|February 28, 2013
|United Fresh Voices Concern for Small Farm Exemptions at FDA Food Safety Hearing
Dr. David Gombas speaks at the FDA public hearing on the potential consequences of small farm exemptions in the proposed Produce Rule.
FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg opens the public FDA hearing February 28 in Washington, DC, thanking the industry for their continued involvement in the development of the rules.
United Fresh members and staff are participating in the first public hearings organized by FDA to hear feedback on the draft Produce Rule and Preventive Controls Rule under the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). In today’s (Thursday) Washington, DC, hearing, which focused on the proposed Produce Rule, Dr. David Gombas, senior vice president, food safety and technology, raised concerns about the proposed exemption of smaller farms.
“It potentially allows certain small operations to side-step food safety practices and provide consumers who buy directly from them a lesser level of food safety assurance than those who buy from conventional markets,” said Gombas. “After all, pathogens don’t know what size operation they’re on.”
Additionally, Gombas warned that FDA’s yet unpublished rules, including a rule for foreign supplier verification, represent a “suite of interlocking regulations” that could have significant impact on several aspects of the draft Produce Rule. “We hope that all stakeholders will be allowed the time to review and comment on all of these rules together,” Gombas added.
In remarks starting the hearing, FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg thanked the produce industry, consumer advocates and other stakeholders for participating in the draft rule review process, saying, “We can protect the safety of the food supply and economic vigor of the food industry if everyone works together.”
Dr. Hamburg underscored the FSMA requirement to improve food safety standards for imported produce as well, recognizing the increasingly global nature of our food supply. “Regulated products know no borders,” she said.
“It’s going to take years to transform the safety of the global food supply, but I think it’s worth it,” added Mike Taylor, FDA’s deputy commissioner for Foods and Veterinary Medicine.
United Fresh members and staff will participate in tomorrow’s FDA FSMA hearing devoted to the draft Preventive Controls Rule. FDA has slated two more sets of FSMA public hearings for Chicago March 11-12 and Portland, OR March 27-28. For more information, visit UnitedFresh.org/FSMA or call Dr. David Gombas at 202-303-3400.
|United Working Groups Review Proposed Food Safety Rules
Dr. David Gombas and United’s working groups go line by line through the proposed FSMA rules ahead of the FDA public meeting.
In advance of this week’s important FDA public hearings on the proposed FSMA rules, United hosted planning meetings of its working groups for the draft Produce Rule and draft Preventive Controls Rule Wednesday in Washington, DC. More than 20 working group members, representing member companies and industry organizations, participated in each of the meetings to closely review the FDA’s proposals for regulating produce food safety under the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act.
“These proposed rules are very complex and incorporate definitions and assumptions that can profoundly shape how the final regulations will affect produce industry operations,” said Robert Guenther, senior vice president of public policy. “We will be seeking clarification from FDA about these definitions and assumptions, including making sure there is consistency between the two proposed rules.”
Dr. David Gombas, senior vice president of food safety and technology, led both working groups through a detailed review of both draft rules. The working group members provided expert analysis on a broad range of topics, such as water quality and soil amendments, that help form the basis for the proposed rules.
Additional working group meetings or teleconferences will be scheduled in the coming weeks to coincide with FDA’s public meetings in Chicago and Portland, OR. United anticipates completing the review phase of the proposed rules by the end of March. Final comments are due to FDA by May 16; however, United expects to request a comments deadline extension.
For more information, please contact Dr. David Gombas at 202-303-3400.
|United Fresh Works to Advance Immigration Priorities in Congress
As momentum gathers behind the prospect of comprehensive immigration reform this year, United Fresh has participated in major hearings and meetings on Capitol Hill, lent support to the Agriculture Workforce Coalition, and organized a grassroots effort to push for reform.
“Immigration reform has a real chance at passing Congress this year,” predicted United Fresh Senior Vice President of Public Policy Robert Guenther. “United is working to ensure that the unique needs of agriculture are included in any reform package that Congress considers. The feedback we’ve received from congressional leaders is encouraging, though there are more details that will need to be worked out.”
On February 26, the House Judiciary Committee held a hearing to examine the current H-2A program and what legislative steps are necessary to create a workable guest worker program. United Fresh member Chalmers Carr, President and CEO of Titan Farms, was a witness at the hearing, along with American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman, Michael J. Brown, President of the National Chicken Council, and Giev Kashkooli, Political and Legislative Director with United Farm Workers.
Carr relayed his struggles to secure a stable workforce, and emphasized the need for immigrant labor in light of food safety. “I would rather see this country admit foreign workers and be able to grow, harvest, and pack our food supply on our fertile American soils under our regulations than to import our food supply from abroad,” Carr explained. His full testimony can be read here.
On the same day, United Fresh and the Agriculture Workforce Coalition (AWC) presented the agriculture industry’s immigration reform priorities in a letter to Congress. The letter emphasized the critical shortage of workers and the threat the situation poses to the competitiveness and production ability of American operations. It also highlighted the two components of AWC’s reform proposal: short-term work authorization and a long-term market-based agricultural worker visa program. More than 55 groups from a broad cross section of the industry signed the letter, which was sent to Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH), Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). The full letter can be read here.
The AWC continued its outreach to key legislators today with meetings between CEOs from top agriculture companies, AWC representatives and Senators Feinstein (D-CA), Rubio (R-FL) and Bennet (D-CO). The meetings explored options for developing a new market-based labor system within a comprehensive immigration reform package.
United also issued an alert to its grassroots network to reach out to Senator Marco Rubio, who has been pursuing legislative action on immigration reform. Members are asked to call Senator Rubio’s office and thank him for his leadership and for working to ensure a stable and legal agriculture workforce. Senator Rubio has heard loudly from those who are passionately opposed to immigration reform, which is why the specialty crop industry needs to let him know that sound immigration policy that provides an effective agriculture worker program is absolutely vital. In order to keep reform proposals on the path to enactment, Senator Rubio needs to hear from you.
For more information on United’s efforts to advocate for comprehensive immigration reform, please contact Robert Guenther, senior vice president of public policy, at 202-303-3400.
|New Cantaloupe Guidance Document Released as FDA Announces Inspection Program for Packinghouses
In a February 25 letter to United Fresh President and CEO Tom Stenzel, FDA has announced its intent to start conducting inspections of U.S. cantaloupe packinghouses, specifically targeting Listeria, during the 2013 growing season in an effort to assess the current practices of the industry and identify unsanitary conditions that may constitute a health risk to consumers.
FDA plans to conduct inspections of a “subset of the cantaloupe packinghouses” in the United States. Further, FDA says it will continue to target imported cantaloupes at the border for sampling and may “engage in other surveillance and inspection activities as circumstances warrant” to protect public health. In its letter, FDA advises that, in the event of adverse findings, they will take action as needed to protect public health. A copy of the FDA letter to United announcing the inspection program is available here.
“The cantaloupe industry has made tremendous strides in addressing food safety priorities and this FDA inspection program will demonstrate that,” said Stenzel. “It’s imperative that every produce industry operation shows the highest commitment to food safety.”
The announcement comes on the heels of the release of new food safety resource: the National Commodity-Specific Food Safety Guidelines for Cantaloupes and Netted Melons. The guidelines were introduced earlier this month, the result of a collaborative effort by many industry stakeholders, including United Fresh, Western Growers, and Produce Marketing Association, and provide a modern framework for production, harvest, post-harvest and handling of cantaloupes that can be utilized by any size operation. The guidance can be downloaded at no charge by visiting this website: www.cantaloupe-guidance.org.
In addition to the National Guidance, other industry-developed guidance documents for cantaloupes are available. Please contact United’s Dr. David Gombas or Ray Gilmer at 202-303-3400 for more information. More information on food safety can be found at United’s Food Safety Resource Center.
|United Fresh Joins CA Dept. of Education, Local Leaders for Monterey School Event
United Fresh CEO Tom Stenzel being interviewed by a local TV station at East Alisal School in California while Nancy Kotowski, Monterey County Schools (left) and Margaret D'Arrigo-Martin, Taylor Farms (middle) look on.
United Fresh CEO Tom Stenzel joined California State Superintendent of Education Tom Torlakson, Congressman Sam Farr, Chairwoman Margaret D’Arrigo of the Grower Shipper Association of Central California, and other local school, health and produce leaders last Friday to celebrate the launch of the Superintendent’s Team California for Healthy Kids initiative.
“One of Superintendent Torlakson’s key goals is to increase fresh fruit and vegetable consumption in California schools, a goal we are making come true with the Let’s Move Salad Bars to California Schools campaign,” Stenzel said. “We’ve now raised money to buy 300 salad bars for California schools in the past nine months, and the excitement is building as we get closer to our goal of donating 350 California salad bars before our convention in San Diego this May. Some 30 salad bars have been donated in Monterey County alone, which now serve more than 10,000 students every day. We anticipate school foodservice buyers and officials from throughout California to join us for one huge celebration in San Diego,” he said.
For more information about United Fresh’s work to increase children’s fruit and vegetable consumption, contact Andrew Marshall, policy & grassroots manager, at (202) 303-3407 or Lorelei DiSogra, vice president of nutrition & health, at (202) 303-3403.
|Let’s Move Celebrates 3rd Anniversary, Salad Bars Contribute to Success
First Lady Michelle Obama and United CEO Tom Stenzel launch Let’s Move Salad Bars to Schools in November 2010.
First Lady Michelle Obama kicked off a two day nation-wide tour on Wednesday celebrating the third anniversary of her Let’s Move! initiative, which aims to eliminate childhood obesity in a generation. The Let’s Move Salad Bars to Schools (LMSB2S) campaign, of which United Fresh is a founding partner, has made noted contributions toward that goal by thus far donating more than 2,200 salad bars to schools throughout the country, with pledges to provide salad bars to additional schools later this year.
Mrs. Obama launched Let’s Move! on February 9, 2010 to unite the country around kids’ health and to create real support for families to live healthier lives. Later that year, in November 2010, the First Lady launched Let’s Move Salad Bars to Schools at Riverside Elementary School in Miami with United Fresh and the initiative’s other founding partners, the National Fruit and Vegetable Alliance, the Food Family Farming Foundation and the Whole Kids Foundation. The goal remains to increase student’s fruit and vegetable consumption by providing salad bars to schools across the country.
According to Dr. Lorelei DiSogra, United Fresh vice president of nutrition and health, “The produce industry’s support for the United Fresh Foundation’s partnership in Let’s Move Salad Bars to Schools has been tremendous. Since the launch in 2010, more than 100 produce companies, retailers, individuals and foundations have stepped up to support Let’s Move Salad Bars to Schools, benefitting over 1 million children in all 50 states.”
With the United Fresh 2013 Convention in San Diego, the United Fresh Foundation has launched a special California campaign, Let’s Move Salad Bars to California Schools. with a goal of donating salad bars to 350 salad bars to schools by May, and making the announcement at a press conference at the convention. The California campaign is being spearheaded by United Fresh and four industry co-chairs, Karen Caplan, President and CEO, Frieda's Inc; Margaret D'Arrigo-Martin, Vice President of Community Development, Taylor Farms; Lisa McNeece, Vice President of Foodservice and Industrial Sales, Grimmway Enterprises, Inc.; and Dick Spezzano, President, Spezzano Consulting. “So far, we’ve gotten commitments for just over 300 salad bars, but we’re still working hard to reach our goal,” added DiSogra.
For more information about Let’s Move Salad Bars to Schools visit www.saladbars2schools.org, or for more information about United’s special California campaign and how to make a contribution, visit www.unitedfresh.org/saladbars or contact Andrew Marshall at (202) 303-3407.
|United Fresh Welcomes Wholesalers and Distributors to San Diego with New Networking
Join your wholesaler-distributor colleagues at United Fresh 2013 for a special networking event with business development opportunities.
Produce wholesalers and distributors will find extra value at this year’s United Fresh Convention in San Diego with a new reception designed exclusively for wholesaler and distributor attendees. On Tuesday, May 14, the United Fresh Wholesaler-Distributor Board will host a new networking reception where wholesalers and distributors can gather to reconnect with friends and meet new colleagues within this important business sector.
“Connecting with fellow wholesalers and distributors is so important to our sector of the industry,” said Ron Carkoski, Chairman of the United Fresh Wholesaler-Distributor Board and President & CEO of Four Seasons Family of Companies. “This is a business built around relationships and our board is committed to providing opportunities for the wholesale community to stay connected and engaged. We want every wholesaler and distributor in the industry to feel welcome at the United Fresh convention.”
Throughout the convention, wholesalers and distributors will have opportunities to network, learn and engage on sector specific topics, meet with buyers and suppliers, and see the latest produce trends and industry resources right on the show floor. “I encourage others to bring their whole teams to San Diego to share and experience together all that United has to offer to the wholesaler and distributor community,” said Carkoski.
“Wholesaler-Distributors play a unique and valuable role in the industry, which is why we’re offering special opportunities like this reception, which are tailored specifically to their business needs,” said United Fresh President & CEO Tom Stenzel.
RSVPs for this event are required by May 1. Wholesalers and Distributors may RSVP by contacting Sophie Drayton at 202-303-3400.
The United Fresh 2013 convention will be held at the San Diego Convention Center, May 14-16. Early registration package rates are available through April 1. The All Access Pass to United Fresh 2013 includes access to all of the United Fresh education sessions and networking events, as well as the post-show Produce Marketing & Merchandising Conference.
|USDA Report Confirms Pesticide Residue on Fresh Produce Poses No Threat
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) released its 2011 Pesticide Data Program (PDP) Annual Summary last week. The findings demonstrated that nearly half of the samples of food tested (48.9%) had no detectable pesticide residues. USDA stated, “The 2011 PDP report confirms that overall pesticide chemical residues found on the foods tested are at levels below the tolerances established by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and do not pose a safety concern.”
“It is important to note that USDA, FDA and EPA have determined the extremely low levels of those residues are not a food safety risk, and the presence of such residues does not pose a safety concern,” explained Burleson Smith, United Fresh vice president of environmental affairs & sustainability.
The goal of the PDP sampling program is to obtain a statistically representative sample of the U.S. food supply. The data are used by the EPA to evaluate pesticide residues in high-volume food items which then inform the dietary exposure estimates in their pesticide risk. The data allow EPA to avoid overly conservative assumptions that would unduly restrict pest management tools.
Since its inception in 1991, the program has tested 109 commodities including numerous fresh fruits and vegetables. Commodities sampled for the first time in the program included papayas, snap peas and tangerines. Other fresh commodities in the 2011 sampling that have been part of previous surveys were cabbage, cantaloupe, cauliflower, cherry tomatoes, hot peppers, lettuce, mushrooms, onion, plums, sweet bell peppers and winter squash.
The report does show that residues exceeding the tolerance were detected in 0.27 percent of the samples tested, and there were some residues found in 3.4% of the samples with no established tolerance levels on that particular food. However, the report reiterates that these extremely low levels do not pose a safety concern.
The Pesticide Data Program Annual Summary, Calendar Year 2011 can be downloaded at www.ams.usda.gov/pdp. For more information, please contact Burleson Smith, United’s vice president of environmental affairs & sustainability, at 202-303-3400.
|Nominate an Exceptional Woman for Top Produce Industry Honors
Dan’l Mackey Almy speaks as the 2012 Women in Produce Honoree in Dallas.
United Fresh Produce Association is now accepting nominations to help select an honoree to speak at the annual Reception Honoring Women in Produce, Wednesday, May 15 at United Fresh 2013 in San Diego. Each year, United Fresh recognizes the contributions of all women working in the produce industry and honors one outstanding female industry leader at this reception.
“It is an honor to count such thought-leaders, role models and inspiring innovators among us,” said United Fresh President and CEO Tom Stenzel. “It is always a highlight of the convention to celebrate the contributions of women who guide the industry. We’re looking forward to welcoming back our past honorees and recognizing another outstanding leader in San Diego.”
“This recognition is a wonderful way to acknowledge an individual’s contribution to our industry, while also promoting and encouraging progress and growth among the women in our space,” said Dan’l Mackey Almy, 2012 Women in Produce Honoree and founder of DMA Solutions, Inc. “I was honored when I was given the opportunity to share my own story with the industry and I know that we will all continue to be inspired by women who receive this award in years to come.”
Nomination forms may be downloaded online and must be received by Wednesday, March 13.
Past Women in Produce Honorees include:
Dan’l Mackey Almy, DMA Solutions, Inc.
Tonya Antle, Tanimura & Antle
Frieda Rapoport Caplan, Frieda’s Inc.
Margaret D’Arrigo , Taylor Farms, Inc.
Jan DeLyser, California Avocado Commission
Jan Fleming, Strube Celery & Vegetable Company
Janice Honigberg, Sun Belle, Inc.
Lorri Koster, Mann Packing Company
Kathleen Nave, California Table Grape Commission
Dr. Martha Rhodes-Roberts, University of Florida, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences
Steffanie Smith, River Point Farms, LLC
Heather Shavey, Costco Wholesale
Mayda Sotomayor-Kirk, Seald Sweet International
Rosemary Talley, Talley Farms
Jenney Tenney, The Kroger Company
For more information on the Reception Honoring Women in Produce, please contact United Fresh Political Affairs Manager Angela Tiwari at 202-303-3416.
|The Freshest Crabs Delivered to Your Table for a Taste of San Diego
Want to experience a Taste of San Diego? Register now for your chance at next week’s featured restaurant: Truluck’s. Diners will experience a getaway for the senses. Truluck’s catches its crabs in its own Florida fisheries every day, so each crab moves from trap to table within 24 hours. The savory menu also features juicy steaks prepared to perfection and a wide selection of delicious wines. And don’t miss the classic Cioppino or Natural Certified Angus New York Strip steak.
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.
Congratulations to Gary Steed, The Vegetable Express, this week’s winner of our Taste of San Diego give away. Mr. Steed will receive a gift certificate to dine at Island Prime. Resting on stilts atop San Diego Bay overlooking the city skyline and Coronado, there’s nowhere better than Island Prime to experience quintessential San Diego.
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!
The sooner you register, the greater your chances to win a certificate to one of these stellar restaurants:
Bertrand at Mister A’s
Donovan's Steak & Chop House
George’s at the Cove
On the Border Mexican Grill & Cantina
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!
|New Member Welcome
Each week, United Fresh welcomes its newest partners in building a stronger produce industry.
• Euler Hermes, Ownings Mills, MD
• McCain Foods USA, Inc., Easton, ME
• Schoneman Inc./VistaTrac, Ashtabula, OH
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
Join us for events designed to grow your business:
2013 Produce Executive Development Program
March 10-15, 2013, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY
United Fresh FSMA Rules Review Meeting
March 12, Chicago, IL
United Fresh 2013
May 14-16, 2013, San Diego Convention Center, San Diego, CA
Produce Inspection Training Program
June 3-7, USDA Training Center, Fredericksburg, VA