

The class will meet next in May in New Orleans for United Fresh 2011. The Produce Industry Leadership Program is presented through the United Fresh Foundation's Center for Leadership Development and is made possible by a generous grant from DuPont Crop Protection. Applications for Class 17 of the program will be accepted until March 4. All eligible United Fresh members are invited to apply online or to use the downloadable application form.  For more information, contact Julie Jacocks, United Fresh education manager, at 202-303-3400, ext. 405.

Great Turnout, Involved Participants Set Tone for Florida Town Halls

United Fresh Senior Vice President of Public Policy Robert Guenther and Senior Director of Membership Miriam Miller met with Florida produce industry members in Belle Glade and Immokalee this week as part of United's ongoing series of Town Hall luncheons. The luncheons gave the more than 70 members in attendance an opportunity to address concerns and voice feedback on a wide range of issues, including food safety, labor and immigration, federal feeding programs and more.

Sponsored by Duda Farm Fresh Foods and the Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association, Monday's stop in Belle Glade featured a presentation from Guenther on the newly-enacted FDA Food Safety Modernization Act and the upcoming 2012 Farm Bill, as well as a discussion about produce opportunities within federal nutrition programs like WIC, SNAP and the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Snack Program. In addition, FFVA President Mike Stuart gave attendees an update on recent developments in labor and immigration law, and any potential effects they may have on the Florida industry.

On Tuesday, the Florida Tomato Exchange joined with FFVA to present a second luncheon in Immokalee. Guenther again fielded questions on the specifics of the new food safety law, upcoming Farm Bill and nutrition programs, this time with a special emphasis on effects the law will have on Florida's large tomato industry. Joining in the discussion were Laws Logistics' Mike Laws and Jaime Weisinger of Six L's who shared their experiences in United’s Produce Industry Leadership Program. Wrapping up the event was a presentation from Reggie Brown, executive vice president of the Florida Tomato Exchange, who provided a look at the state's evaluation of the use of methyl bromide.

"United Fresh Town Halls are always a valued experience for us, giving us the pulse and the concerns of specific segments of the industry," said Miller. "They enable United Fresh to maintain contact with members of the industry on the ground level, which in turn allows us to better represent the industry in Washington."

United will continue the Town Hall series next month with stops in Visalia on March 7, Minneapolis on March 16, and Chicago on March 17. For more information on these events, please contact Miller at 202-303-3400, ext. 410.

Alongside NATC Counterparts, United Calls for PACA-Type Protections for U.S Exports to Canada

As part of the effort to address issues impacting the trade of produce in North America and specifically the export of produce from the U.S. to Canada, United Fresh met last week with its counterparts on the North American Trade Committee (NATC) in the nation's capital. At the heart of Thursday's discussion was the need for a mechanism that will provide the type of protection afforded by the PACA Trust for sales in the Canadian marketplace. While certain mechanisms are available to help mitigate and help resolve claims on produce, there is virtually nothing available to and offset losses arising from payment problems. Canadian exporters enjoy the protection of the PACA Trust when shipping to the U.S. while there is no reciprocal treatment of U.S. exporters to Canada.

NATC is calling for the establishment of financial risk mitigation provisions in Canada similar to the existing mechanisms available under the PACA Trust. There is a need for tools in Canada that will provide industry with the same outcomes to deal with slow pay, partial pay and no pay situations. In the U.S. it is estimated the PACA Trust has saved produce sellers (including Canadian exporters) over $1 billion.

"This is a trade issue and we are most concerned that our exporters may be at risk if we don't find a suitable financial risk mitigation tool for implementation in the Canadian marketplace," added Ken Forth, chair of the Canadian Horticultural Council's Trade & Industry Standards Committee. "Our exporters can use the PACA Trust provisions to cover their sales to U.S. receivers. In addition, they can use the PACA formal dispute settlement service without having to post a bond in twice the amount of the claim. No other foreign country outside of Canada enjoys this particular privilege of not having to post a bond."

NATC is comprised of industry organization representatives from across North America, with the focus of developing industry consensus on issues impacting fresh fruit and vegetable trade in North America. Within that focus, NATC has the objective of facilitating trade and providing respective governments with industry counsel and consensus on key issues. United’s colleagues within NATC include the Canadian Horticultural Council, Canadian Produce Marketing Association, California Strawberry Commission, Dispute Resolution Corporation, Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association, Fresh Produce Association of the Americas, Northwest Produce Council, Produce Marketing Association, Texas Produce Association and Western Growers Association.

For contact information at each of the partner organizations, please contact United Fresh Communications Manager Patrick Delaney at 202-303-3400, ext. 417.

Produce Excellence in Foodservice Awards Boasts Record Turnout

The United Fresh Foundation announced record nominations today for the 2011 United Fresh Produce Excellence in Foodservice Program. With the nomination period closing on February 7, this year's program drew 115 nominations from 31 states and Canada. 

This is the fourth year of the Produce Excellence in Foodservice Awards Program, which was established in 2008 through the support of founding sponsor Pro*Act, LLC. The program honors chefs for their use of fresh produce in the culinary arts and the important role they play in increasing fruit and vegetable consumption. Chefs are honored in the categories of fine dining restaurants; casual and family dining; quick service restaurants; business in industry and colleges; hotels and healthcare; and, as a new category for 2011, K-12 school foodservice.

Six chefs will be selected as the 2011 award winners and will be honored at the 2011 United Fresh convention, May 2-5 in New Orleans. The winners will be selected by a committee of foodservice and produce industry leaders including 2010 winners Chris Jackson, Ted & Honey and Thomas John, Au Bon Pain, as well as Lisa McNeece, Grimmway Farms; Kevin Ryan, the International Corporate Chefs Association; and Steve Winders, Loffredo Fresh Produce.

The winners will be selecting on a range of criteria including:

  • Creativity in concept development and menu design using fresh produce, including the ability to incorporate produce into culinary trends
  • Knowledge and use of proper fresh produce handling procedures
  • Produce-related special events or outreach, including community service projects and more
  • Recognition among peers and/or by the company

"We are thrilled with the number and quality of this year's nominees and want to thank every company who submitted a nomination for this year's program," said Victoria Backer, United Fresh senior vice president of member services, foundation. "The efforts made by these men and women everyday to bring innovative produce menu items to diners plates will help positively shape the way our nation eats."

The six winners and their corporate produce directors will receive complimentary airfare, hotel accommodation and registrations to United Fresh 2011. The winners will be honored at the annual United Fresh Awards Banquet on Thursday, May 4.

How Much Do You Know About the Members of United Fresh?

In addition to Inside United Fresh's weekly, behind-the-scenes profile of the men and women who comprise the United Fresh Board of Directors, UnitedFresh.org features an inside look at a different United member every few weeks. Through this regular feature, we hope that you will take a second to learn more about the wide range of backgrounds, experiences and viewpoints that makes United Fresh such a diverse collection of business leaders, and in turn discover the unique combination of leadership styles and personalities that enables United Fresh to make a difference for the produce industry every day.

Congressional Leaders, United Fresh Members, Staff Turn Out in Support of Newly-Minted Congressman

United Fresh Vice President of Membership Jeff Oberman joined Senators Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), Johnny Isakson (R-GA), former Sen. John Sununu (R-NH) and Republican congressional challenger Andy Vidak, as well as representatives from Tanimura and Antle, Earthbound Farm, Mann Packing Company, Andrew Smith Co. and other United Fresh member companies in California's Central Valley and Central Coast in support of recently elected Congressman Jeff Denham.

Rep. Denham, who owns and operates a reusable plastic container business in Merced County, represents California's 19th Congressional District, succeeded veteran Rep. George Radanovich and represents the specialty crop-rich counties of Madera, Merced, Monterey, San Benito and Stanislaus.

During the brief discussion portion of the event, held at Monterey's Inn at Spanish Bay, Valley Harvesting and Packing's Steve Scaroni and others in the room expressed the importance for a legalized workforce, emphasizing how current H-2A regulations and the specter of potential mandatory E-Verify may send more operations to Mexico or even put growers and contract harvesters out of business.

"It's always a positive to get face-time with our representatives in Washington," said Oberman. "As a fellow produce business leader, Congressman Denham knows the unique challenges faced by our industry, and we look forward to working with him in the years to come."

The People of New Orleans Want You to Make a BIG Difference in the BIG Easy!

Len Moskowitz of Testa Produce is this Week's BIG Winner in United’s Restaurant A Week Giveaway!

Congratulations to Len Moskowitz of Testa Produce, Inc., as the winner of this week's Restaurant a Week Giveaway. Len is off to the historic Royal House, courtesy of United Fresh.

Every Friday, United Fresh draws a winner from all registered attendees to United Fresh 2011. Winners receive a gift certificate to one of New Orleans' finest restaurants. Each week, the list is updated with the most current registered attendees, so the sooner you register for United Fresh 2011, the BIGGER your chances are to win!

Congratulations Len! Next week's Restaurant a Week winner is headed to Lá Bayou, courtesy of United Fresh 2011.

Meet Your United Fresh Board of Directors: Bakkavor's David Barney is Invested in the Next Generation of Agriculture Professionals in the U.K.

David Barney
Business Development Manager
Spalding, Lincolnshire, United Kingdom

How did you get your start in agriculture?

I am originally from about 25 miles north of London, and I went to school in a town called Brentwood in Essex. Then I went to university at Wye College, which was a part of London University, based in the middle of Kent. Wye College was the agricultural faculty of London University, and I say "was" because it is closed now. It is one of a number of colleges and universities in the UK that have closed or shut their doors to agricultural students in the last 10 years or so.

Is that due simply to a lack of enrollment? Interest?

I think so. I think that there’s a fundamental problem in the U.K. where agriculture has fallen out of favor and as such, there have been fewer and fewer colleges, universities and institutions providing training in those areas. As a result a number of the colleges have either closed or merged, and the content of the courses that remain has changed to contain less and less straight agriculture and horticulture, and more focus now on agricultural business studies, equine management and that sort of thing.

Has the student interest decreased along with the diminishing options? Are the students headed now to mainland Europe or the United States?

It's an area in which I'm quite interested because at Bakkavor, we have a number of graduates in what we call our Accelerated Management Schemes, where we take bright graduates on for two years in a sequence of placements before they take on a permanent role. Within that program, I look after our Produce Accelerated Management Scheme, which is specifically geared up to try and make sure that we’re bringing produce skills into the business. So, I am quite interested in it as a matter of course, as part of the job, and I think that the end answer to your question is that because in the past, agricultural jobs may have been considered unfashionable, there have been less people looking for the courses, which is ultimately why the courses have dried up. I think that's now starting to change round a little bit, in that I think people are beginning to realize that food production is important, and that there is a gap in the market for qualified agriculturalists and horticulturalists. In the short term, I think some of the vacancies that are going to appear here in the U.K. will be filled with graduates from other countries. Additionally, a lot of the seasonal and agricultural labor here in the U.K. has come over the last 10 to 12 years from Eastern Europe, and these guys are coming in with much more affinity for agricultural businesses and operations. I think that in the next 5-10 years we may get quite a few people who have settled in the U.K. from Eastern Europe enjoying the agriculture industry.

Given that much of the food consumed by the U.K. is imported, have you found that the locally grown, small farm movement has taken off there like it seems to be here in the U.S?

I think that we’ve seen what you've seen. We have farmer's markets and we have retailers all over the U.K. working to satisfy customers' needs for local . Some, of course, are better than others. Some, even though their distribution is national and they buy centrally, are still able to put regional product on the shelves. I think in the U.K. - and you'd really need to talk to a marketing expert - there is only a relatively small, perhaps very small portion of the consumers for which local and regional really matter and who are prepared to make purchasing decisions based on those factors. The majority of consumers are making their decisions based on price, quality and availability, and then once all those factors are satisfied, then they prefer to look for something regional or local.

As a large multinational corporation, have you found special challenges related to your image and reputation when it comes to dealing with customers and/or consumers?

As a manufacturer of private-label goods, the customer doesn't see us at all. The customer sees our products that have been branded as Tesco or Sainsbury's or Waitrose, for example, and therefore they trust the retailer and what they're getting. Those same retail customers all, quite rightly, expect us to be extremely well-resourced and delivering at the highest level because we are such a big company with lots of business with each retailer. So I would suggest that the demands placed by our retailers on Bakkavor are at least as great as the demands placed on smaller suppliers, possibly greater.

What’s your day like when you’re not at work?

I’ve got family - a wife and three kids - that keeps me fairly busy. I like being out and about, so I like walking. I also enjoy engineering and I have an old Land Rover that I rebuild a number of years ago, and we drive around in that when the sun is shining. I'm currently restoring a Mini, which is about 25 years old. They are easy to rebuild which I expect is because they're easy to put together, so even I can handle them. I've never played, but it's hard to grow up here and not enjoy watching soccer. I grew up near London, and Chelsea was very popular in my neighborhood when I was a kid. Of course now they’re doing very well, so it justifies supporting them.

What’s one piece of trivia your fellow board members don't know?

I'll give you two. I have a heavy goods vehicle license, so if we have a problem with deliveries, I can always offer to drive! I'm also a forklift instructor.

New Member Welcome

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

  • Jones Produce, Inc., Quincy, WA
  • Joseph H. Schauf Co., Campbell, CA
  • Pure Hot House Foods, Inc., Leamington, ON
  • Rouse's Markets, Thibodeaux, LA
  • Zymex Industries, Inc., Merced, CA

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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