• “Vol­un­tary“

    In the realm of fresh food prod­ucts, either retail or food­ser­vice, prod­uct recalls are not par­tic­u­larly unusual.

    A recall is the action or method of remov­ing or cor­rect­ing prod­ucts that are in vio­la­tion of laws admin­is­tered by the Food and Drug Admin­is­tra­tion (FDA).

    A food recall occurs when there is rea­son to believe that a food may cause con­sumers to become ill. A food pro­ducer ini­ti­ates the recall to take foods off the mar­ket. In some sit­u­a­tions, food recalls are requested by gov­ern­ment agen­cies, such as the U.S. Food and Drug Admin­is­tra­tion (FDA) and the U.S. Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture (USDA). Obvi­ously, prod­uct can be recalled for many rea­sons. This can include (but not be lim­ited to), the dis­cov­ery of organ­isms such as bac­te­ria like Sal­mo­nella or for­eign objects like bro­ken glass or metal. It can be due to a major aller­gen (dairy or nuts) not being dis­closed on a label.

    Most prod­uct recalls are char­ac­ter­ized as being “vol­un­tary”. This term is some­what ambigu­ous and may lead indi­vid­u­als to believe that a vol­un­tary recall is optional. That is def­i­nitely not true.

    A vol­un­tary recall is an indi­ca­tion that the man­u­fac­turer, grower or ship­per of the poten­tially harm­ful pro­duce has been in com­mu­ni­ca­tion and coop­er­a­tion with the fed­eral agency.

  • Bad News Bears

    Pro­cure­ment of fresh pro­duce is a noble pro­fes­sion. one that buy­ers are very hon­ored to be asso­ci­ated. They take their roles seri­ously with an inor­di­nate amount of ded­i­ca­tion and atten­tion to details.

    Through all sea­sons, they source prod­ucts of all kinds for every cus­tomer seg­ment. The num­ber of com­modi­ties and items that a pro­duce buyer takes respon­si­bil­ity for is mind-​boggling.

    It’s rel­a­tively easy to be a buyer in flush mar­kets. When there is plenty of broc­coli, straw­ber­ries and romaine let­tuce to be had, a buyer will give the “green light” sig­nal to “sell with con­fi­dence”. This means prod­uct is ample, qual­ity is excel­lent and prices are aggres­sive and rea­son­able.

    Weather events never allow a buyer to get too com­fort­able. Nei­ther does cur­rent sup­ply chain chal­lenges. Throw in the nor­mal sea­sonal tran­si­tion to fall/​winter grow­ing regions and we have our­selves one big migraine for any­one watch­ing and procur­ing fresh pro­duce.

    The “don’t kill the mes­sen­ger” mantra applies to indi­vid­u­als hear­ing daily mar­ket updates. As a sales per­son, chef or retail pro­duce clerk, we are oblig­ated to know what pre­vail­ing mar­ket con­di­tions dic­tate. Menus and pro­mo­tions rely on solid news.
  • Essen­tial Labor

    Labor Day 2020 comes in the midst of a global pan­demic and an era of essen­tial work­ers.

    Since early March, front-​line work­ers, across mul­ti­ple indus­tries, have faced unprece­dented con­di­tions to per­form our most cru­cial ser­vices.

    Typ­i­cally, Labor Day marks the offi­cial “end of sum­mer” fes­tiv­i­ties, vaca­tions and leisure pas­times. Kids go back to school and fam­i­lies set­tle in with more struc­tured rou­tines.

    Sport­ing events, con­certs and back­yard bar­be­cues are Amer­i­can high­lights from Labor Days past. Not this year. Card­board cutouts will suf­fice to enter­tain base­ball fans and online vir­tual con­certs intend to ser­e­nade lis­ten­ers.

    Back­yard grilling will be served to a restricted num­ber of peo­ple. No crowds or large par­ties allowed this year. Gath­er­ings will be lim­ited. Amaz­ingly, those respon­si­ble for feed­ing Amer­i­cans have shown remark­able resilience.

    Farm­ers in Cal­i­for­nia have bat­tled destruc­tive fires through­out major grow­ing regions this sea­son. Still, they con­tinue to har­vest, pack and ship.

    On the table, and with­out much inter­rup­tion, we con­tinue to eat our fresh pro­duce. Mel­ons, toma­toes, sweet corn, cook­ing veg­eta­bles and salad ingre­di­ents mag­i­cally find there way to the gro­cers and restaurants.
  • Henny Penny

    Its easy to ignore “The sky is falling” warn­ings when they are incon­clu­sive. The clas­sic folk tale of Henny Penny (Chicken Lit­tle) bares rec­ol­lec­tion when food safety is at stake.

    The most recent indus­try mes­sages regard­ing romaine let­tuce alerts have been frus­trat­ing for every­one in the sup­ply chain.

    In defense of all stake­hold­ers, no one wants to err on the side of per­sonal ill­ness or worse case sce­nario, death.

    As com­pa­nies wait for more infor­ma­tion from fed­eral agen­cies on the E. coli O157:H7 out­break that has been ascribed to chopped romaine only and not a spe­cific sup­plier, fresh pro­duce indus­try asso­ci­a­tions are com­mu­ni­cat­ing in a uni­form voice about the sit­u­a­tion.

    United Fresh Pro­duce Asso­ci­a­tion, Pro­duce Mar­ket­ing Asso­ci­a­tion, Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion and the Leafy Greens Mar­ket­ing Agree­ment have worked in con­cert on com­mu­ni­ca­tions regard­ing this recent outbreak.
  • Keep on Truckin’

    Mar­ket­place trends are hot top­ics for dis­cus­sion when lean­ing in on the fresh pro­duce busi­ness.

    Sim­i­lar to other indus­tries where mov­ing prod­ucts from “Point A to Point B” is nec­es­sary, the fac­tor of trans­porta­tion is crit­i­cal to agri­cul­ture.

    So much is hap­pen­ing in the truck­ing indus­try right now, that it is a chal­lenge just to keep up with activ­ity. Con­vey­ing the impact of truck­ing to fresh mar­ket stake­hold­ers is another mat­ter alto­gether.

    Tech­nol­ogy advance­ments, new reg­u­la­tory require­ments, dri­ver short­ages, increases in freight rates and dete­ri­o­rat­ing high­ways are top of mind for all truck­ing com­pa­nies and dri­vers.

    Start­ing on Decem­ber 18th of this year, the com­pli­ance phase of the ELD (Elec­tronic Log­ging Device) man­date begins as dri­vers and fleets must start using Fed­eral Motor Car­rier Safety Admin­is­tra­tion (FMSCA) approved ELDs in their vehicles.
  • New Begin­nings

    A new year with a fresh start. Kiss 2021 good­bye and set our sights high on opti­mism and renewal.

    The begin­ning of this new year is replete with prospects for new adven­tures, per­sonal and pro­fes­sional devel­op­ment and busi­ness improve­ments.

    Learn­ing to man­age change over the past twenty some­thing months may just have been the best prepa­ra­tion for what lies ahead. Change was inevitable.

    Those traits lay a solid foun­da­tion for a reset and reimag­i­na­tion. Set­ting the course ahead for pro­duce indus­try is evi­denced by the newly formed Inter­na­tional Fresh Pro­duce Asso­ci­a­tion.

    The lead­ers of the for­mer United Fresh and Pro­duce Mar­ket­ing Asso­ci­a­tion believe today’s indus­try mem­bers need an asso­ci­a­tion that speaks with a more uni­fied, author­i­ta­tive voice; demon­strates its rel­e­vance to the world at large; advo­cates for mem­ber inter­ests; and unleashes a new under­stand­ing of fresh pro­duce.

    Rec­og­niz­ing that need, the orga­ni­za­tions chose not to merge, but rather to cre­ate an entirely new orga­ni­za­tion to super­sede their orga­ni­za­tions. That new begin­ning is effec­tive Jan­u­ary 1, 2022. It was cre­ated to inte­grate world-​facing advo­cacy and industry-​facing sup­port. While IFPA is built on the lega­cies of United Fresh and Pro­duce Mar­ket­ing Asso­ci­a­tions, it is not just a com­bi­na­tion. It is trans­for­ma­tional.

    The Inter­na­tional Fresh Pro­duce Asso­ci­a­tion is the largest and most diverse inter­na­tional asso­ci­a­tion serv­ing the entire fresh pro­duce and flo­ral sup­ply chain.,/div>
  • Pantry Raid

    More than a year and a half after the coro­n­avirus pan­demic upended daily life, the sup­ply of basic goods at Amer­i­can gro­cery stores and restau­rants is once again falling vic­tim to inter­mit­tent short­ages and delays.

    Daily notices and alerts from ship­pers for price increases, prod­uct pro­rates or lack of goods being deliv­ered have become com­mon­place.

    This unfor­tu­nate sit­u­a­tion is exas­per­at­ing for retail­ers, food­ser­vice oper­a­tors, dis­trib­u­tors and con­sumers alike. We’ve all heard the laun­dry list of sup­ply chain woes.

    Lack of labor is at the top. There just isn’t enough labor to sat­isfy the needs of pro­cess­ing, ship­ping and trans­porta­tion.

    Capac­ity to meet ris­ing demand in a recov­er­ing econ­omy starts and stalls within every cat­e­gory. Dairy, meat, eggs, juices, and paper goods have seen plenty of hic­cups.

    Food pro­cess­ing plants phys­i­cally can­not keep up with grow­ing demand. Whether they need to wash, cut and trim car­rots or bone and trim a pork ten­der­loin, the work load sur­passes any avail­able work force.

    West coast port con­ges­tions have reached a fever pitch. The U.S. Trans­porta­tion Sec­re­tary has stepped in to ask for round the clock oper­a­tions. This does noth­ing to address the lack of trucks, dri­vers and stor­age at the offload points.
  • Ship Shape

    The pro­duce indus­try is highly depen­dent upon an effi­cient trans­porta­tion sys­tem. From truck­ing, rail ser­vice and ocean ship­ping, to ports and bor­der con­trol facil­i­ties, putting food on the table relies on a dynamic machine.

    While the United States has more than 300 com­mer­cial har­bors and more than 600 smaller har­bors, the top ten port com­plexes han­dle a major­ity of cargo vol­ume and inter­na­tional ves­sel calls.

    Port con­ges­tion exac­er­bates first-​to-​last mile delays in freight move­ments. This dri­ves up the cost of goods in both the global mar­ket­place and pro­duce sup­ply chains in the United States.

    Con­tainer ships with pre­cious cargo have been expe­ri­enc­ing long wait times, all year long, at ports to unload con­sumer goods, fresh pro­duce and mate­ri­als for most indus­tries.

    A recent record was bro­ken with forty-​four con­tainer car­ri­ers anchored and await­ing a berth space out­side the twin ports of Los Ange­les and Long Beach, Cal­i­for­nia. The aver­age wait time to dock rose to 7.6 days, up from 6.2 in mid-​August.

    Ves­sels are lin­ing up with imports just as inland trans­porta­tion, truck­ing and rail­roads, con­tends with its own bot­tle­necks of ship­ping con­tain­ers that aren’t being moved fast enough into dis­tri­b­u­tion cen­ters and ware­houses.

    Cal­i­for­nia port delays are just one of many fac­tors pil­ing onto a global supply-​chain crisis.
  • The Last Sip

    Clos­ing out the year gives way to per­sonal and pro­fes­sional reflec­tion.

    As an indus­try, 2018 pre­sented many dif­fi­cult chal­lenges to hur­dle for every sup­ply chain stake­holder.

    Grow­ers, ship­pers, proces­sors, sup­pli­ers, retail­ers and food­ser­vice estab­lish­ments all shared in the endeavor to deliver fresh pro­duce.

    Demand­ing everyone’s atten­tion through­out the year were var­i­ous prod­uct recalls, warn­ings and alerts. Recent romaine ill­nesses are still top of mind. Fifty nine indi­vid­u­als, in fif­teen states, were affected in the last out­break.

    These all too fre­quent out­breaks unfor­tu­nately adversely impact the health of any num­ber of fresh pro­duce con­sumers. For the rest of the mar­ket­place, it casts a dark shadow on eat­ing any leafy greens or veg­eta­bles.

    Pro­mot­ing increased con­sump­tion of fresh pro­duce is an already tall task. Rebuild­ing erod­ing con­sumer con­fi­dence in the after­math of these peri­odic out­breaks puts addi­tional stress on most indus­try professionals.
  • Tran­si­tions

    A 300 mile radius, or less, to define locally grown may not mat­ter much to those that are able to pick straight from a hoop house out back every­day.

    That real­ity doesn’t exists for most fresh pro­duce cus­tomers.

    For three sea­sons out of the year, regional grow­ers make it easy for us to scratch our local itch. That fourth sea­son is tougher to rely on for close to home grown.

    Liv­ing in the mid-​west, or other cold belt states, poses real chal­lenges for sourc­ing fresh pro­duce from inside the USA dur­ing win­ter.

    Cal­i­for­nia, Ari­zona and Florida man­age to eek out a fair amount of crop pro­duc­tion through the dead of win­ter. The desert regions (Yuma and Huron) do the heavy lift­ing for Ari­zona and Cal­i­for­nia let­tuce and wet veg­etable production.
  • USA Pears

    All of Decem­ber, National Pear Month rec­og­nizes the fla­vor and ver­sa­til­ity of this deli­cious fruit.

    Enjoyed as an out-​of-​hand fruit or an addi­tion to fresh, baked or cooked recipes, USA pears are use­ful in a myr­iad of culi­nary treat­ments.

    In the North­west region of the United States, there are at least ten vari­eties of pears pro­duced. They range in color, tex­ture, and sweet­ness mak­ing them use­ful for a wide range of cre­ative and scrump­tious dishes.

    When you taste a sweet, juicy, ripe pear or smell its aroma, it’s easy to see why this fruit has been so prized for thou­sands of years.

    Poets extol the virtues of pears. Fla­vor and beauty are cel­e­brated by chefs, home cooks, and farm­ers. Eas­ily iden­ti­fi­able, artists cel­e­brate the clas­sic shape and bril­liant col­ors of rus­set brown, celadon green, golden yel­low and fiery red.

    Homer, a Greek poet from the eighth cen­tury BC, called pears a “gift of the gods” and we all agree. Pears are incred­i­bly ver­sa­tile. They are a wel­come addi­tion to entrees, breads, sal­ads, appe­tiz­ers and desserts.

    With four major grow­ing regions (Wenatchee, Yakima, Mid-​Columbia and Med­ford) com­bin­ing to make one of the world’s biggest and best sources of pears, there’s a lot to know about North­west pears.

    More than 800 grower fam­i­lies pro­duce 87 per­cent of the country’s fresh pears. The hard­work­ing and ded­i­cated year-​round pear indus­try also includes pick­ers, pack­ing houses and shippers.