September 12, 2014
In Today's Issue:
FDA’s Mike Taylor Advocates Cooperation with Industry for FSMA Enforcement

FDA will focus on a culture of cooperation, not simply enforcement, to bring companies into compliance with food safety standards, pledged FDA’s Mike Taylor, Deputy Commissioner for Foods and Veterinary Medicine, at Wednesday’s General Session Breakfast of The Washington Conference.  Describing it as a “sea change,” Taylor told United conference attendees that focusing on outcomes, rather than gathering evidence of violations, is part of a new operational mandate for advancing food safety at FDA.

“Historically we’ve had a tradition of enforcement at facilities, and it’s important, but the shift we’re undertaking is to understand that the purpose is not enforcement per se, but to get high rates of compliance with the standards,” said Taylor. “We’re really focusing on outcomes. We’re looking at systems and how we can work with the vast majority of operators who want to produce safe food and to get compliance on a voluntary basis, and that’s the outcome that matters. That’s a fundamental reorientation of our approach to our oversight.”

On enforcement, Taylor said FDA has no expectation that it will have the resources to do surveillance monitoring of farms like is done for facilities. Adding, “It doesn’t mean we will never go on farms, but, as a practical matter, it’s not in the cards for us.” Instead, Taylor said FDA will rely on collaboration with state departments of agriculture for farm monitoring.

Taylor told United members that FDA is “very committed to the dual purpose of having the right food safety standards and achieving our food safety purpose” and that the standards should be “workable” and can be implemented successfully across the diversity of the industry.

On FDA’s upcoming supplemental proposal on produce safety, as well as the proposals on preventive controls, Taylor predicted that the industry will see that FDA is making real progress toward achieving workable standards. “We will be addressing the water quality standard, the criteria of the testing regime, in a way that we build flexibility in this standard so that it can accommodate diverse conditions and the diverse way we can get to a safe product,” said Taylor.

Late last year, FDA announced that it would propose revised rule language for key provisions of the Produce Rule, Preventive Controls Rule and Foreign Suppliers Rule. FDA’s action was based on input from United Fresh and others asking for an additional round of proposed rules. The revised rule provisions have yet to be released.

FDA is under court-ordered deadlines for issuing final rules. The new deadlines are Aug. 30, 2015 for preventive controls for human food and preventive controls for animal food; October 31, 2015 for produce safety, foreign supplier verification program, and third-party accreditation; March 31, 2016 for sanitary transport, and May 31, 2016 for intentional adulteration.

“Don’t be expecting an extension of the next comment period,” Taylor told the audience. “I don’t think it’s feasible and we’ve got to stay on the work to get these things done. My boss is potentially held in contempt if we don’t get those rules out, so we’re going to get those rules out.”

Taylor said that FDA is perhaps as much as four years away from actually enforcing any rules, but he said it’s not too early to begin planning how FDA and the industry will be implementing the rules. Added Taylor, “We envision some public meetings on this sometime early next year, and we welcome whatever dialogue we can have with United Fresh about how we can implement these rules.”


FDA Staff and United Members Discuss Sampling and High Risk Foods at FDA Forum

About 70 United Fresh members traveled to FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition headquarters in College Park, MD, to hear the latest on FDA sampling assignments for fresh produce and current thinking on FDA’s proposal for designating foods as high risk.  While they were not allowed to provide specifics of the pending supplementary proposals (i.e., revised proposals) to the Produce Safety, Preventive Controls and Foreign Supplier rules currently being reviewed by the Office of Management and Budget, FDA officials were able to share what they heard in the comments that were submitted in response to the initial proposals. 

Attendees enjoyed an open and candid Q&A session with the officials, getting clarification to “what if” situations under the proposed rules, how commodities are selected for the annual sampling assignments, and how the industry can access FDA learnings from FDA inspections and testing of fresh produce. “United Fresh truly appreciates the willingness of these officials to spend time with the fresh produce industry,” said David Gombas, senior vice president, food safety & technology at United Fresh. “FDA has demonstrated unprecedented transparency during the rulemaking process with their FSMA website and Constituent Updates, but nothing replaces a face to face discussion for understanding each other’s needs, concerns and possible solutions.”

United Fresh Produce Association Honors Paramount Citrus as Industry Advocate of the Year

United Fresh honored Paramount Citrus as the Produce Industry Advocate of the Year earlier this week at The Washington Conference. Paramount Citrus has been a long-time leader in the public policy arena, serving on several of United’s boards and councils, including United’s Board of Directors. Additionally, Paramount Citrus executives have been major supporters of the United FreshPAC, and the company has consistently sponsored events at United’s annual Washington policy conference. United Fresh Produce Association President and CEO Tom Stenzel presented the award to David Krause, president of Paramount Citrus.

“Paramount Citrus has been a leader in the public policy arena at United for many years,” said Tom Stenzel, president and CEO. “Their consistent support of United’s public policy programs, including sponsorships at The Washington Conference and United’s annual conventions, demonstrates the commitment of Paramount Citrus and their partners in the Roll Corporation for advancing produce industry priorities here in Washington, DC.”

Paramount Citrus is a major supporter of United’s Let’s Move Salad Bars to Schools initiative, which, in support of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move program, donates salad bars to schools to improve access to fresh fruits and vegetables for the nation’s children. The salad bar initiative is just one part of United’s public policy agenda for improving child nutrition through increased consumption of fresh produce.

The United Fresh Produce Industry Advocate of the Year Award pays special recognition to one United Fresh member each year that serves as an advocate for the entire produce industry. Honorees are leading companies and associations that make an impact and drive the industry forward.

Past award winners include the following:

  • 2013 - Del Monte Fresh Produce
  • 2012 - Four Seasons Family of Companies
  • 2011 - Georgia Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association; National Watermelon Association
  • 2010 - C.H.Robinson Worldwide, Inc.
  • 2009 - Pro*Act, LLC
  • 2008 - Walter P. Rawl & Sons
  • 2007 - New York Apple Association, Inc.
  • 2006 - Sunkist Growers, Inc.
  • 2005 - L & M Companies
  • 2004 - Produce for Better Health Foundation
  • 2003 - Tanimura & Antle
  • 2002 - Capital City Fruit Company, Inc.

Visit the Washington Conference Photo Gallery for Highlights from the Produce Industry’s Week in the Nation’s Capital

With a force of 500 produce industry leaders, The Washington Conference made its mark on Capitol Hill this week. Visit The Washington Conference photo gallery to see highlights from the many events that made this week so special.  See pictures from The Rising Leaders Seminar, which attracted 65 attendees in its first year! See the hundreds of United members taking part in United’s March on Capitol Hill, where they met with key lawmakers on immigration reform, child nutrition, water and many other issues. See the fun and networking at rooftop opening reception and The Fresh Festival on Capitol Hill, where members of Congress and their staffs sampled the best and most flavorful innovations the industry has to offer.

Just visit the United website to see The Washington Conference photo gallery and remember to mark your calendars for attending next year’s Washington Conference, September 28 – 30, 2015.


United Fresh Presents Congressional Leadership Award to Rep. Doc Hastings

United Fresh honored Rep. Doc Hastings (R-WA) with its Congressional Leadership Award during the Tuesday Breakfast General Session at The Washington Conference. United presented the award to Rep. Hastings for his work representing produce industry interests, including his service as co-chair of the House Specialty Crop Caucus and his leadership on immigration reform and multiple Farm Bills.

"Doc Hastings has been a steady advocate for the produce industry in Congress," said United Fresh Senior Vice President of Public Policy Robert Guenther. "With United's Congressional Leadership Award, we recognize Rep. Hastings' many years of work to represent the interests of the produce industry in his state and across the country. We need more like him on Capitol Hill."

Speaking to United’s members at the session, Hastings addressed the legislation in the Senate and House of Representatives that aims to address the water crisis confronting California producers. “We are trying to work out the differences between the Senate and House bills. I can say that members of my staff at the House Natural Resources Committee and the California delegation have been working with Sen. Diane Feinstein’s office to get a resolution,” he said.

“I can tell you that progress is being made, and I sense there is a will to get something done. But resolution long-term is changing the Endangered Species Act,” Hastings added.

Also at Tuesday’s session, Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS) offered updates on immigration reform, farm bill implementation and the need for staying active in Washington, DC. “I want to thank you for a great turnout at your policy conference,” said Roberts. “It’s terribly important that you are here and that you indicate that you are from specialty crop country. I think you want to tell members of Congress how they can help or, perhaps more importantly, how the government can simply get out of the way.”


Jackie Caplan Wiggins Honored with Outstanding Leadership Alumni Award

United honored Jackie Caplan Wiggins, pictured with her husband, Doug, with the Outstanding Alumni Leadership Award.

United Fresh presented Jackie Caplan Wiggins with the 2014 Timothy Vaux Outstanding Alumni Leadership Award at the Leadership Alumni Dinner on Monday. Wiggins, vice president and COO at Frieda’s Inc., was a member of United’s first leadership class.
In presenting the award, Victoria Backer, United’s senior vice president, member services said, “If you don’t know Jackie, she is the second daughter of Frieda Caplan who was the founder of Frieda’s.  She got her start in produce, stuffing envelopes at the age of 10, and by 15 she was spending summers working at the Frieda’s stall on the L.A. Market. After graduating from San Diego State, she officially began working at the company at age 25, starting in sales and working her way up. In 1990, she and Karen became owners of the company.”
Wiggins serves as a member of United’s Wholesaler-Distributor Board.  She’s also a regular participant in our Washington Conference, and in 2001, she and her sister Karen endowed a scholarship program for family businesses, named for their mom, which has provided nearly 50 scholarships for family business members to come to DC.

Previous winners of this honor include Nichole Towell, Duda Farm Fresh Foods (Class 15); Chalmers Carr, Titan Farms, LLC (Class 16); Fred Williamson, Andrew & Williamson (Class 7); John Baillie, Jack T. Baillie Company (Class 6); Chris Puentes, Interfresh, Inc. (Class 9); Dan’l Mackey-Almy, DMA Solutions, Inc. (Class 4); Drew Duda, Duda Farm Fresh Foods (Class 3); and Lisa Strube, Strube Celery & Vegetable Co (Class 12).

Congratulations Jackie!


Upcoming United Fresh Events

Join us for events designed to grow your business:

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

United Fresh Foundation Tip Murphy Legacy Golf Tournament
Sep 29, Oasis Golf Club, Loveland, OH

United Fresh 2015
Jun 9-11, 2015,  McCormick Place Convention Center, Chicago, IL