Novemeber 21, 2013
In Today's Issue:
United Fresh Submits Comments to FDA on Proposed FSMA Rules

United Fresh submitted comments to the FDA last week on two of the proposed rules under the Food Safety and Modernization Act (FSMA), the Standards for the Growing, Harvesting, Packing, and Holding of Produce for Human Consumption (Produce Safety Rule) and the Current Good Manufacturing Practice and Hazard Analysis and Risk-Based Preventive Controls for Human Food (Preventive Controls Rule). United's comments reflect 10 months of review by diverse expert working groups representing numerous member companies throughout the fresh produce supply chain.

"There is nothing more important than advancing food safety in fresh produce, and these proposed rules are an important milestone in that mission," said United President & CEO Tom Stenzel. "United Fresh continues to support the public health goals of the FSMA law and is committed to working closely with the FDA to ensure that the regulations can be implemented in the most practical and efficient way possible."

According to Dr. David Gombas, United senior vice president of food safety and technology, the association's nearly 100 pages of comments are intended to give FDA the best real-world information about produce industry practices and how the proposed regulations can help enhance public health, without adding needless burdens that could drive producers and distributors out of business. "We want to ensure FDA establishes food safety provisions that reflect FSMA's risk-based, scientific approach, recognizing the diversity of fruit and vegetable production," Gombas said.

In its comments on both the Produce Safety Rule and the Preventive Controls Rule, the United raises several key issues:

One-Size-Fits-All Approach
While FDA has shown a willingness to recognize different risk profiles by proposing exemptions for thermally processed fruits and vegetables and certain commodities rarely consumed raw, FDA fails to take into account the potential for substantive differences in risks inherent in different produce commodities.  By applying the same standards to all crops without allowing for commodity differences, FDA unnecessarily adds significant economic burdens on some producers with no impact on risk reduction.  United recommends that FDA continue to require growers to manage the risks identified in the Produce Safety Rule, but to move all quantitative metrics into accompanying FDA Guidance documents.  This has been a successful approach with the Seafood HACCP Rule, in which one regulation must cover a wide diversity of products.

Irrigation Water Testing Requirements
The Produce Safety Rule proposes specific arbitrary metrics, target organisms and testing intervals for irrigation water, which are not based on sound science and differ from other world regulatory standards.  United's comments communicate to FDA the scientific uncertainty underlying such requirements, and emphasize that the risks and appropriate standards for irrigation water differ significantly across different fruits and vegetables.  Therefore, such metrics should be addressed in companion Guidance that can be tailored to specific commodities as needed, and updated when science is better informed.

Alternatives and Variances
FSMA anticipated that differences among commodities, growing regions and practices would require some flexibility in application of appropriate regulatory standards.  While FDA attempts to address this need with sections proposing two specific avenues for "Alternatives" and "Variances" to the rule's requirements, these opportunities are unnecessarily restricted and not likely to be effective as proposed.  Alternatives are only offered as options to a few of the requirements for water and soil amendments, but are not available for all of those requirements or for any other risk factors identified (worker hygiene, equipment contact, and animal intrusion). The ability to submit a Variance to the proposed practices is limited to state or foreign governments.  United's comments recommend that both restrictions are unnecessary.  Provided that they are supported by sound science, Alternatives should be allowed to requirements for any of the risk factors, and Variances should be accepted from any knowledgeable body such as associations and commodity boards.

Definition of Farm and Farming Activities
The two proposed rules include a new regulatory term, "farm mixed-type facility," designating operations that would have to comply with both the Produce Safety and Preventive Controls rules.  United believes that this designation is overly complicated and not risk-based, and would have severe economic consequences to raw produce handling operations without enhancing public safety.  FDA has inadvertently grouped very low risk produce packing and handling facilities together with food processing facilities, which require very different food safety practices.  United recommends that packing and holding raw, intact fresh produce is covered adequately by compliance with the Produce Safety rule, regardless of the size of the operation, the owners of the produce handled or the distance from where the produce was grown.

Request for Revised Proposed Rule
United is aware that FDA has already received and will receive many substantive comments to these proposed rules urging significant changes and enhancements.  Therefore, United strongly supports the recommendation of the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture that FDA publish a second round of proposed rules so that all stakeholders can review and comment on these changes before they are finalized.

"United appreciates the extensive work that FDA has put into drafting these new proposed regulations, representing the most significant change to food safety law in more than 70 years," Stenzel said. "That's why it's so important that the agency take the time to understand not only our comments but those of all stakeholders.  These proposals were a good first step, but can be significantly enhanced to be more effective in protecting public health, while allowing produce growers and distributors to continue providing an abundance of healthy and affordable fresh produce to consumers."

To read United's complete comments on the Produce Safety Rule and Preventive Controls Rule, visit the United Fresh website at If you have questions, please contact Dr. David Gombas at 202-303-3411 or Robert Guenther at 202-303-3409.


What Wholesalers and Distributors Need to Know About the Proposed FSMA Foreign Supplier Verification Rule

This week, FDA extended the public comment period for the proposed FSMA rule Foreign Supplier Verification Programs for Importers of Food for Humans, and Animals until January 27. How will this proposed rule impact wholesalers and distributors? The rule would require importers to help ensure that food imported into the United States is produced in compliance with processes and procedures that provide the same level of public health protection as those required under the hazard analysis and risk-based preventive controls and standards for produce safety sections of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (the FD&C Act), is not adulterated, and is not misbranded with respect to food allergen labeling. The proposed regulations would help ensure that imported food is produced in a manner consistent with U.S. standards.

The rule defines an "importer" as the owner or consignee of the food at time of entry into the United States. If there is no US owner or consignee at the time of entry, the US agent of the exporter or consignee would be considered the "importer." This rule will impact all foreign suppliers, fresh produce importers, operations that handle foreign-supplied foods and audit organizations that intent to perform regulatory audits of foreign facilities.

Key elements of the proposed rule, as currently written, include:

  • Imported foods must meet the same food safety standards as food produced in the US
  • The importer will have responsibility for assuring compliance of the imported food with the Federal Food Drug and Cosmetic Act
  • Importers must develop a hazard analysis for each food prior to import; the hazard evaluation includes consideration of the condition, function, and design of the foreign supplier's establishment and equipment.

Read more about the impact of the proposed FSMA rules on wholesalers and distributors in the Fall 2013 Wholesaler-Distributor Newsletter.


FDA Provides Updates on FSMA Public Meetings on Two Proposed Rules

Earlier this week, FDA posted agendas for the upcoming FSMA Public Meetings on the Proposed Rule to Establish Current Good Manufacturing Practice and Hazard Analysis and Risk-Based Preventive Controls for Food for Animals. The public meetings will be held on November 25 in Chicago, IL and December 6 in Sacramento, CA.

To learn more about the proposed FSMA rule, visit the United website. If you have questions, contact Dr. David Gombas at 202-303-3411.

Everybody Wins at the Salute to Joe Procacci Golf Tournament

Join the golf tournament where everybody wins, The Salute to Joe Procacci Golf Tournament on January 21, 2014 in Miami, FL. The golf tournament takes place on the PGA tour quality Gold Course at the Trump National Doral. The tournament is a great time to catch up with old friends and make new connections on the golf course. Prizes will be awarded for the best foursome, longest drive and closest to the pin!

And it's all for a good cause – childhood nutrition! All proceeds from the golf tournament go to the United Fresh Foundation's programs to increase children's consumption of produce, encouraging a lifetime of healthy choices.

Following the golf tournament, all players are invited to continue the celebration at the Produce Legends Dinner, where Joe Proacacci will be honored with the United Fresh Lifetime Achievement Award. For more information about the Golf Tournament and the Produce Legends Dinner, please contact Angela Tiwari at 202-303-3416.

Understanding the Legal Issues of a Recall

Beyond the public health impact, the legal and financial damage caused by food safety recalls can devastate produce industry operations. Speaking to United's Grower-Shipper Board during the Washington Public Policy Conference, attorney Danny Gurwitz briefed board members on the business implications of recalls and answered questions from members about a range of recall related issues. Mr. Gurwitz has been a litigator with Atlas, Hall & Rodriguez, LLP for almost 20 years. He represents Texas-based Frontera Produce relating to the 2011 recall of whole cantaloupes from Jensen Farms of Colorado. In the Fall 2013 Grower-Shipper Newsletter, Mr. Gurwitz addresses several key questions that grower-shippers should consider regarding food safety recalls, including the following question.

United Fresh: What kind of legal exposures do produce operations face in food contamination and recall situations?

D. Gurwitz: In the broadest sense, if your product is involved in a foodborne illness outbreak, you could face both civil and criminal exposure. A produce company and its principals can be fined, prevented from selling produce, and be required to pay financial damages. Moreover, individuals in the company can be indicted and sentenced to jail. The specific risks to the produce operations include: production delays or stoppage, product recall costs, state and federal agency investigations, potential civil and criminal lawsuits, Congressional investigations, serious damage to product sector, and serious brand damage.

Read more about legal issues involved in food recalls in the Fall 2013 Grower-Shipper newsletter.


USDA Announces Grant Projects to Help Schools Buys Healthy Foods

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced earlier this week grants for 71 projects that support the USDA's efforts to connect school cafeterias with farmers through its Farm to School program. The projects span 42 states and the District of Columbia.

"In rural and urban communities across the country, Farm to School programs teach students where food comes from," said Secretary Vilsack in a USDA press release. "These programs also create new market opportunities … by helping to create an even more diverse and thriving agriculture sector."

The projects will serve more than 13,000 schools and 2.8 million students, nearly 45 percent of who live in rural communities. These projects highlight the critical need for a new Farm Bill now more than ever. Producers need renewed and expanded access to Farm Bill programs to fuel the growing demand for healthy food in new markets, including school meals programs.

USDA's Farm to School Program is part of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, which authorized USDA to provide grants and technical assistance to help schools gain better access to healthy foods. To see the complete list of FY 2014 Farm to School Grant Awards, visit the USDA Farm to School website.


Learn From Phenomenal Professors and An Elite Group of Peers

The 2014 United Fresh Produce Executive Development Program lets you engage with top produce executives at Cornell University from March 9 – 14, 2014. The five-day program provides a unique platform for industry leaders to engage in thought-provoking discussions with Cornell business professors, food industry experts, guest lecturers and forty of the brightest minds in the produce industry.

Watch the video to hear what industry leaders are saying about their Cornell experience.

Produce executives will be exposed to the latest business trends and have the opportunity to share ideas and network with like-minded executives from leading industry companies. Recent participating companies include C. H. Robinson Worldwide, Capital City Fruit Company, Dole Fresh Fruit, Sun World International and Sunkist Growers.

Space is limited to 40 participants, so register today! For more information, please contact Shannon Young at 202-303-3405.


Don't Let Produce Inspections Cost You Time and Money

Make one of your New Year's resolutions be to attend the Produce Inspection Training Program on January 13-17. The Produce Inspection Training Program is a must-attend program for anyone who handles, ships or sells produce. United Fresh, in partnership with the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service, is offering this expert-led program three times in 2014. This unique five-day course includes the fundamentals of produce inspection, covering essential knowledge, terminology and practical information. The course also includes Commodity Labs, which apply the principals learned in the fundamentals course to real produce inspections. USDA experts show hands-on examination of a range of commodities, including grapes, lettuces, potatoes, strawberries and tomatoes.

The Produce Inspection Training Program will be held January 13-17, June 2-6 and September 22-26 at the USDA SCI Training and Development Center in Fredericksburg, VA. Visit the United Fresh website to learn more about the program. You can also watch a video and hear from participants about their experiences in the course. Click here to register online or you can download the registration form and email it to If you have questions, feel free to contact Shannon Young at 202-303-3405.


United Welcomes Amanda Griffin as Director of Meetings & Member Programs

This week, United Fresh welcomed Amanda Griffin to the staff as the new Director of Meetings & Member Programs. Amanda brings extensive experience from a range of non-profit organizations, most recently coming from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce where she helped manage the Chamber's Institute for Organization Management.  Prior to the Chamber, she held positions with the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works, Corporate Executive Board, and Progressive Group Alliance.  "Amanda is an incredible addition to our team," said Victoria Backer, Sr. Vice President, Member Services. "Her multi-faceted background in programming and logistics will not only strengthen our current portfolio of events, but will help us expand our programs and offerings to our broad membership base."


United Staff Members Usher in the Holiday Season with Great Food and Fellowship

United staff joined together today to usher in the holiday season with good cheer and plenty of mouth-watering dishes. The event was a time for staff members to enjoy a pre-Thanksgiving spread featuring lots of fruits and vegetables.  United staff contributed dishes that included meatballs, cranberry and apple relish, white chocolate and cranberry cheesecake bars and green beans with almonds.

United staffers voted on their favorite dishes from the meal. This year the winner for the best healthy dish was Erin Grether, United government relations coordinator, with a healthy kale salad. The winner for the best vegetable dish was Angela Tiwari, United political affairs manager, with green beans and almonds.

United's Amanda Griffin, Shannon Young and Marinell Coats enjoy the Thanksgiving festivities.

United's Lorelei DiSogra dishes out Swiss chard casserole.

See more photos on United's Facebook page.


New Member Welcome

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

  • America Berry Farms Inc., Fillmore, CA
  • Food Safety Certifiers (FSC), Ventura, CA
  • Fresh Horizons, LLC, Denver, NC

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 Miriam Wolk at 202-303-3410.


Chairman's Roundtable Thanks 2014 Supporters

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 2014 Chairman's Roundtable:

  • California Giant Berry Farms
  • Capital City Fruit Company
  • D'Arrigo Brothers Company of New York, Inc.
  • Duda Farm Fresh Foods, Inc.
  • JemD Farms – Red Sun & Golden Sun Greenhouse Vegetables
  • Lakeside Produce Distribution, Inc.
  • National Watermelon Association, Inc.
  • Northwest Horticultural Council
  • Rocky Produce, Inc.
  • The Kroger Company
  • Village Farms

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 Wolk at 202-303-3410.


Upcoming United Fresh Events

Join us for events designed to grow your business:

Produce Inspection Training Program
Jan 13-17, USDA SCI Training & Development Center, Fredericksburg, VA

The Salute to Joe Procacci Golf Tournament and Produce Legends Dinner
Jan 21, Trump National Doral Miami, Miami, FL

2014 Produce Executive Development Program
Mar 9-14, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY

Produce Inspection Training Program
Jun 2-6, USDA SCI Training & Development Center, Fredericksburg, VA

United Fresh 2014
Jun 10-13, McCormick Place, Chicago, IL

2014 Washington Public Policy Conference
Sep 8-10, Hyatt Regency Washington on Capitol Hill, Washington, DC

Produce Inspection Training Program
Sep 22-26, USDA SCI Training & Development Center, Fredericksburg, VA