March 17, 2011

In Today's Issue:

United Fresh to Provide Comments to FDA on Imports Food Safety

United Fresh will provide input at an FDA public meeting, March 29, which will focus on import safety provisions of the recently enacted Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). Regulators are seeking information on importer verification, the Voluntary Qualified Importer Program, import certifications for food, and third-party accreditation.

"Regulating the safety of imported foods is among the biggest changes brought by the Food Safety Modernization Act," says Robert Guenther, United’s senior VP for public policy.  "The new food safety law gives FDA authority to impose significant regulatory requirements on companies that export to the U.S."

The law amends the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act by significantly increasing FDA's food safety enforcement power.  In particular, title III of FSMA significantly enhances FDA's authority for oversight of the millions of food products that enter the United States each year. The law requires FDA to develop regulations, guidance, and implement a new Foreign Supplier Verification Program (FSVP), which will require importers to conduct risk-based foreign supplier verification activities to verify that imported food is not adulterated or misbranded as defined in the Food Drug and Cosmetic Act. Further, the program would ensure compliance with FDA preventive controls requirements and produce safety standards.

Another provision in the FSMA, the Voluntary Qualified Importer Program (VQIP) requires FDA to establish a voluntary, user-fee funded program to expedite entry into the United States of imported food from eligible, qualified importers. Importers that participate in VQIP must offer food for importation from a facility that has a certification by an accredited third party.

FDA advises anyone who wishes to present comments at the meeting to register in advance. For more information about the new food safety law or the FDA public meeting, please contact Robert Guenther or David Gombas, senior VP for food safety & technology, at 202-303-3400.

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United Fresh Urges Lawmakers to Oppose Food Safety User Fees

In a letter to key House lawmakers, United Fresh and 16 other food industry organizations urged Congress to oppose creation of new "food safety fees" that were included in the president’s 2012 budget proposal for FDA to implement the new Food Safety Modernization Act.  Congress rejected the user fees concept during debate for the law.

In the March 10 letter to Reps. Jack Kington (R-GA) and Sam Farr (D-CA), who hold leadership positions on the Appropriations Committee's subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, FDA and Related Agencies, the industry groups said, "Imposing new fees on food facilities would represent a food safety tax on consumers. As food companies and consumers continue to cope with a period of prolonged economic turbulence, the creation of a new food tax would mean higher costs for businesses and higher food prices for consumers."

Joining United Fresh on the letter were: American Bakers Association, American Frozen Food Institute, American Meat Institute, Frozen Potato Products Institute, Independent Bakers Association, International Bottled Water Association, National Chicken Council, National Confectioners Association, National Fisheries Institute, National Frozen Pizza Institute, National Grain and Feed Association, National Meat Association, Pet Food Institute, Produce Marketers Association, Snack Food Association and United Egg Producers.

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Sales Opportunities Through Nutrition Policy Highlight Town Hall Events

United Fresh Vice President of Nutrition and Health, Dr. Lorelei DiSogra teamed up with Vice President of Membership and Trade Relations Jeff Oberman for successful Town Hall events this week in Minneapolis and Chicago with more than100 attendees from retail, foodservice, grower-shipper, wholesaler-distributors and fresh-cut processors from United's membership. 

The first Town Hall on Wednesday in Minneapolis was co-hosted by Fresh-Cut Processor Board Member Marylou Owen of G.O. Fresh, Current Leadership Program and Member Relations Task Force Member Nina Brooks, H. Brooks & Company and Ted Morimoto, President of The Kunkel Company.  Wholesale Distributor Board, Leadership Program Alumni and Member Relations Task Force Member, Lisa Strube, Strube Celery and Vegetable Company hosted Thursday's luncheon at the Chicago International Wholesale Market in Chicago.

Nutrition policy and growing children's fruit and vegetable consumption were the focus of Lorelei DiSogra's presentations as she highlighted major gains in Nutrition Policy within the Fresh Fruit & Vegetable Snack Program, highlighting locations of participating schools throughout the region.  United Fresh past Chairman of the Board Jim Lemke, Senior Vice President of C.H. Robinson, talked about the benefits of their donation of salad bars to the St. Paul, MN school district. 

In Chicago, Lorelei and Lisa Strube discussed the recent media event, "Let's Move Salad Bars to Chicago Schools," that featured United Fresh member company Chiquita Brands, which donated salad bars to 10 Chicago schools. She reiterated that "both of these companies are truly making a difference in child nutrition by contributing to the Let's Move Salad Bars to Schools" initiative and encouraged "attendees to join with me as we advocate for increasing children's access to fresh fruits and vegetables in schools."

Attendees heard updates on key legislative and regulatory issues such as the Food Safety Modernization Act, in terms of its impact on the region, and the Produce Traceability and Good Agricultural Practices Audit Harmonization initiatives. "There were many questions from retail, foodservice, processors, growers and distributors on the impact of these new regulations," said Oberman. Oberman shared the value of participation within the United Fresh member programs and highlighted the United Fresh 2011 Show and Education Programs for every market segment. 

Many thanks to our sponsors of both events: G.O. Fresh, H. Brooks & Company, The Kunkel Company and Strube Celery & Vegetable Company.  For more information on these events, please contact Jeff Oberman at 831-422-0940.

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United Fresh Joins USDA and Senate Leaders to Promote Produce Consumption at Washington Post Childhood Obesity Conference

USDA Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan, speaking at a Washington childhood obesity conference, touted school salad bars as an excellent way to expose children to a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables at school. She also cited the recent USDA, ERS study stating that eating healthy does not have to be expensive. Merrigan warned that childhood obesity is a multifaceted issue with no "silver bullet" solution, saying it will take local leadership - schools, parents, non-profits, industry and government to develop policies that enable citizens to make the healthy choice, the easy choice. 

Also at this week's conference, Weighing in on America's Future: Childhood Obesity Summit, Senator Tom Harkin, Chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee, spoke at length about the USDA Fresh Fruit and Vegetable "Snack" Program and its success as a strategy for addressing childhood obesity.

United Fresh was invited to participate in the summit, hosted by the Washington Post, as a leader that's helping to promote improved health through increased fruit and vegetable consumption. Attendees heard from several panels of expert speakers about strategies for combating this nationwide epidemic. Throughout the conference program, speakers repeatedly stressed the need for children to have greater access to fresh fruits and vegetables, and that it was imperative they learned these habits from an early age. For more information about the conference, and to view the full list of conference speakers, click here

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United Fresh Salad Bar Recipient Receives "Gold with Distinction" Recognition in USDA's HealthierUS School Challenge

At a press event Wednesday, United Fresh was on hand to congratulate CentroNia's D.C. Bilingual Public Charter School for becoming the second school in the District of Columbia to achieve "Gold with Distinction" recognition as part of USDA's HealthierUS School Challenge.   The D.C. Bilingual Public Charter School, which is part of the CentroNia charter school network, operates two campuses in D.C.'s Columbia Heights neighborhood and has received two salad bars within the past year.  Both of which were made possible by Dole's generous contribution to United's salad bar campaign, which proudly supports First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move! initiative, as part of a broad coalition of public and private partners for the Let's Move Salad Bars to Schools initiative.

On hand to present the distinguished award to D.C. Bilingual was USDA, Food and Nutrition Service Under Secretary Kevin Concannon and Dr. Sandra Schlicker from D.C.'s Office of the State Superintendent of Education.  From United Fresh, Andrew Marshall, policy and grassroots manager, attended to see first-hand how United's support has helped the school become a national example for operating programs that encourage children to eat more fruits and vegetables.  After presenting the award, Under Secretary Concannon joined students for lunch.  He observed as they selected a variety of fresh produce options from their salad bar, and then sat with them to talk about the importance of eating healthy foods.  Several students shared how much they enjoyed their salad bar, and that they are now eating many types of fresh fruits and vegetables each day.  "D.C. Bilingual is an excellent example of school that has used their salad bar to further their goals of creating a healthier school environment," said United's Marshall. 

During the event Under Secretary Concannon, stated "Out of the 100,000+ schools that participate in the National School Lunch Program only 618 have been awarded the Gold with Distinction recognition."  Dr. Schlicker praised D.C. Bilingual staff and students for their dedication to healthy, active lifestyles, and recognized United Fresh several times during her remarks for organizing school salad bar donations on behalf of United’s members.  Dr. Schlicker noted that the only other school in Washington, D.C. to receive the Gold with Distinction level in the HealthierUS School Challenge was the Elsie Whitlow Stokes Charter School, which also received a salad bar from United Fresh.

For more information about how your company can get involved with Let's Move Salad Bars to Schools, click here or contact Claudia Wenzing, United Fresh’s vice president of business development at (202) 303-3415.

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Still Time to Benefit from United's Recall Training Webinar

It's not too late to register for United's popular Training for a Recall, Communicating Under Fire webinar course. More than 50 companies have registered for the course, which launched last week and will continue for five more weeks.

"Because each webinar is recorded, it's easy for companies to view the instruction at their convenience, on-demand, via their computer," said United's Senior Vice President of Member Services Victoria Backer. "Even if you missed the first week's presentation, you can still watch the recording and not miss a thing."

The course, presented through the United Fresh Foundation's Center for Food Safety and Quality, consists of six weekly, hour-long sessions covering all aspects of crisis planning, liability and communication. The course features representatives from FDA and legal professionals, as well as crisis communication and food safety experts, helping participants gain a firm grasp on a company's rights and responsibilities during a recall, how to limit liability and manage customer expectations, and the steps involved in guiding a company through a product recall as smoothly as possible.

Program presenters include Larry Howell, recall and emergency coordinator for the FDA's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, David Durkin of Olson, Frank & Weeda, United Fresh Senior Vice President of Food Safety and Technology Dr. David Gombas and Ray Gilmer, United’s vice president of communications.

Registration for the course is $495 for United Fresh members; $695 for non-members, and registration can be done online here. For more information, please contact United Fresh Education Manager Julie Jacocks at 202-303-3400, ext. 405.

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Food Industry Alliance Launches Campaign to Build Public Understanding

A new industry partnership, the Alliance to Feed the Future, officially announced its formation and launch of a new website this week at a Capitol Hill ceremony. The group will work to better communicate to the public and thought-leaders messages about modern food production.  

The Alliance counts more than 50 food-related organizations as members, including United Fresh. Members span all sectors of the food value chain and include professional societies, commodity groups, industry and academia, all working together to share the story of modern food production.

"To meet the world's increasing food needs responsibly, efficiently and affordably, United Fresh and the members of the Alliance to Feed the Future share the common goal of building understanding and promoting the benefits of modern food production, processing and technology," said Ray Gilmer, United's VP of communications.

"The more consumers understand how their food is produced, the more they can appreciate the role modern agriculture plays in providing safe, affordable, and nutritious food" said Dave Schmidt, President and CEO at the International Food Information Council, which coordinates the Alliance. "The Alliance will be a clearinghouse of resources to increase consumer understanding of this role."

The Alliance to Feed the Future website, at, is home to an assortment of resources and information regarding modern food production from farm to fork. For additional questions about the Alliance to Feed the Future please contact or 202-296-6540.

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Save Up to $100 Now – Get the Early Registration Discount for United Fresh 2011

Everybody likes extra cash, and here's your chance to get your share. Register now for United Fresh 2011, May 2-5 in New Orleans, before the early registration discount expires March 25.  United Fresh 2011 offers attendees from every segment of the produce industry BIG value for your BIG business needs. Register now to get the best deal.

Plus, experience the added value of United's exciting post-show event, the Global Conference on Produce Technology & Innovation. Don't miss this day of learning and inspiration as United Fresh invites industry leaders to see how innovation is reshaping our industry today, and inspire a vision of a bold new future. Visit for all the convention and conference details or call 202-303-3400.

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DNO Inc.'s Tony Dinovo Is This Week's BIG Winner in United's Restaurant A Week Giveaway!

Congratulations to Tony Dinovo of DNO Inc.! He is the winner of this week's Restaurant a Week Giveaway. Tony will enjoy one of the country's finest restaurants as he dines at Dickie Brennan’s Bourbon House, courtesy of United Fresh.

Every Thursday, 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 Tony! Next week's Restaurant a Week winner is headed to Dickie Brennan's Bourbon House, courtesy of United Fresh 2011.

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Meet Your United Fresh Board Members: C.H. Robinson's Jim Lemke Has Snowmobile Racing in His Blood

Jim Lemke
Senior Vice President
C.H. Robinson Worldwide
Eden Prairie, Minnesota

Not only does C.H. Robinson have a great connection to the community there in the Twin Cities, but it is also the largest provider of third party logistics and one of the largest fruit and vegetable suppliers in North America. Is there something about your leadership style that helps to balance your company's role in the community with its role in the larger industry?

I think that it comes down to the structure of our company. We are a decentralized organization, meaning that we've got more than 230 offices across the globe through which we try to establish a sense of community. We work with those offices to understand who their local clients are as well as their local carriers and suppliers. Within that structure, there is a general manager that is responsible for the success of that office, as well as the success of the people within that office, so I feel that we "think big and act local." There are a lot of people that use that saying, but I think we do a really good job of it, thanks in large part to the feet on the street. C.H. Robinson's people are active in the community, understanding what's important locally, but also what's important to the mission of the company. There are ideas consistently bubbling up from the local offices that we evaluate here at the corporate office and try to pass on to the company as a whole. The C.H. Robinson Worldwide Foundation provides charitable support not only in the Minneapolis area, but also to national charities. On top of that, our local offices are involved with volunteer and charity works in their local communities.

As you have become more involved with United over the years, most recently as immediate past chairman, is there one aspect of the organization that  that you were surprised by? One perception that you had coming in that has changed?

One thing that I have always commented on is that it amazes me is how much work the United staff accomplishes with such a small group. It's possible that when you're a United member, or even when you're a United board member, you may not get to see first-hand that work, but as chairman, I got to see it up close, and I got to see how the staff and the association’s inner workings play out. It amazed me how much got done with as few people as there are in the office. I think it's a great story to tell and is certainly worth communicating to members, because it shows that the association is watching our dollars very carefully, and is putting those dollars in the places where they are best utilized, not creating a huge staff of people simply to take on challenges.

You're an alum of the University of Minnesota, and a Twin Cities native, but what has kept you in that area?

I guess it was more by luck than by anything else, really. When I first graduated, I really wanted to get in to the world of international business. My academic background was in international relations, so I studied Western Europe a lot, spent a couple of semesters in France during school, and I was always impressed with the global economy and global business. If nothing else, I knew that if I wanted to take the business path, I knew I had to be involved more in the global economy than just in my local area to be successful long-term. I went through some campus interviews and had a chance to interview with C.H. Robinson. Their pitch was that they were developing their global business. At that time, I really didn't know anything about transportation or about the produce industry, but it seemed like it was a very entrepreneurial company, so I signed up with them, packed up the Plymouth Turismo and drove east to the Boston office where I got my start. I was told that the Boston office was the closest to Europe that the company had at the time, but that there was the possibility of expanding over there in the future. Back then, we'd hire everyone out of the Midwest and then send them to the nationwide offices.  The problem was that the Midwestern folks always wanted to come home. I probably was in that group, with a lot of family ties in this area. So after a couple years of working in Boston, I decided to come back to the Midwest and look for other opportunities. On my way back, my supervisor asked me if I'd be interested in working in the new national sales group for C.H. Robinson. It was a new venture for the company, but before doing that, I had to come back to Minnesota and explore my snowmobile racing career while there was still snow on the ground. I had worked on and raced snowmobiles growing up, but I realized that after the snow melts there's nothing to do, so I took the VP up on his offer and joined the national sales and supply chain group. The group was set out to help national retailers with multi-regional distribution centers, and it just took off. There were two of us at the time, this was 1991, and we really hit it off. It was a lot of fun.

What's your favorite thing about your hometown?

I think that the Twin Cities and the Midwest in general kind of flies below the radar in terms of the business world. 21 FORTUNE 500 companies are based here in Minnesota. The people have a great business sense, they're innovative and driven, but they're also very outgoing and friendly, and you get such a great combination of people here. It's a fun place to raise a family too; great education, great infrastructure. For me, if you can take the time to get to know it, and you can put up with the cold, there is a lot here for people to enjoy.

Do you still snowmobile?

I've got a couple of snowmobiles as well as a numerous snow toys for the kids, and as they grow up I look forward to getting out and tooling around with them. It's a distinctly Midwestern thing, along with boot hockey, broomball, cross country skiing. People may not understand it, but its part of being here. You need good warm clothes though.

Tell us about your kids.

They're 11, 7 and 2. Two older girls and a younger boy; all great kids. The oldest is more of a dramatic, studious person. The middle one is, I think, going to be an athlete, and the two-year-old, we're not quite sure yet. He gets a little shoulder motion whenever he hears music, so I don't know if he's going to be a singer or dancer or just popular with the ladies when he gets to college.

In your year as chairman, is there a project that you would have liked to continue working on, or perhaps pushed further?

In a general sense, I think that the most challenging thing is that a lot of the worthwhile projects you end up working on don't get done in a year. They tend to take on a life of their own, which is great, but you always feel like there is more that you would have liked to get done. Coming from the business world, you're under a lot of pressure to wrap up projects in order to create revenue, whereas in the association world, you're charged with creating cultures, fostering attitudes and encouraging behaviors, which takes longer.

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New Member Welcome

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

  • Antonucci's Wholesale Produce & Seafood, Gloversville, NY
  • Associated Grocers, Baton Rouge, LA
  • Hardie's Fruit & Vegetable Co. - Houston, TX

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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Upcoming United Fresh Events
Upcoming Events

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