January 31, 2013
In Today's Issue:
United Fresh Sets Meetings in Conjunction with FDA Meetings on FSMA Rules

United Fresh will host a series of stakeholder meetings held in conjunction with the FDA public hearings on the proposed Produce Safety Rule and the Preventive Controls for Human Foods Rule. The first will be held February 27 in Washington, DC, immediately prior to FDA’s public meeting on February 28 – March 1. The United Fresh meetings will provide opportunities for fresh produce industry stakeholders to learn about and respond to the proposed rules.

“United’s extensive FSMA rules review process involves members from all segments of the industry, and these meetings will be critical to ensuring that the comments we submit are reflective of that,” said Dr. David Gombas, United senior vice president of food safety and technology. “I encourage all members to review the resources that we have made available and attend a meeting to give us feedback.”

Two additional United Fresh meetings will be announced as FDA releases dates and locations for their public meetings. FDA will hold a total of three public meetings for each of the rules, as required by law, with the remaining two expected to be held in other regions of the country.

United’s two working groups, one for each rule, have already begun a deliberative process to review the proposals. The working groups are comprised of United’s volunteer leaders, representing a broad spectrum and expertise of the produce industry. The working groups bring together members of the Food Safety & Technology Council, Government Relations Council, and other volunteer leadership groups. Comments generated by the working groups and the broader membership will be compiled and approved by United’s Board of Directors before being submitted to FDA.

For more information about the proposed Produce and Preventive Controls Rules, please visit United’s FSMA Resources page at: unitedfresh.org/fsma or contact Dr. David Gombas, United Fresh senior vice president of food safety and technology, at 202-303-3400.


FDA’s Taylor Calls for Dialogue with United Fresh on FSMA Rules

Mike Taylor, FDA deputy commissioner, speaks to United Fresh volunteer leaders via video link about the need for produce industry input on proposed FSMA rules.

Speaking before a packed luncheon during United’s Winter Leadership Meetings in Tucson, Mike Taylor, FDA’s deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine, underscored the need for cooperation with the produce industry during review of proposed food safety rules. Presenting his remarks via a video link, Taylor expressed support for direct communication in face-to-face meetings, beyond the formal comments process, as part of the review of the proposed Produce Rule and Preventive Controls Rule under the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).

“Let’s find a way to arrange for some direct dialogue between United Fresh staff and its members and the folks here at FDA,” said Taylor. “We want to hear directly from you, in addition to the written comments. It’s not a substitute for the written comments and building a written record, but we want to use every way we can to get these rules right and get through this process, so please engage and help us get there.”

The deputy commissioner took questions from the luncheon audience on a range of issues. In response to a question about how soon farms would be subject to compliance for the Produce Rule, he predicted that the final rule would take at least a year to complete. Because the rule allows a two year delay for the largest farms to comply, Taylor expected it would be a minimum of three years before any farms would face FSMA enforcement.

“This is a transitional process,” Taylor said in describing the rules review and enforcement. “Taking the time to get the standards right and get the implementation right. We’re working hard to make this supportive of what the produce community is trying to do, and not disruptive, either from a food safety standpoint or a commercial standpoint.”

Added Taylor, “Because of the incredible diversity of the produce industry, the Produce Rule is the most challenging of any regulation or regulatory process I’ve been involved in.”

For more information, please contact Dr. David Gombas, United Fresh senior vice president of food safety and technology, at 202-303-3400.


United Fresh Applauds Bipartisan Senate Immigration Principles

Comprehensive immigration reform is gaining momentum, and it’s encouraging that fresh produce industry concerns are addressed in the most recent Senate proposal.

United Fresh applauds the framework for comprehensive immigration reform put forward this week by a bipartisan group of eight senators. The Agriculture Workforce Coalition (AWC), of which United is a founding member, has made an impact on the discussion as a broad, unifying agriculture coalition.

“This bipartisan initiative addresses a top priority and longstanding challenge for fresh produce industry employers,” said Tom Stenzel, United Fresh president & CEO. “We’re encouraged these senators have taken the lead and we look forward to further developing these principles into effective legislation.”

United Fresh and the AWC remain committed to the goal of ensuring that agricultural employers have access to a stable and skilled workforce. Especially important is that any eventual legislation addresses the needs of both current on-farm employees in need of an adjustment in immigration status and the future workforce requirements of employers. Quite simply, American agriculture as we know it would not be possible without the contributions of more than 1.5 million hired workers each year. This position is consistent with the principles outlined by the senators today, which reflects a critical step towards reform that preserves the competitiveness and productivity of the agriculture industry.

The senators’ announcement was followed by remarks by President Obama in Las Vegas on Tuesday. Obama’s speech indicated growing momentum for immigration reform and signaled support for the circulated proposal, saying the principles were “very much in line” with his own objectives, but noted several points on which the White House and Congress may still need to discuss.

Additional information on the AWC can be found on its website: www.agworkforcecoalition.org.


Expert Partners Contribute to FSMA Review in Webinar Series

United Fresh has teamed up with the International Association for Food Protection (IAFP) and the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) to produce two webinars providing details about the FDA’s proposed Produce Rule under the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). The webinars offer insights and analysis of the draft FSMA rule from FDA, university experts, and United Fresh food safety leaders and legal counsel.

FDA’s Proposed FSMA Produce Rule Webinar: Learn from the Experts
Thursday, February 7: 11:00 am-12:30 pm EST / 8:00-9:30 am PST
This webinar, in partnership with the IAFP, will cover the proposed Produce Rule and is free of charge. Featured speakers on the webinar will be:

  • Dr. James Gorny, Senior Advisor, Office of Food Safety, FDA CFSAN
  • David Durkin, Legal Counsel, OFW Law

The session will be moderated by Dr. David Gombas, United Fresh Senior Vice President, Food Safety and Technology, and Dr. Kali Kniel, University of Delaware, Vice Chair of the IAFP Fruit and Vegetable Safety and Quality Professional Development Group.

Produce Safety Standards: FDA and Industry Expert Insights Webinar
Monday, February 11: 12:00-1:30 pm EST / 9:00-10:30 am PST
This webinar, in partnership with the IFT, will cover the proposed Produce Rule. Join expert presenters to learn more on the content of the proposed rule, what implications may exist, and how this proposed rule impacts you and your company. The webinar will conclude with a live Q&A session. The webcast costs $49. Featured speakers will be:

  • Dr. Samir Assar, Director, Produce Safety Staff, FDA CFSAN
  • Dr. James Gorny, Senior Advisor, Office of Food Safety, FDA CFSAN
  • Dr. David Gombas, Senior Vice President, Food Safety and Technology, United Fresh

The webinars compliment the work being done by United’s Produce Rule and Preventive Control Rule working groups, comprised of experts and industry leaders, to lead a series of meetings and webinars on the proposed Produce Safety and Preventive Controls Rules. The working groups are comprised of United’s volunteer leaders, representing a broad spectrum and expertise of the produce industry to ensure the input of the entire fresh produce supply chain is reflected in the final rules.

Registration and more information about the webinars is available on the United Fresh FSMA page at: unitedfresh.org/fsma. Members will also find resources about the FSMA proposed rules, including an FDA PowerPoint presentation summarizing the new rules, FDA fact sheets and the full text of both draft rules, as well as federal register notices. For more information, please contact Erin Grether, United’s government relations coordinator, at 202-303-3402.


Dr. Gombas Appointed to National Advisory Committee on Microbiological Criteria for Foods

Dr. Gombas has been appointed to committee that will advise on key FSMA implementation provisions

United Fresh congratulates Dr. David Gombas, senior vice president of food safety and technology, on his appointment to the National Advisory Committee on Microbiological Criteria for Foods (NACMCF). The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced the re-chartering of the committee and 22 new members on January 28.

The committee is charged with providing recommendations to the Secretaries of Agriculture and Health and Human Services on microbiological criteria by which the safety and wholesomeness of food can be assessed. That work includes criteria for microorganisms that indicate whether foods have been adequately and appropriately processed.

“With the Food Safety Modernization Act rulemaking process moving along, the NACMCF is critical to helping the government implement the new law with sound science,” said Tom Stenzel, United Fresh president and CEO. “United is proud to represent the fresh produce industry on this influential committee.”

Established in 1988, NACMCF formulates positions on the development of microbiological criteria, the review and evaluation of epidemiological and risk assessment data and methodologies for assessing microbiological hazards in foods. The committee's work also assists the CDC and the Departments of Commerce and Defense. The committee membership consists of scientists from academia, industry, other organizations, and federal and state government as well as one individual affiliated with a consumer group, who is serving in a representational capacity. NACMCF members are appointed by the USDA Secretary in consultation with the Secretary of HHS with advice on membership from the Department of Commerce's National Marine Fisheries Service, the Department of Defense's Defense Logistics Agency, and the Department of Health and Human Services' Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The current charter for the NACMCF and a list of the 22 newly appointed and eight returning members can be viewed here.

United Fresh Shares PTI Knowledge at Peruvian Seminar

Dan Vaché addresses an audience of Peruvian exporters on the importance of the Produce Traceability Initiative to food safety and securing market access.

Dan Vaché, United Fresh vice president of supply chain management, and Robert Guenther, senior vice president of public policy, traveled to Lima, Peru to present at the International Produce Traceability Initiative & Food Safety Seminar last week. The January 22 seminar provided education on the new standards, recommendations and requests in the U.S. market place to attain whole chain traceability and help remove any barriers for Peruvian exporters to become compliant. Peruvian exporters had the opportunity to talk with United staff and Ed Treacy, PMA vice president of supply chain efficiencies, to learn firsthand about the newest developments in PTI. Participants then had the opportunity to exchange ideas and questions with the speakers in an interactive question and answer session following the presentation. 

Vaché guided the audience through the benefits of the PTI from the grower to consumer, highlighting the long and often convoluted produce supply chain. He pointed out the various opportunities in the US market for Peruvian products as indicated by the growth of fresh produce imports from Peru. “Demand for fresh fruit and vegetables is growing globally and food safety programs, along with traceability, are important components for all exporters to understand and implement,” he said. “We continue to seek opportunities to assist the industry by providing education on the steps to become compliant with the PTI recommendations.”

For more information, please contact Dan Vaché, United’s vice president of supply chain management, at 425-629-6271.


Find a Taste of San Diego in a Neighborhood Kitchen Overflowing with Fresh Seafood

Congratulations to Michael Bader, ALDI Inc, this week’s winner of our Taste of San Diego give away. Mr. Bader will receive a gift certificate to dine at Gabardine. If you’re looking for somewhere to relax and enjoy amazing food, Gabardine is the place. At Chef Brian Malarkey’s Point Loma restaurant, you’ll experience a cheerful interior and playful food in a “neighborhood kitchen” with all the right touches. Gabardine serves up seafood, small plates, and classics to locals and visitors alike. If you’re craving a taste of the sea, start with something from the oyster bar, which features local items like Baja Oysters and more unique choices like Malpeque Oysters from British Columbia.

Every Thursday through May 2, 2013, United Fresh will draw one lucky winner from the United Fresh 2013 registered attendee list. Each winner will receive a $100 gift certificate to one of San Diego's finest restaurants, courtesy of our promotional sponsor, Diversified Restaurant Systems, Inc.

Register today for United Fresh 2013 and you'll be automatically entered for United's Taste of San Diego giveaway. You could win a gift certificate to one of the best restaurants in San Diego!

Register now for your chance at next week’s featured restaurant, On the Border Mexican Grill & Cantina! Originally based on sizzling fajitas, frosty margaritas, happy hour and a booming patio, OTB has evolved and expanded over time to include a variety of craveable dishes inspired by the cuisines of South Texas and Mexico.

The sooner you register, the greater your chances to win a certificate to one of these stellar restaurants:

Baci Ristorante
Bertrand at Mister A’s
Bully’s East
Donovan's Steak & Chop House
George’s at the Cove
Island Prime
Mille Fleurs
On the Border Mexican Grill & Cantina
Pamplemousse Grill
Poseidon on the Beach
Ruth's Chris Steak House
The Marine Room
The Oceanaire Seafood Room
The Prado at Balboa Park

Learn more about these great restaurants and how you can experience a Taste of San Diego!

Changes Proposed to the Harmonized Standards

In June 2012, the Technical Working Group of the Produce GAPs Harmonization Initiative officially adopted the Post-harvest Operations Harmonized Food Safety Standards, and also approved six changes to the Field Operations and Harvesting Harmonized Food Safety Standards. The changes were recommended to fill gaps in the existing standards, which were last reviewed in 2011.

Those changes are posted on the United Fresh harmonization webpage for full industry comment. Please email any comments regarding the proposed changes to Dr. David Gombas, United Fresh senior vice president food safety and technology (dgombas@unitedfresh.org), who is coordinating the Initiative. Comments will be accepted through March 31, 2013, after which revisions will become officially part of the Standards. Questions should be directed to Dr. David Gombas or Erin Grether, at 202-303-3400.

SQF to Submit Harmonized Standards to GFSI for Benchmarking
Welcome New Members!

Safe Qualified Food (SQF) Institute has been a participant in the Produce GAPs Harmonization Initiative since the beginning, and has announced its intent to submit the Field Operations and Harvesting Harmonized Food Safety Standards, verbatim, to the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) as an alternative “Module 7H”. 

SQF recently was successfully re-benchmarked to the GFSI standards.  Their currently approved Module 7, for Growing and Production of Fresh Produce, is based on the GFSI Guidance Document, 6th Edition.  According to SQF Senior Technical Director LeAnn Chuboff, Module 7H has been reviewed by the SQF Technical Committee and is available here for stakeholder review and comment.  If Module 7H is approved by GFSI, operations choosing to obtain SQF certification using Module 7H would also have to comply with all requirements in SQF Module 2, System Elements, many of which are consistent with the Harmonized Standards’ General Questions. 

“SQF requires all operations, produce or otherwise, to be in compliance with Module 2 and with all other SQF certification requirements,” said Dr. David Gombas, United Fresh senior vice president of food safety and technology and coordinator for the Produce GAPs Harmonization Initiative.  “We’re very pleased to see SQF propose to offer this alternative module for operations that have adopted the Harmonized Standards, and enable producers to reduce the number of audits they have to endure.” 

The Harmonized Standards alone cannot be benchmarked by GFSI, as GFSI only benchmarks audit “schemes” which include an audit process.  “Pairing the Harmonized Standards with the SQF process, which has already been benchmarked by GFSI, offers another option to producers whose buyers are requiring certification to a GFSI-benchmarked standard,” said Gombas. 

SQF has invited comments to the proposed Module 7H and asked that they be submitted to info@sqfi.com with the subject line “Module 7H comments”.  The Produce GAPs Harmonization Initiative will continue to work with SQF and GFSI to achieve a successful benchmarking of the Harmonized Standards in this Module.

For more information, please contact Dr. David Gombas, United Fresh senior vice president of food safety and technology, at 202-303-3400.


United Fresh Seeks Rising Leaders for 19th Annual Produce Industry Leadership Program
Welcome New Members!
Leadership Class 18 visits Brandt farms in California on a trip last year.

The application period is now open for the 19th annual class of the United Fresh Produce Industry Leadership Program, presented by the United Fresh Foundation’s Center for Leadership Excellence. The program, made possible through a generous grant from DuPont Crop Protection, is a special opportunity for United Fresh members to advance their leadership skills and knowledge.

Launched in 1995, the Produce Industry Leadership Program is the only ongoing, fully paid leadership program for the produce industry. The program is developed around the four fundamental goals of leadership development, business relationships, government and public affairs, and media and public relations.

During the year-long fellowship, participants will take part in a series of customized trips which include face-to-face meetings with leading industry players, hands-on training with top industry experts and educators, interactive experiences with influential leaders in Washington and more. This year's schedule will feature expansive trips to Michigan, Ontario, Washington, DC, Wilmington, DE, Yuma, and Chicago. The class will graduate at the 2014 United Fresh Convention.

Participation in the program is limited to 12 fellows who are selected by an Advisory Committee, chaired this year by United Fresh Board member and program alumnus Lisa Strube of Strube Celery & Vegetable Company. The fellows are chosen from a broad cross-section of the industry to represent the breadth of the United Fresh membership. Since the program’s inception, more than 200 industry members have participated.

“The program is a year-long exploration of the many facets of the produce industry while teaching the professional skills and personal development that are vital to success,” said Strube. “It is a life-changing experience and an opportunity that I recommend to anyone who is committed to advancing their career.”

Candidates interested in applying for the program can download information and an application at unitedfreshfoundation.org. The deadline for applications is Monday, March 11, 2013. The Leadership Program is an exclusive program for United Fresh members only. There is no cost to participate in the program and all regular expenses are covered by the program. For more information, please contact Shannon Young, United Fresh education manager, at syoung@unitedfresh.org or 202-303-3405.


Deadline to Be Counted in Census of Agriculture is February 4
Welcome New Members!

The fresh produce industry has the opportunity to be counted by completing the Census of Agriculture. Conducted every five years by USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), the Census captures a complete count of all U.S. farms, ranches and those who operate them. The data is used to inform agriculture policies and secure funding for industry services, which makes fresh produce industry participation in the Census vitally important. 

“United members should take advantage of the opportunity to be counted and represent the fresh produce industry,” said Ray Gilmer, United Fresh vice president of issues management & communications. “The Census is an important source of data used by federal, state and local governments, and other entities, and a strong showing can create benefits for the industry.”

The Census looks at land use and ownership, operator characteristics, production practices, income and expenditures and other topics. In 2007, U.S. farmers reported over two million farms, spanning across more than 922 million acres. This showed nearly a four percent increase in the number of U.S. farms from the previous Census in 2002. These new farms tended to have more diversified production, fewer acres, lower sales and younger operators who also worked off-farm.

Census responses are due by February 4th. Producers may complete their forms online. For more information about the Census, visit www.agcensus.usda.gov.


Chairman’s Roundtable Thanks 2013 Supporters
Welcome New Members!

The 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 2013 Chairman’s Roundtable:

  • Field Fresh Foods, Gardena, CA
  • Mann Packing Company, Salinas, CA
  • State Garden, Inc. Chelsea, MA
  • Stellar Distributing, Madera, 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 Vice President of Membership & Marketing Miriam Wolk at 202-303-3410.


New Member Welcome
Welcome New Members!

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

  • Martori Farms, Scottsdale, AZ
  • McKay TransCold, LLC, Shakopee, MN

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 831-600-8922 or Miriam Wolk at 202-303-3410.


Upcoming United Fresh Events

day plannerJoin us for events designed to grow your business:

United Fresh at Fruit Logistica
February 5-8, Berlin, Germany

FDA's Proposed FSMA Produce Rule Webinar
February 7, 11-12:30pm ET, in collaboration with International Association for Food Protection

Produce Safety Standards: FDA and Industry Expert Insights Webinar
February 11, 12-1:30pm ET, in collaboration with Institute of Food Technologists

United Fresh FSMA Rules Stakeholder Meeting
February 27, Washington, DC

2013 Produce Executive Development Program
March 10-15, 2013, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY
United Fresh 2013 
May 14-16, 2013, San Diego Convention Center, San Diego, CA