June 2, 2011

In Today's Issue:

USDA's New MyPlate Will Dramatically Transform How Americans Eat

MyPlate, the dietary guidance icon released today by USDA, will revolutionize how Americans conceptualize and plan daily meals, with its landmark recommendation that each meal include half a plate of fruits and vegetables. United Fresh and the produce industry strongly support the adoption of MyPlate and the consumer message to "make half your plate fruits and vegetables."

"The new MyPlate and accompanying messaging is a tipping point in how Americans literally visualize what they should eat," said Tom Stenzel, president and CEO of United Fresh, who represented the produce industry at today's press conference at USDA. "The breakthrough message to ‘make half your plate fruits and vegetables' is simple, compelling and effective. It is a message that consumers can practice every day at every meal. The produce industry is firmly committed to working closely with USDA and others to support and promote MyPlate and the half a plate message as part of a lifetime of healthy eating."

In addition to being a leading advocate for policy changes to increase fruit and vegetable consumption to support the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, United Fresh has also emphasized the need for clear, persuasive consumer education that can effectively change consumers' dietary behavior. Last year, United provided input to USDA and the Department of Health and Human Services on ways to implement the core messages in the new dietary guidelines released in January 2011. In that input, United recommended that USDA and HHS:

  1. Provide clear, strong, compelling and actionable messages to consumers to increase fruit and vegetable consumption and other necessary dietary changes
  2. Use "Half Your Plate Should Be Fruits and Vegetables" to illustrate how many fruits and vegetables children and adults need to eat at every meal
  3. Commit to implementing policy and environmental changes that will create healthier food environments and systems-wide approaches.

"MyPlate and the 'make half your plate fruits and vegetables' message will have its most dramatic impact on improving child nutrition this fall in schools that have salad bars. Once kids learn to make half their plate fruits and vegetables and see the MyPlate icon, all it takes is a trip to their school's salad bar to make that happen," said Dr. Lorelei DiSogra, vice president of nutrition and health for United Fresh. "This messaging complements our exciting Let's Move Salad Bars to Schools initiative, which supports First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move! initiative to end childhood obesity. Combining this powerful new message to eat more produce with the increased availability that salad bars provide will benefit the health of millions of kids across our nation."

"Today, the government has taken a very positive step in recognizing and emphasizing the importance of eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables," added Stenzel. "It is now the responsibility of the produce industry to promote MyPlate and the ‘make half your plate fruits and vegetables' message at every opportunity, and continue providing the American people with a bounty of diverse, healthy, safe fruits and vegetables."

Video of today's unveiling can be seen here, and Stenzel's comments at the following press conference can be viewed here.

United's Lorelei DiSogra Talks with NPR, Washington Post on USDA's Landmark MyPlate

United Fresh Vice President of Nutrition and Health Dr. Lorelei DiSogra spoke with reporters all this week, highlighting the impact of today's unveiling of MyPlate, USDA's dietary guidance icon that replaces the twenty-year-old MyPyramid. Highlights include discussions with National Public Radio's April Fulton and the Washington Post's Brian Vastag. In her interviews, DiSogra underscored the simplicity of the new MyPlate imagery, and its effectiveness at conveying the message that all meals should include half a plate of fruits and vegetables.

"Half a plate is a very effective communications tool," DiSogra told Fulton on NPR's Morning Edition. "It's very compelling, it's very clear, it's very straightforward."

DiSogra also pointed to the new messaging's flexibility in terms of application when speaking with the Post's Vastag.

"This is a really, really big deal. It works on a plate, a bowl, a lunch bag," she said.

United Fresh has pointed to MyPlate and its message of half a plate of fruits and vegetables as one that has the potential for revolutionary change in the way Americans eat.

"The breakthrough message to ‘make half your plate fruits and vegetables' is simple, compelling and effective," said United Fresh President Tom Stenzel. "It is a message that consumers can practice every day at every meal."

European Consumers, Industry Rocked by E. coli Outbreak

A virulent strain of E. coli O104 has produced widespread illness in Europe in the past month, and is now responsible for more than 1,000 reported illnesses, nearly 400 cases of kidney failure, and 17 deaths. Last week, European officials began speculating about potential causes of the outbreak, leading to widespread unintended panic about different fruits and vegetables from different countries. Health officials still do not know what particular vehicle has caused the illnesses, but the impact on the fruit and vegetable trade throughout Europe has been huge, with countries banning products and consumer sales at retail being suspended for many items.

E. coli O104:H4 is an unusual form of pathogenic E. coli, similar to but different than the O157:H7 form of E. coli that has been linked to illness outbreaks in the U.S. Although an unusual strain, O104:H4 is likely to also originate from animals, so the controls that are recommended to control O157:H7 contamination (i.e., no use of raw or incompletely composted manure, control of agricultural water to prevent or detect animal contamination, and preventing or detecting animal intrusions in fields) are likely to be equally effective in preventing contamination by other pathogenic E. coli, including O104:H4. 

United Fresh is monitoring the situation closely with our counterpart Freshfel, the European Fresh Produce Association, based in Brussels. Freshfel has established a website for the latest information on the outbreak. United Fresh scientific and communications staff members are also available to answer questions from the trade or media, and are working to ensure that consumers and produce trade members know that no illnesses have been reported in North America linked to this outbreak, and no foods in commerce are suspected of being involved.

For more information, please contact United Fresh Communications Manager Patrick Delaney at 202-303-3400, ext. 417.

E. coli Outbreak in Europe to be Addressed at Fresh Convenience Congress

The current E. coli outbreak in Europe has captured global headlines and severely impacted the produce industry. United Fresh has added a special general session entitled, E. coli Outbreak - An Industry Discussion on Wednesday, June 15, during the Fresh Convenience Congress.

The session will be led by United Fresh President and CEO Tom Stenzel, who will share the stage with industry leaders and member companies from the region.

"This outbreak signals an important time and need for the industry to come together," said Jeff Oberman, United's vice president of membership and trade relations. "The discussion will look at lessons learned from the 2006 and 2008 food safety outbreaks in the United States and apply those lessons toward maintaining consumer confidence in fresh fruits and vegetables."

To review the full education program schedule for the Fresh Convenience Congress, 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. 

United's Fresh-Cut Board Provides Comments on New USDA Fresh-Cut Purchasing Guidelines

United's Fresh-Cut Processor Board provided comments today to USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service for a proposed revision to their commercial guidelines for purchase of fresh-cut cauliflower and broccoli. USDA uses these descriptions in purchasing product for school meals and other feeding programs. In this case, both documents mean that fresh-cut versions of these products are more likely to be on their purchasing list in the future.

"United Fresh and the volunteer leaders on the Fresh-Cut Processor Market Segment Board have worked hard to encourage USDA to begin looking at ways to buy more fresh and fresh-cut products, so this really is great news," said Jeff Oberman, staff liaison to the Fresh-Cut Board.

Today's comments to the USDA were led by Fresh-Cut board member John Schaefer of Gold Coast Packing and included representatives from Apio, Church Brothers, Mann Packing and Taylor Farms.

"These member companies represent stakeholders and processors of broccoli and cauliflower florets, and their involvement ensures that we have provided USDA with comments that reflect the views of industry members likely to be in a position to provide florets to the retail and foodservice markets in the United States," added Oberman.

For more information contact Oberman at 831-422-0940.

USDA to Deliver Free, Spanish-Language Webinar About PACA Services

Later this month, USDA will deliver a free Spanish-language webinar on services available from the department's Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act (PACA) Branch.

The June 23 webinar, "An Introduction to PACA - In Spanish," is part of an ongoing webinar series presented by USDA to keep the fruit and vegetable industry informed about the programs available to support them. This is the first webinar to be delivered in Spanish. "The Hispanic population plays a large role in the produce industry, so we felt it was important to deliver this webinar in Spanish," said Robert Keeney, deputy administrator of USDA's Fruit and Vegetable Programs. 

During the webinar, Pat Romero, regional director in the Western Regional PACA office in Tucson, AZ, will explain how PACA helps companies resolve business disputes and protects the fruit and vegetable industry. Following a formal presentation, webinar participants will have the opportunity to ask questions

Registration for the webinar is free and is required to participate. For more information, contact USDA's Christopher Purdy at 202-720-3209.

Learn from USDA Inspectors What Really Makes the Grade

United Fresh is pleased to announce the third and final 2011 installment of its popular Produce Inspection Training Program, the produce industry's only USDA-instructed inspection training program, September 12-16 at the USDA Fresh Products Branch National Inspectors' Training and Development Center in Fredericksburg, VA. This hands-on training is designed to help produce industry receivers, handlers, buyers, shippers and sellers understand the complexities of the produce inspection process.

The program is offered in two specialized courses: Fundamentals of Produce Inspection and the Commodity Labs course. The two-day Fundamentals course is a prerequisite to the Labs course and focuses on inspection essentials, PACA, sampling procedures, and general market principles. The three-day Commodity Labs program applies the fundamental principals to real world inspections including the five most commonly requested commodities - grapes, lettuces, potatoes, strawberries and tomatoes - with up to seven additional commodities based on the attendees' most common preferences.

Class size is limited and registrations are accepted on a first-come, first-served basis. The registration fee for the introductory course is $895, $1225 for the advanced course, and $1925 for members for both courses taken together.  If three or more colleagues register for both courses at the same time, each receives a $100 discount.

To learn more, please click here or contact United's Victoria Backer at 202-303-3400, ext. 408.

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.

United Fresh 2011 Presentations Available at UnitedFresh.org

Did you miss a key presentation from United Fresh 2011? Not to worry, 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 in New Orleans last month 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.

Do You Know an Outstanding Grower?

Nominations are now being accepted for the 2011 Grower Achievement Award.

Given by the editors of American Vegetable Grower and sponsored by United Fresh and Syngenta, the annual award will be presented at United's Washington Public Policy Conference, October 3-5 at the Hyatt Regency Washington on Capitol Hill.

The Grower Achievement Award honors leading fruit and vegetable growers based on marketing, innovation, food quality and safety, and industry leadership, recognizing the honorees in a way that creates good news for the entire industry.

For more information on the award and to nominate an outstanding grower, click here, and for more on this fall's Washington Public Policy Conference, click here.

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