May 26, 2011

In Today's Issue:

United Responds to Supreme Court Ruling on Arizona Immigration Law

By a vote of five to three today, the Supreme Court upheld an Arizona law requiring all employers in the state to utilize E-Verify, a federal electronic employment eligibility verification system that had been, to date, voluntary nationwide. The court also upheld the state's law revoking the licenses of businesses that hire illegal immigrants. In response to today's ruling, United Fresh Senior Vice President of Public Policy Robert Guenther offered the following statement:

"Produce industry employers are steadfastly committed to ensuring all employees are properly documented and legally eligible to work," said Guenther. "Providing Americans with access to an abundant supply of nutritious fruits and vegetables requires that producers have access to a legal workforce. United Fresh and the produce industry support the adoption of a consistent federal labor eligibility standard, including a workable guest worker program, to meet these critical labor needs. As lawmakers consider action in the wake of the Supreme Court decision, we call on Congress to work with us to support the men and women of the produce industry and the millions of American jobs that are essential to the produce food chain, and take the necessary steps to ensure a viable labor supply of agriculture workers."

For more information on how E-Verify and other agricultural labor issues affect your business, please contact United Fresh at 202-303-3400 or www.unitedfresh.org.

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Public Health Leaders Engage in 2012 Farm Bill

Whether Congress is ready or not, many public health groups are gearing up for the 2012 Farm Bill. Last week, both the Public Health Institute and the Institute of Medicine (IOM) held conferences and workshops focused on farm and food policy and its relationship to public health and obesity prevention.

First, the Public Health Institute's "Healthy Farms, Healthy People" conference brought a diverse group of agriculture interests together with public health professionals for a two-day conference in Arlington, VA. The goal of the conference, funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, was to share perspectives on U.S. farm and food policy and to foster an understanding about short and long term Farm Bill priorities from a diverse set of stakeholders. United Fresh vice president of nutrition and health Dr. Lorelei DiSogra spoke on an opening panel on how agriculture policy can align with public health policy, specifically policies that increase fruit and vegetable consumption. Dr. DiSogra also shared examples of big wins achieved in the 2008 Farm Bill and urged attendees to defend those victories by working together as we move toward the 2012 Farm Bill.

Also last week, the Institute of Medicine's Committee on Accelerating Progress in Obesity Prevention held a one-day workshop on farm policy and obesity prevention that included speakers from H-E-B, WalMart and agricultural research universities, as well as farmers and policy experts. Kate Rogers, vice president of communications and engagement for H-E-B, was invited to speak to the committee about H-E-B's commitment and leadership role in reducing childhood obesity. Noting that Texas is the epicenter of the childhood obesity epidemic, Rogers discussed the impact of the company's "Produce Super Tuesday" promotion as a way to drive increased produce sales and consumption for their value customers. Rogers also discussed H-E-B's Childhood Obesity Summit and their work with local schools and communities throughout Texas. Dr. DiSogra also spoke to the committee, directly addressing one of the group's questions regarding recommended policy changes to increase fruit and vegetable consumption, to which she testified by highlighting the expansion of the Fresh fruit and Vegetable Program, the increase in the value of the fruit and vegetable vouchers in WIC, the providing of fruit and vegetable incentives for SNAP recipients, and the doubling of the amount and variety of fruits and vegetables served to 32 million students a day through new school meals regulations.

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School Salad Bars Take Center Stage at Culinary Institute

Salad bars were front and center earlier this month as the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) hosted the first "Healthy Kids, Healthy Flavors" conference at its new San Antonio campus May 11-13. The conference brought together chefs, culinary experts, school food service directors, White House and USDA officials, and communications experts. United Fresh Vice President of Nutrition and Health Dr. Lorelei DiSogra introduced the Let's Move Salad Bars to Schools initiative, and discussed how school salad bars are making the healthy choice the easy choice for students across the country.

Dr. DiSogra also moderated a "Salad Bar Success Stories from Leaders in the Field" panel that included senior managers from ARAMARK, Chartwells and Sodexo, as well as Chef Tim Cipriano and Chef Ann Cooper. The panel highlighted the fact that school salad bars increase student's fruit and vegetable consumption, provide a wide variety of fresh produce items every day, and are a tangible example of a schools commitment to wellness. San Antonio's commitment to improving the healthfulness of school meals was also underscored by Caroline Roffidal-Blanco, a registered dietitian with the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District, who noted that 107 San Antonio schools will have new salad bars in the fall with funding from San Antonio's Communities Putting Prevention to Work (CPPW) grant from CDC.

In addition to Assistant White House Chef Sam Kass, all of the founding partners of the Let's Move Salad Bars to Schools campaign participated in the conference, including Cooper, Dr. Diane Harris of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the F3 Foundation's Beth Collins, and Nona Evans of Whole Foods Foundation.

United Fresh extends a special thanks to Retail Foodservice Market Segment Board Member Amy Myrdal-Miller, CIA program director for strategic initiatives, and Greg Drescher, CIA's executive director of strategic initiatives for their commitment to improving the healthfulness of children's meals in schools and restaurants.

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Mexican Ministry of Agriculture, Produce Industry, United Fresh Meet to Discuss Competitiveness Program

This week, United Fresh welcomed representatives from Mexico's Ministry of Agriculture and the country's fruit and vegetable industry for a discussion on ways to enhance participation and awareness of the Mexico Calidad Suprema (Mexico Supreme Quality) program.

Managed jointly by government and industry, Mexico Calidad Suprema certifies standards on food safety, traceability, worker safety, sustainability and other quality areas, helping Mexican companies to be more competitive.  

"We know that many of Mexico's produce industry companies can benefit from participating in this quality-based program, and we look forward to working with Mexico's Ministry of Agriculture and industry leaders to provide education, marketing and communication assistance," said United President Tom Stenzel.

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Are Your Company's Compensation Packages Enough to Attract New Talent? To Keep the Talent You've Got?

Next Tuesday, May 31, is the last day for members of the produce industry to add their company's information to a comprehensive metric of industry compensation through the United Fresh Produce Industry Compensation Survey, available at www.unitedfreshsurvey.com.

"For companies like ours, the survey enables us to know if our compensation levels are on track for attracting new talent and retaining the talent we already have, both of which are so important," said United Fresh Board Member Emily Fragoso of Orange, CA-based Status Gro.

U.S.-based produce industry employers including grower-shippers, brokers, wholesaler-distributors, importers, exporters and fresh-cut processors are encouraged to participate until the Tuesday deadline. Companies that participate in submitting data for the survey are eligible to receive a fully-customized report for their company at a discounted rate of $195.

"The compensation report helps any company stay competitive and informed regarding the correct level of benefits that will allow them to retain current staff or draw "stars" to their staff," said New York Apple Sales President Kaari Stannard.

Prepared by expert research firm Industry Insights, the survey confidentially collects data from U.S.-based produce companies. It measures compensation and benefits levels for 30 positions including Sales & Marketing, Production & Operations, Quality Control & Assurance, Administration, Finance & Accounting and Executives. 

For additional information about the survey, contact United's Victoria Backer at 202-303-3400, ext. 408.

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FDA Solicits Comments on Preventative Controls

United Fresh members are invited to submit their comments on preventive controls and other practices used by facilities to identify and address hazards associated with specific types of food and specific processes. In Monday's Federal Register, FDA published the call for industry stakeholders to provide information and share views that will inform the development of guidance on preventive controls for food facilities that manufacture, process, pack, or hold food.

"Just as is the case with every public process, it is so important that the produce industry has a voice as FDA looks to upgrade the nation's food safety system," said Dr. David Gombas, United's senior vice president of food safety and technology. "As the men and women who know how food safety systems must function to continue producing safe, healthy food, our members need to weigh in on what works for them and what doesn't."

In the Federal Register notice, FDA specifically mentioned the need for feedback on solutions that are feasible for small and very small businesses.

"Ours is an industry of all shapes and sizes," added Gombas, "… and the preventive controls put in place by FDA need to reflect that diversity, so it's critical for even our smallest members to submit their comments on what is both efficient and practical."

Comments must be received by August 22, and may be submitted online at www.regulations.gov or by mail to the Division of Dockets Management (HFA–305), Food and Drug Administration, 5630 Fishers Lane, Room 1061, Rockville, MD 20852.

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United Fresh 2011 Presentations Now Available

United Fresh members now have access to the presentations from the Learning Centers, Demo Centers, Super Sessions and the Post Show Conference on Produce Technology and Innovation at United Fresh 2011.

Presentations can be downloaded by clicking here. For more information, please contact United Fresh Communications Manager Patrick Delaney at 202-303-3400, ext.417.

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Will your Brand Stand Out from the Rest?

Brands are making a name for themselves in the fresh produce aisles, especially within the growing fresh convenience category. Register today for Fresh Convenience Congress and hear from Simon Martin of QV Foods, and Michael Bicheron of Green Giant Fresh on successful brand marketing strategies to help achieve consumer demand and increased sales.

Organized by United Fresh and Fresh Convenience Magazine, and supported by FRESHCONEX, Fresh Convenience Congress, June 14-16 in London, explores opportunities to capitalize on the growing European fresh-cut and convenience market and examines new innovations that maximize profit. In addition to the branding session, other topics will include a review of global fresh-cut and fresh convenience trends at foodservice and retail sector, new product development, state of the art technology and the impact of sustainability audits for processing operations.

To review the full education program schedule, please click here. United Fresh members receive an additional 10 percent discount on delegate fees. For more information about Fresh Convenience Congress, please contact Jeff Oberman at 831-422-0940

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Recall Training Webinar Series Now Available for Download

United's industry-leading recall training course is now available for purchase in a six-part downloadable, webinar series.

The course includes recordings by expert speakers on topics such as: Traceability and Recalls, FDA Expectations & Perspective; Recalls – Limiting Your Liability; Understanding Traceability; Managing a Recall: Components of a Crisis Management Plan; Mastering Crisis Communications; and Defining and Utilizing the Reportable Food Registry.

Through the program, participants will learn the fundamentals of managing a product recall and the core elements for building a crisis communication plan. This program is a valuable and easy way to train a company's recall team - including management, technical and communications staff – about how to work together to properly handle a recall.

The price for the recorded series is $295 for United Fresh Members.  For more information, click here or contact United's Victoria Backer at 202-303-3400, ext. 408.

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Let's Move Salad Bars to Schools Launches New Home on Facebook

United Fresh, the Food Family Farming Foundation, the National Fruit and Vegetable Alliance and Whole Foods Market announced today that the Let's Move Salad Bars to Schools initiative has a new Facebook home. Produce industry companies, parents, community leaders and educators can now find information on Let's Move Salad Bars to Schools, see photos and links and post information through the social networking site.

Let's Move Salad Bars to Schools is a comprehensive grassroots public health effort to mobilize and engage stakeholders at the local, state and national level to support salad bars in schools. Our vision is to significantly increase salad bars in schools across the country until every child has the choice of healthy fruits and vegetables every day at school. Let's Move Salad Bars to Schools supports First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move initiative. The goal of the Initiative is to fund and award 6000 salad bars over the next three years.

For more information on Let's Move Salad Bars to Schools, visit www.saladbars2schools.org.

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Meet Your United Fresh Board of Directors: Paddy Callaghan of Nature's Best Still Has the Soil Under His Nails

Paddy Callaghan
Nature's Best
Drogheda, Ireland

Tell us about your background. How did you end up doing what you're doing?

My parents were in mixed farming and did a little bit of everything, so I guess I had a rural upbringing close to the soil; close to the land. Lots of soil under my nails. My dad had everything on the farm from cows to sheep to pigs to even a little cereal. After secondary school, I went off to study mechanical engineering at college. I worked in Scotland for a couple of years for an American company that builds large power station boilers. They were in Glasgow and I started with them in 1975. My dad died in 1978, and being the eldest, I guess I felt that I had to come back to Ireland. I worked in a couple of engineering jobs, but I always wanted to do something on my own; I had this driving bug to be self-employed.

What pointed you toward the produce industry?

In 1986, I discovered that bean sprouts in Ireland were a little bit unheard of. You could find them in the Chinese restaurants, but to find them in the retail supermarket shelves was unusual. I found that bean sprouts could be grown indoors, hydroponically, with fairly precise control over the growing environment. I imported a small bean sprout growing machine from China, stuck it in my garage and that was the beginning of Nature's Best. I started selling them at the local fruit and veg markets and at some of the more progressive stores. I operated out of the garage for a year or two, then discovered that the space was way too small. I built a small factory, about two or three thousand square feet, which we outgrew fairly quickly. We added on and added on until 1996-97. Tesco came into Ireland around the same time, and I saw an opportunity to build what you might call a "proper" facility, which we're in now. It's about 75-80,000 square feet on a ten-acre site. We've got about 200 people employed, servicing primarily retail, and we make a wide range of own-labeled products, including leafy salads, cole slaw, mayonnaise-based salads, pasta salads, couscous, stir fry, prepared veg, sandwich fillers and so on. We've got about 200 products that we produce fresh to order every day. That's what keeps me busy. 

What did you see in sprouts that gave you the confidence to invest the way you did? Was there one factor more than another?

Not really. One of the things that I like about the category that we're in is that there are so many opportunities. It's endless, or pretty near it. Over the years, we've tried lots of different things. Not all of them have worked, we've gone down a few avenues that turned out to be cul-de-sacs, but most of them worked. We've gotten lucky in that we've got great state support from Ireland as well. There is a great deal of import substitution, and we've got an organization here called Enterprise Ireland that's been extremely supportive of Irish industry. Couple that with Bord Bía, the Irish food marketing board that does wonderful work, and you have an environment where the supermarkets aren't afraid to try new ideas and it isn't extremely difficult to bring a new product to market. We've been successful over the years, and obviously it couldn't be done without a superb team of people around me, so I've been fortunate.

As an Irish company, have you found that there's a better reception of Nature's Best than there would be for a competitor imported from Western Europe or the U.S.?

Certainly in terms of the Irish consumer, people see freshness as paramount. There's also massive support for Irish jobs and Irish manufacturing at the moment. Also, in general terms of exports, Ireland is very lucky in that it's a small island on the west coast of Europe so the prevailing Western winds give us a nice climate and low pollution levels, both of which are very conducive to growing.

What do you do to unwind?

I try to get to the gym three or four times a week to stay reasonably fit, although people look at me and say that's an optical illusion. I am also very interested in multimedia and digital photography. I think that whole area holds a lot of potential in terms of promoting fruit and veg. Also, I took my first ever golf lesson this weekend.

How did that go?

How did that go? Well, I did sign up for another five, but the guy giving me the lesson had all sorts of high-tech equipment, including a video camera, and my swing was absolutely horrific. It was unbelievably bad, but he had software that would compare my swing to Ernie Els. Needless to say there was no similarity other than the fact that we both had a club in my hand.

Tell us about your family. Do you have kids?

The three brothers I mentioned have gotten into food in one form or fashion. One of my brothers took over the family farm and supplies us with some of our raw materials. Another brother is a pretty well-known chef in Ireland, and was recognized as Young Chef of the British Isles in the 90s. My eldest daughter told me a few weeks ago that I'm going to be a granddad over the summer. It's my first grandchild and I'm really looking forward to it. I've got four great kids, one is in music producer in Edinburg, one is a pilot with British Airways, and my youngest daughter is also in Edinburgh finishing school. She's studying biology and has a show on the campus radio station called Guilty Pleasures that focuses on health and diet. I'm able to listen on the internet, and the particular Friday I tuned in was March 18th, the day after St. Paddy's Day. It was one of those moments as a parent when you think "do I want to hear this, or don't I?" I heard a lot of advice on hangover cures, and I thought, "I never needed that when I was a student." Well, maybe I did.

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