December 19, 2013
In Today's Issue:
FDA to Issue Second Round of Proposed FSMA Rules

FDA Deputy Commissioner for Foods and Veterinary Medicine Michael Taylor issued a statement today saying FDA will issue a second round of draft rules concerning key provisions and seek additional public comments. The rule provisions undergoing major revisions focus on water quality standards and testing, standards for using raw manure and compost, provisions affecting mixed-use facilities, and procedures for withdrawing the qualified exemption for certain farms.

"We have heard the concern that these provisions, as proposed, would not fully achieve our goal of implementing the law in a way that improves public health protections while minimizing undue burden on farmers and other food producers," said FDA Deputy Commissioner Taylor in his statement. FDA plans to publish revised proposed rule language by early summer 2014, and will accept additional comments on those provisions at that time.

On September 24, United Fresh urged FDA to issue a second set of proposed rules, saying it was appropriate for FDA to study all public comments and then issue a revised proposed rule for comment before issuing a final rule.  "We are encouraged that FDA took seriously the extensive input they received from produce farmers and others in the agricultural sector with respect to the proposed Produce Safety and Preventive Controls rules," said United's David Gombas, senior vice president of food safety and technology. "We appreciate FDA's willingness to rethink these provisions and propose requirements that are more science and risk based. It is critical that FDA gets these FSMA rules right, and we believe this is a step in the right direction."

To read the statement issued by FDA Deputy Commissioner Taylor, click here. Learn more about FSMA by visiting United's website. If you have questions, please contact Dr. David Gombas at 202-303-3411.

Housing Deadline Is Less Than a Week Away for United's Winter Leadership Meetings in Miami

The housing deadline for the Winter Leadership Meetings in Miami is December 23, 2013. Be sure to reserve your housing at the Trump National Doral Miami for the meetings taking place on January 21-23, 2014. Learn more about the special hotel rates for attendees by clicking here.

All of the Winter Leadership events will take place at the Trump National Doral Miami. The Winter Leadership Meetings kick off with The Salute to Joe Procacci Golf Tournament and the Produce Legends Reception & Dinner. Produce legend Joe Procacci will be awarded the United Fresh Lifetime Achievement Award during the Produce Legends Dinner. The award honors individuals who have showcased a career of distinguished service to the fresh produce industry, and leadership in their business, community and the industry overall. All the proceeds from the event support the United Fresh Foundation's programs to increase the availability of fresh fruits and vegetables to children.

To purchase tickets for the golf tournament and the Produce Legends Dinner, click here. If you have questions, please contact Angela Tiwari at 202-303-3416.

United Fresh Calls for Public–Private Partnership Investments in School Cafeteria Equipment

A new study finds that schools in the U.S. face a major obstacle to increasing the amounts of fresh fruits and vegetables they serve to students - they don't have the proper cafeteria equipment. The report from Pew Charitable Trusts and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Serving Healthy Meals: U.S. Schools Need Updated Kitchen Equipment, found that many schools don't have the proper cafeteria equipment receive and store fresh produce. United Fresh President & CEO Tom Stenzel issued the statement below this week discussing the new report and strategies to help schools gain access to the much-needed kitchen equipment.

"At a time when school meal standards call for doubling the amount and variety of fresh fruits and vegetables offered to our nation's children, today's report Serving Healthy Meals: U.S. Schools Need Updated Kitchen Equipment, identifies a critical gap in the equipment available to properly store and handle fresh produce. The report finds that schools would be better able to serve meals that meet the nutrition standards if investments were made in new cafeteria equipment.  School districts reported their greatest equipment challenge to be for receiving and storage of fruits and vegetables. This includes equipment such as shelving and walk-in refrigerators. United Fresh applauds USDA's announcement today of $11 million in grants to help schools purchase equipment to make preparing and serving healthier meals easier and more efficient."'

"United Fresh has been a leading advocate for federal, charitable foundation and private sector investments in school cafeteria equipment. United played a leadership role in securing $100 million for school cafeteria equipment in the 2009 Stimulus (American Recovery and Reinvestment Act); the first federal money in more than 30 years, and has worked with advocates to secure additional funding on Capitol Hill through Agriculture Appropriations. United Fresh's Let's Move Salad Bars to Schools initiative has also been very successful in securing private sector and foundation grant support to provide salad bars to more than 2800 schools nationwide.  We are committed to increasing student's access to healthful fresh fruits and vegetables in schools and recognize that schools need adequate refrigeration to properly store fresh fruits and vegetables and salad bars to offer students a wide variety of fruits and vegetables at lunch every day.   

"Our experience has shown that America's businesses and foundations are committed to reducing childhood obesity, improving child nutrition and improving school food environments. We urge companies and foundations to help schools nationwide upgrade their cafeteria equipment and infrastructure to make it easier for schools to serve more healthful meals, including more fresh fruits and vegetables."


United's David Gombas Advocates Research to Gain Consumers' Trust

Dr. David Gombas, United senior vice president of food safety and technology, spoke with scientists and practitioners at the 2013 Society for Risk Analysis Conference in Baltimore last week, about the challenges the produce industry faces combating produce contamination. Dr. Gombas explored the produce industry's current path, and how speculations of how food contamination occurs can divert food safety resources from more effective practices. He also discussed strategies to better predict, prevent and detect sporadic food contamination events.

"Unfortunately, outbreaks are detected usually when it's too late to find the source of the contamination," said Dr. Gombas. "Investigators resort to theories of what may have happened but their reports often lack context. When the media run stories on these outbreaks they take these theories as fact, which in turn leads to consumers distrusting the produce industry."

Dr. Gombas explained that the produce industry often imposes stricter food safety requirements on themselves as a way to protect public health and regain the consumers' trust. Unfortunately, there is no assurance that the more stringent requirements will prevent future outbreaks.

"The answer is solution-directed research," said Dr. Gombas. "We need research that is designed to inform risk assessments and improve industry practices. We need to know what's happening, and what we can do to prevent it.  It's critical that research studies are based on real-world conditions rather than artificial conditions set up in laboratories." Dr. Gombas recommends more collaboration and data sharing among researchers, industry and government.

GAPs Harmonization to Hold Next Auditor Workshop and Technical Working Group Meeting at Taco Bell in March

The second auditor workshop for the Post-harvest Operations Food Safety Harmonized Standards will take place at Taco Bell Headquarters in Irvine CA on March 11-12, 2014.  This workshop is a repeat of the successful workshop that was held at the Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association and Florida Tomato Exchange headquarters in October.

According to Dr. David Gombas, United Fresh senior vice president food safety and technology and coordinator for the Produce GAPs Harmonization Initiative, "The standards were developed to ensure thoroughness and reasonableness in audit expectations for operations that cool, pack or hold fresh produce. The workshop was developed by the Initiative's Calibration Committee to bring harmonization to how auditors' audit against those expectations. While the workshop is targeted to auditors, it will be open to anyone interested in using the Harmonized Standards."   The Harmonized Standards are used by over a dozen audit organizations in the U.S. today.

The first Technical Working Group (TWG) meeting in over a year will also be held at Taco Bell that week, on March 13. "At the last TWG meeting, the industry finalized the Post-harvest Operations standards and made important changes to the Field Operations and Harvesting standards", said Dr. Gombas.  "Stakeholders continue to recommend improvements, particularly in light of pending regulations, so we expect a full agenda for this meeting."  The TWG is open to all interested stakeholders.  More information about the auditor workshop and TWG meeting will be released in January.

If you have questions, please contact Dr. David Gombas at 202-303-3411.


An Ivy League Educational Experience, Designed for Produce Executives

The 2014 United Fresh Produce Executive Development Program offers an Ivy League educational experience, designed for produce executives at the prestigious Cornell University. The five-day course introduces participants to the latest business trends, effective tools to and advance their companies, and skills to navigate economic challenges. The program takes place March 9-14, 2014 at the Cornell University Statler Hotel & Executive Conference Center in Ithaca, NY.

"The week at Cornell was filled with phenomenal professors and an elite group of peers," said
Shannon Arias, produce distribution manager for Chick-fil-A. "What I learned was incredibly valuable, engaging and educational." 

For Jon-Christopher Myers, managing member of Fresh Alliance, the program was a game-changing experience. "This is not your average educational program," said Myers. "I highly recommend it to individuals who are ready to challenge themselves in a new way."  Watch a video to hear what other industry leaders are saying about their Cornell experience.

Registration for the course is limited to 40 attendees to ensure a dynamic yet intimate learning environment. To learn more about the 2014 Produce Executive Program, visit United's website. If you have questions, feel free to contact Shannon Young at 202-303-3405.


Kristen Pickering from Race West Gets a Crash Course in Nutrition Policy Development

Kristen Pickering from Race West (right) learns about nutrition policy development from United's Lorelei DiSogra

This week, Kristen Pickering from United member company Race West in Clarks Summit, PA, visited the United Fresh office to get a crash course in nutrition policy from United's Lorelei DiSogra, vice president of nutrition and health. Pickering is pursuing a degree in nutrition at Marywood University. Harris Cutler, president of Race West, suggested Pickering spend time at United Fresh to learn first-hand how nutrition policy is crafted in DC.

Pickering came to DC for two days of immersion into nutrition policy. She participated in meetings on Child Nutrition Reauthorization with 100 advocates in the Senate Agriculture Committee Room, attended a briefing on the need for investments in cafeteria equipment to help schools serve healthier school meals with more fresh fruits and vegetables at Pew Charitable Trusts, and a briefing on United Fresh's new Let's Move Salad Bars to Midwest Schools campaign.

"This trip was so much more than I ever could imagine," said Pickering. "The Pew meeting was so awesome. This past year, my studies have focused on community nutrition. At the meeting at Pew it felt like the topics I learned in class were coming to life." 


When Buyers Ask About Your Sustainability, What Do You Say?

Wada Farms holds a comprehensive sustainability philosophy, which includes wise land use practices and beneficial crop rotations.

More than ever, produce industry grower-shippers are being asked about their sustainable practices. If asked, can you tell a compelling story about your operation's sustainable practices? Using United's Sustainability Guide and Self-Assessment tool, free for members, can help producers better understand sustainability principles and learn how to enhance them in their operations.

"When growers conduct an evaluation of their sustainability programs, they can use that information to improve efficiencies in their own businesses, and share it with business partners and other stakeholders to explain their commitment to sustainable practices," said Ray Gilmer, United's vice president of issues management & communication. "Grower-shippers who take the initiative on sustainability programs can have an advantage in production efficiency and relations with stakeholders."

Starting in January, United's grower-shippers are invited to participate in a pilot group for United's Sustainability Guide. The Guide assists producers in understanding four key areas of sustainability - stewardship of resources, environmental impacts, social accountability, and economic success/viability. The Guide also helps producers share their story about practices and processes that many already incorporate into their operations.

Growers who participate in the 2014 pilot group will use the Guide in their operations and then provide feedback and suggestions to help shape improvements for future guidance. Use of the Guide is voluntary and growers will not be asked to submit their own sustainability data.

The Sustainability Guide and Self-Assessment was developed by the United Fresh Foundation's Center for Global Produce Sustainability, with the contributions of the Center's Sustainability Advisory Board, a group of United Fresh volunteer leaders representing a broad spectrum of the produce industry.

More information about the United Foundation's Center for Global Sustainability can be found on the United Fresh Foundation website. United members can download a copy of the Guide for no charge. To sign up for the pilot group, please contact Ray Gilmer at 202-303-3425.


What Are the Benefits of Using Advance Ship Notice Versus Hybrid Pallet Labels?

The Produce Traceability Initiative (PTI) Communications Working Group released the latest PTI FYI this week, a newsletter describing the latest trends in the Produce Traceability Initiative. This edition includes an overview of how the Canadian government has entered into the next phase in food safety regulation development, and an update from the Foodservice GS1 US Standards Initiative.

The PTI FYI newsletter also provides insight into the benefits of Advance Ship Notice versus Hybrid Pallet Labels, and best practice documents for trading partners interested in using hybrid pallet labels. One of the last steps in the process of produce traceability is to record and store the PTI information at each link in the supply chain (receiver trading partners) to achieve whole chain traceability. The creation of the Hybrid Pallet Label (HPL) is intended to be an interim solution for exchanging traceability data for companies not yet capable of providing Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) Advance Ship Notice (ASN), which has been determined to be the best and most efficient method of communicating transaction data between trading partners.

"The advantage of providing data in a standardized electronic format is that it makes the produce industry more efficient, which in turn reduces costs," said Vaché. "PTI Working Groups are also working on a simplified version of the Advance Ship Notice process, which will enable companies of all sizes to easily participate in the final steps of the Produce Traceability Initiative."

The PTI Working Groups have released two new documents to assist the industry – PTI Guidance on Benefits of Advance Ship Notice versus Hybrid Pallet Label and PTI Best Practice for Use of Hybrid Pallet Labels by Receivers.

To read the complete November/December 2013 PTI FYI newsletter, visit the Produce Traceability Initiative website. If you have questions, please contact Dan Vaché at 425-629-6271.


New Member Welcome

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

  • Dexter's Farm, Buford, GA
  • Exportadora Farmer's Friend, Linares, Chile
  • Kissner HR, Dallas, TX
  • University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, IN
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 this week to the 2014 Chairman's Roundtable:

  • Apio, Inc.
  • Chiquita Brands International, Inc.
  • Ciruli Brothers
  • Delhaize America
  • Dole Food Company
  • G.O. Fresh
  • Freshway Foods
  • Locus Traxx
  • Polymer Logistics
  • Tanimura & Antle

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

2014 Winter Leadership Meetings
Jan 21-23, Trump National Doral Miami, Miami, FL

The Salute to Joe Procacci Golf Tournament and Produce Legends Dinner
Jan 21, 2014, Trump National Doral Miami, Miami, FL

United Fresh Special Activities at Fruit Logistica 2014
Feb 5-7, 2014, Berlin, Germany

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