January 26, 2012
In Today's Issue:
Fruits and Vegetables Star in USDA’s New School Meal Standards

First Lady Michelle Obama

First Lady Michelle Obama and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack celebrated the release of new school nutrition standards Wednesday at Parklawn Elementary School in Alexandria, VA. Dr. Lorelei DiSogra, United’s vice president of nutrition and health, also participated in the announcement, applauding the long-awaited improvements.

“As parents, we try to prepare decent meals, limit how much junk food our kids eat, and ensure they have a reasonably balanced diet," said First Lady Michelle Obama. "When we send our kids to school, we expect that they won't be eating the kind of fatty, salty, sugary foods that we try to keep them from eating at home. We want the food they get at school to be the same kind of food we would serve at our own kitchen tables."

The new standards will align the National School Breakfast and Lunch Programs with the 2010 Dietary Guidelines, which emphasized increased consumption of fruits and vegetables. The result will be a doubling in the amount of fruits and vegetables served to 32 million students nationwide. A detailed comparison of the current requirements and what will be acceptable under the new standards can be viewed here.

“We are very excited that fruits and vegetables will be the stars of healthier school meals. Children like fresh fruits and vegetables and they will be eating more next school year when this regulation takes effect,” said Dr. DiSogra. “Increasing children’s consumption of fruits and vegetables will improve their health and reduce their risk of childhood obesity. We support this landmark effort by First Lady Michelle Obama and USDA to create healthier school meals and healthier school food environments for millions of America’s children.”

“Our members are partnering with schools across the country to increase access to fresh fruits and vegetables in school meals,” said United President Tom Stenzel. "This is a great step towards providing our children with a foundation for healthy eating for the rest of their lives, and the fresh produce industry is proud to be involved.”

In addition to improving fresh produce options in the cafeteria, the standards will also increase whole grain foods, reduce the amount of saturated fat, trans fats and sodium in school meals, allow only fat-free or low-fat milk varieties and limit calories based on the age of the children being served. The cost associated with the implementation of these changes has been reduced by phasing some pieces in over the next three years.

The complete final rule can be read here. For more information, please contact Lorelei DiSogra at 202-303-3400.

FDA’s Taylor Looks Ahead to Food Safety Rule at United Leadership Meeting

Mike Taylor, FDA (right)
Walter Ram, United Food Safety & Technology Chairman
VP Food Safety, The Giumarra Companies

Mike Taylor
Deputy Commissioner for Foods, FDA

Underscoring that FDA and the produce industry must work together to implement the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), Mike Taylor, FDA’s Deputy Commissioner for Foods, shared a vision of industry and government collaboration for achieving produce food safety at United’s Winter Leadership Meetings in San Diego. Taylor and Dr. Jim Gorny, FDA’s senior advisor for produce safety, participated in Wednesday’s general session, which was attended by more than 100 of United’s volunteer leaders.

“It’s gratifying to me that we are on a path to the mandatory federal standards that are important for regulating food safety,” Taylor said in remarks at the general session. “We’re not close to done yet, but I think we’re on the right path.”

FDA missed a January 4 goal for releasing the set of FSMA rules, including a preventive controls rule in food facilities, a foreign supplier verification rule, and a produce safety rule. The Office of Management and Budget is currently reviewing the rules, each of which are believed to be several hundred pages. FDA is expected to make the rules public in the coming weeks.

In his remarks, Taylor said that FDA has been working to conduct outreach to the produce industry for input on how to convert the concepts in the voluntary guidance into mandatory rules. “It’s one thing to provide guidance, it’s another to establish enforceable rules,” he said.

“It’s going to take sustained commitment, it’s going to take sustained leadership and it’s going to take sustained collaboration,” Taylor added. “Collaboration is really the only way we are going to succeed on this. A lot of what’s going to happen to make food safe in the next five or ten years will not be what the government does, but it’s going to be the supply chain working together with common standards to achieve food safety.”
Taylor said the FDA will work to help the produce community to understand the rules, including outreach, education, training, technical assistance, with particular focus on the smaller firms that are “not yet there” in terms of implementing modern preventive controls. “This can’t just be FDA puts rules on the books and sends an inspector – it doesn’t work that way,” he said.

Particularly in the produce arena, Taylor said FDA inspection will play a limited role. “We have limited resources and there are many growers out there. We will do inspections, but we’re not going to inspect our way to produce safety. We envision private audits will be part of the system, we envision AMS certification will be part of the system and other things to provide the oversight to assure the public.”

Taylor said FDA will look for a higher level of assurance that new food safety standards are being met, and doing that more efficiently by relying on accredited third-party certification and other ways to demonstrate compliance domestically and internationally. “I think we can achieve the goals that United laid out years ago to better protect public health and enhancing consumer confidence,” he added.

Taylor admitted that funding FSMA implementation and enforcement will be a challenge, saying FDA will be looking for efficiencies and resources at a time when federal funding is tight.

“You’ve heard the fee discussion in the past and it hasn’t been one that affects growers, and I don’t anticipate that, frankly,” said Taylor. “But you’re going to hear the debate about how we fund this. I’m confident that if we work together to pull this off, we will succeed. If we don’t work together, I don’t think we will succeed.”

Taylor said FDA hasn’t yet determined how long the comment period for the rules will be, except to say that they will be at least 75 days. “That’s a relatively tight window to review these three proposed rules when they are published and provide comments back to FDA on what’s right and what needs to be revised. Once the comment period closes and the rules are finalized, there will be no changing them,” said Dr. David Gombas, United Fresh senior vice president food safety and technology. “Now, more than ever, the produce industry needs to work together to review these proposals, determine what’s right, and send compelling comments back to FDA.”

For more information, please contact United’s Dr. David Gombas at 202-303-3400.

United Fresh Volunteer Leaders Address Industry Issues at Winter Meetings

United Chairman Reggie Griffin addresses Volunteer Leaders

United’s Volunteer Leaders gathered in San Diego this week for the annual Winter Meetings and to honor United Chairman of the Board Reggie Griffin. More than 200 industry leaders met at Rancho Bernardo Inn, representing a broad spectrum of United’s membership, to address critical issues facing the produce industry.

A light rain wasn’t enough to keep players off the green at the golf tournament to honor United’s Chairman Reggie Griffin. The tournament was followed by a dinner to celebrate Griffin’s retirement after 42 years in the produce industry with The Kroger Company. The Chairman led business meetings on Tuesday and Wednesday, including the general session and Board of Directors meeting.

United’s market segment boards met Tuesday to review industry issues, hear from guest speakers and sharpen priorities for the association. The market segment meetings reflect interests of grower-shippers, wholesaler-distributors, fresh-cut processors, and retail-foodservice operators. Leaders from each of the boards reported their activities to United’s Board of Directors Wednesday to share discussion points from their meetings, including managing food safety liability, educational resources for wholesalers and distributors related to transportation and operations, and greater cooperation between grower-shippers and fresh-cut processors.

Also conducting meetings this week were the advisory board for United’s Center for Global Produce Sustainability, United Fresh Foundation board of directors, Food Safety & Technology Council, Nutrition & Health Council, Supply Chain Logistics Council, Federal Transportation Policy Task Force, United Fresh Member Relations Task Force, and the United Fresh Executive Committee.

For more details on the work done at the Winter Meetings that affects your business, stay tuned for next week’s Inside United Fresh!

Let United Fresh Treat You to Exceptional Dining at Dallas’ Finest Restaurants

Register today for United Fresh 2012 and you’ll be automatically entered for United’s Taste of Dallas giveaway! You could win a gift certificate to one of the 50 best restaurants in Dallas!

Every Thursday through April 26, 2012, United Fresh will draw three lucky winners from the United Fresh 2012 registered attendee list. Each winner will receive a $100 gift certificate to one of Dallas’ finest restaurants, courtesy of our promotional sponsor, FreshPoint Dallas. Watch for next week’s Inside United Fresh to see if you’re a winner.

Congratulations to this week’s winners! They’ll be enjoying American fine-dining at Hillstone, traditional Mexican food with bursts of flavor at Mi Cocina, or the casual elegance of Mercury Grill. 

  • Hillstone – Friedrich Balms, Gartenfrisch Jung GMBH
  • Mi Cocina– Ross Foca, East Coast Fresh Cuts
  • Mercury Grill – Joe Klare, Castellini Company LLC

Register now to be eligible to win a gift certificate to next week’s featured restaurants: Al Biernat’s, Dakota’s and Sfuzzi.

Al Biernat’s is known as a swanky steakhouse where the proprietor himself will greet you at the door.Highlights of the menu include Pan Seared Sea Bass over Lobster Risotto, Australian Cold Water Lobster Tail, Colorado Lamb Chops and Elk Filet, and all can be perfectly paired with an extensive wine list.

Dakota's has been a downtown Dallas dining icon for over 25 years, with a patio often considered the most romantic spot to dine in town. The steakhouse is known for its prime, dry-aged cuts, and also offers succulent options from the sea.

Sfuzzi brings back memories of an old New York City pizzeria and boasts a wrap-around patio complete with fireplace and flat-screen TVs. Hearty pizzas, pastas loaded with fresh ingredients, and those classic dishes like chicken parmesan and lasagna Bolognese await you at the restaurant called “the hottest spot in Uptown” by examiner.com.

Chairman’s Roundtable Thanks 2012 Supporters

United Fresh’s Chairman's Roundtable provides extra support for programs in government relations, food safety, nutrition policy and other areas to help grow the produce industry. We are pleased to recognize the following companies who have committed to the 2012 Chairman’s Roundtable:

  • Boskovich Farms, Oxnard, CA

The Chairman's Roundtable is an opportunity for United Fresh member companies to contribute above and beyond their basic dues. Roundtable members are industry leaders who set the pace in building United Fresh's strength in areas that do not generate their own revenue. Members of Chairman's Roundtable enjoy special recognition throughout the year for their support. For more information on the Chairman’s Roundtable, please contact Senior Director of Membership Miriam Miller Wolk at 202-303-3410.

New Member Welcome

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

  • Dovetail Partner Promotions, Leawood, KS
  • Rabobank, Fresno, CA
  • The Jel Sert Company, Seguin, TX
  • Worldwide Produce Direct, LLC, Tampa, FL

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 Wolk at 202-303-3410.

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