February 2, 2012
In Today's Issue:
Produce Industry Voices Opposition to FSMA Fees

A letter signed by United Fresh and 30 other leading food and agriculture groups asked the Obama administration to secure congressional funding for FDA’s food safety activities. As the fresh produce industry awaits the release of the final Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) rules, there has been speculation that the implementation costs will be financed through producer fees. The administration suggested the fees in the FY 2012 budget, but the proposal was rejected by Congress. The FY 2013 budget is expected to be released February 13.

“Maintaining the safety of the foods we produce is the highest priority of the food makers we represent and should be considered a top national priority,” reads the letter, addressed Monday to Secretary of Health & Human Services Kathleen Sebelius and Jeffrey Zients, Director, Office of Management and Budget. “Federal food safety programs and inspections conducted by FDA benefit all American consumers and should be funded through appropriated funds.”

“United Fresh has consistently opposed fees or “food taxes” that place the financial burdens of implementation and enforcement of federal food safety requirements on the backs of our members,” said Robert Guenther, United’s senior vice president, public policy. “The produce industry is already investing a tremendous amount of resources at this time adhering to current food safety requirements and will be doing more when the new Food Safety Modernization Act is implemented.”

USDA Withdraws Potentially Devastating Labor Contract Rules

USDA announced Wednesday that it has withdrawn a proposed rule that would have had a severely detrimental effect on the ability of members of the produce industry to enter into procurement contracts with USDA. The withdrawal comes after United Fresh raised concerns about the proposal in a letter to USDA.

Under the proposed rule, an added clause would have required businesses that entered into a procurement contract with USDA to certify all of its subcontractors and suppliers were in compliance with labor laws.

“It’s well known that the fresh produce industry has struggled for a long time with the issue of securing an experienced, skilled labor pool of workers with the proper documentation,” stated Julie Manes, United’s director of government relations. “In spite of repeated efforts by our members to hire and retain workers with the proper authorization, it is extremely difficult to do so. A rule like this would have a devastating effect on our members’ ability to do business with USDA on programs such as the school lunch program. That’s why we asked that it be withdrawn.”

There is no word yet on whether the proposed contract regulation will be revised and resubmitted. United Fresh will continue to work with industry partners to ensure that this type of language proposed by USDA is not enacted.

For more information, contact Julie Manes at 202-303-3400.

Atlanta Falcons Score a Touchdown for Salad Bars

The Atlanta Falcons have set their sights on improving healthy eating options for Georgia school kids. The Atlanta Falcons Youth Foundation, in partnership with the CDC and Let’s Move Salad Bars to Schools, will donate more than a dozen salad bars to Georgia schools this year.

John Bare, vice president of the Atlanta Falcons Youth Foundation, hopes that kids will follow the healthy eating example set by their hometown football team. “These are extraordinary athletes and they know they need to put healthy food in their bodies to perform well on the field. It’s the same thing if you’re taking a math test or doing something else in school, to be a high performer, it matters what you put in your body.”

Georgia has the 2nd highest childhood obesity rate in the country, and Allison Goodman, nutritional director for Decatur City Schools, believes salad bars are part of the solution. “For them to be able to pick and choose what they want, we’re teaching them for a lifetime. They’re learning to eat for a lifetime by making the right decisions.”

Let’s Move Salad Bars to Schools and the Atlanta Falcons Youth Foundation will cover the cost of the salad bar and provide training. To see CBS Atlanta coverage of the partnership, click here. For more information on how to register your school for a salad bar, visit saladbars2schools.org or contact United’s Lorelei DiSogra, vice president of nutrition & health, at 202-303-3400.

United Fresh Takes Global View at Fruit Logistica’s FreshConex Expo

United Fresh invites you to join us at Fruit Logistica’s FreshConex Exposition in Berlin, Germany. The United booth will serve as the destination for United Fresh members attending the Fruit Logistica and FreshConex Expositions.

United Fresh is pleased to co-host the 5th Annual European Short Course on the Quality and Safety of Fresh-Cut Produce on February 6, just prior to the FreshConex and Fruilt Logistica Expositions.  Senior Vice President of Food Safety & Technology David Gombas will serve as an instructor for the course.

United Fresh, Fresh Convenience Magazine and Messe Berlin have partnered to develop educational sessions in the FreshConex Business Forum Sessions.  Attendees will hear from leaders in the fresh produce and fresh-cut sectors on technologies for new product developments, food safety, and innovations in fresh-cut marketing.  These forums will feature a number of United Fresh member speakers who will provide information on innovations within the fresh-cut and fresh convenience sector of the global produce industry.

On Wednesday February 8, United Fresh President & CEO, Tom Stenzel, and key European member leaders, including Paddy Callaghan, Nature’s Best, Limited; Klaus Klische, Fresh Factory GmbH + Co.; and Allesandro Turratti, Turatti, Srl will gather for the United Fresh Impact Forum. The discussion will focus on current issues facing the international fruit and vegetable community, such as food safety, increasing consumption and sales and the impact of government regulation. The session will also provide a valuable look towards future issues that will impact the Fresh Convenience sector and, ultimately, the global fruit and vegetable industry.

Following the Impact Forum, United Fresh will continue the annual tradition of hosting members and produce industry colleagues from around the world at its Global Reception to be held in the United Fresh Stand.

If you have questions about United Fresh activities at Fruit Logistica, please contact Jeff Oberman at 831-422-0940.

United’s Volunteer Leaders Get to Work at Annual Meeting

Scott Horfall, CA Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement, listens in to a general session.

United Fresh Produce Association held its annual Winter Leadership Meetings January 23-25 in San Diego. More than 200 industry volunteer leaders gathered to address critical issues facing the produce industry. The volunteer leaders in attendance represented a broad spectrum of United’s membership, and lent their valuable perspectives to shape the association’s goals for the coming year.

The Grower-Shipper Board focused on food safety with a presentation by United’s Dr. Barry Eisenberg on the Produce Food Safety Alliance, in cooperation with FDA and Cornell University. The Alliance education programs, expected to roll out later this spring, target smaller produce operations to help ensure they meet the same standards as larger companies. The board heard from experts about recall liability and insurance options for the industry. That discussion continued during a joint meeting with the Fresh-Cut Processor Board, with several members exchanging ideas for how to best manage a variety of food safety-related issues, and communication between processors and their grower-suppliers, as well as strategic messaging to share with produce buyers and ultimately, consumers. The Fresh-Cut Processor Board discussed new publication development for the promotion and increased consumption of Fresh-Cut and Value Added products as well as technical resources. The board also took a leadership role in planning for the fresh-cut processor education sessions schedule to take place at United Fresh 2012.

The Wholesaler-Distributor board discussed developing educational programs on transportation, traceability and sustainability for wholesalers and distributors. The board explored ways in which distributor members can share operations best practices and how to best support schools looking to integrate more produce into school meals.

The Retail Foodservice Board explored a number of key issues including ways to improve cold chain management in retail stores and foodservice operations, the impact of GS1 databar codes, and opportunities to enhance current programs such as Produce Inspection Training, Retail Produce Managers and Foodservice Excellence Awards Programs.

David Gombas (Left), United Fresh and Mike Taylor, FDA discuss FSMA.

The Supply Chain Logistics Council took a moment to recognize the recent success of the North American Produce Transportation Working Group (NAPTWG). The Council was instrumental in the development of NAPTWG’s Transportation Best Practices document and website, and is currently soliciting endorsers of the finished product. Members of the Council are now looking forward to developing the next set of best practices for rail, air, intermodal and ocean transportation.

Capping its first year of service, the Center for Global Produce Sustainability Advisory Board (SAB) met to develop the next steps for the Center.  The SAB is taking a comparative look at sustainability metrics and programs to determine what approach is most appropriate for the produce industry.

See last week’s IUF for information about remarks given by Mike Taylor, FDA’s Deputy Commissioner for Foods, on the forthcoming Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). Taylor gave his remarks during the January 25 General Session.

United Urges Lawmakers to Approve Increased Truck Weights

United Fresh Produce Association joined with other members of the food and agriculture industry to urge congressional leaders to retain needed truck-weight language in the upcoming Highway Reauthorization legislation, expected to be considered by the full Congress later this year.

In a letter addressed to leadership of the House of Representatives’ Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, United Fresh and a range of produce industry stakeholders asked for the Safe and Efficient Transportation Act (SETA)(H.R. 763) to be considered as an option for increasing truck weight.

“We believe SETA is a carefully crafted proposal with broad support that will safely improve transportation efficiency, facilitate economic growth and bring much-needed improvements to the American food supply chain,” stated the January 27 letter. “SETA will modernize U.S. truck weight limits, allowing the food and agriculture industry to safely enhance the efficiency of truck and connected modes of transportation.”

The Committee acted on the Highway Reauthorization earlier this week, and considered language that would allow states the option of increasing truck weights to 97,000 pounds with a sixth axle. Opponents of SETA countered with a proposal to authorize an alternative study of truck weights. United Fresh has long supported increased truck weights as a way to maximize truck loads and fuel and urged the Committee leadership to move forward with the widely-supported SETA proposal to increase truck weights.

“This initiative has been important to our industry for a long time and the effects of increased truck weights on safety have already been studied extensively. It’s been shown over and over that increased truck weights do not have a detrimental effect on highway safety,” said Julie Manes, United’s director of government relations. “It’s also important to remember that the language included originally in the Committee’s bill is an opt-in: states don’t have to enact higher truck weights. The proposal requires participating states to monitor the safety impacts of higher truck weights and report back to the Department of Transportation (DOT) and allows DOT to terminate the operation of 97,000 pound trucks on an Interstate route if it’s shown that it poses an unacceptable safety risk. The proposal balances safety with increased productivity and efficiency.”

For more information, contact Julie Manes at 202-303-3400.

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 dining at swanky steakhouse Al Biernat’s, romantic downtown eatery Dakota’s, or trendy patio spot Sfuzzi.

  • Al Biernat’s – TJ Fleming, Strube Celery & Vegetable Company
  • Dakota’s – Mark Girardin, North Bay Produce, Inc
  • Sfuzzi – Elizabeth Doerrfeld, Capital City Fruit Company

Register now to be eligible to win a gift certificate to next week’s featured restaurants: Bistro 31, Café Toulouse, and Private Social.

Bistro 31 draws inspiration from the salons and sidewalk cafés of the French Riviera. The menu focuses on light flavors and pulls together the freshest ingredients for sensational dishes. Favorites include brioche crusted lemon sole with petite ratatouille, bernaise aioli and Yukon potato mousseline or the Kobe burger on an olive oil roll with crispy pork belly, Gruyere, caramelized onions, house made pickles and pomme frites.

Café Toulouse replicates the rich and classic French-influenced Belgian cuisine with a slightly modern twist that can please the most adventurous palates and those with traditional tastes. Bustling, friendly waiters will deliver an expertly cooked trout almondine or the best mussels in the city, and you’ll taste why Café Toulouse was voted Best French Restaurant by Dallas Morning News.

Private Social offers two distinct themes: an intimate dining experience showcasing delicacies in Private, and a casual and stylish lounge area featuring shared-plates in Social. With Top Chef Finalist Chef Tiffany Derry at the helm, every dish is full of soulful creativity. Be sure to try the pan-seared scallops with parsnip, snow peas, chanterelle, and pomegranate or the wild boar ribs in tamarind BBQ sauce with Yukon potato salad and brussel slaw.

University of Georgia Offers HACCP Food Safety Course for Fresh Produce

United Fresh is proud to co-sponsor the University of Georgia’s Extension Food Science Outreach Program workshop on Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) food safety compliance for the fresh produce industry. The course will be held February 21-23 in Athens, Georgia and will feature interactive sessions to assist participants in developing a food safety plan they can implement in their specific operations.

The workshop will teach attendees how to how to develop and document Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs), Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), Sanitary Standard Operating Procedures (SSOPs) and Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs) for farm and field operations, packing facilities, cold storage operations and produce shippers. Specific break-out sessions will use HACCP principles to identify and prevent food safety hazards, set preventive/control measures and control limits, develop control and monitoring procedures, document and verify the results of their efforts, as established by the International HACCP Alliance. HACCP certification is earned upon passing the HACCP exam at the end of the course. Space is limited, so register today! For more information, click here or contact Eve Mayes at 706-542-0272.

Center for Global Produce Sustainability Welcomes New Board Member

United’s Center for Global Produce Sustainability welcomes Kathleen Phillips as its newest Advisory Board member. Phillips acts as sustainability coordinator at PRO*ACT, working collaboratively with all levels of the supply chain to enhance and further develop the PRO*ACT sustainability initiative. Prior to joining PRO*ACT Phillips led projects in corporate sustainability, carbon footprint analyses and strategic planning for sustainable business growth for Trebol Consulting in Laguna Beach, California.

“Kathleen brings a sharp perspective to the board. She is sure to be a great asset in formulating plans to help our members achieve their sustainability goals,” said Burleson Smith, United vice president of environmental affairs & sustainability and Advisory Board liaison.

The Center for Global Produce Sustainability represents an ongoing effort to shape how the world looks at the sustainability of the fresh fruit and vegetable industry. Founded in 2009 through a generous grant from Bayer CropScience, the Center’s mission is to help fresh produce supply chain members identify, measure, enhance and communicate their sustainability efforts. The Advisory Board, comprised of a diverse set of produce value chain members, guides the Center and provides insights on external market initiatives, regulations and public perceptions that affect the industry.

For more information, please visit the United Fresh Foundation website or contact Burleson Smith at 202-303-4300.

New Member Welcome

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

  • Garden Fresh Vegetables, O’Neill, NE

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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