Action Needed To Keep Healthy Produce Moving

Members of Congress, Produce Industry Urge Immediate Financial Relief for Produce Supply Chain Damaged by COVID-19 Economic Impact

United Fresh Produce Association and a number of industry partners have presented to the U.S. Department of Agriculture a comprehensive Produce Market Stabilization Program to immediately support critical financial needs in the produce supply chain. In addition, 108 members of Congress have sent a letter to USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue urging USDA to support this immediate relief.

“Since the beginning of this crisis, our association has worked to help our industry keep produce moving to consumers,” said Michael Muzyk, President, Baldor Specialty Foods, and Chairman of United Fresh. “And, we’ve worked to help our members actually survive following the devastating financial impact of this crisis. Today is an important day on a path toward some stability for our industry to be able to serve consumers when we’re finally past this terrible time.”

“There is a long road still ahead,” said United Fresh President & CEO Tom Stenzel. “But this is a critical step – our industry has come together to support a consensus proposal to USDA, and Congress has come together to let our national decision-makers know how important this is across the country and every sector of our business.”

“I especially want to thank Representatives Jimmy Panetta (D-CA), Fred Upton (R-MI), Jim Costa (D-CA) and Doug LaMalfa (R-CA) for spearheading the Congressional support for this letter, and all of my colleagues in produce associations around the country who’ve worked together. Most organizations represent specific sectors and members who are suffering, but we’ve set aside competitive interests to support a common approach that gets us the best chance of securing real relief for our industry.”

“The first step was encouraging Congress to pass the CARES Act devoting $2 trillion to the economy, and some $9.5 billion specifically carved out for fruits and vegetables, livestock, dairy and local food systems. Now, comes this urgent proposal with a roadmap of how USDA can support our industry immediately. Next will come deep discussions and analysis within USDA in channeling resources to multiple interests. And eventually, we believe there will have to be continuing additional financial relief from Congress if our economy is going to be able to pull out of this crisis and grow again,” he said.

Want Better Health—Consume More Produce!

Eating More Produce Is Always Good Advice

The advice to eat more fruits and vegetables for better health is always welcome and appropriate.  Registered dietitians and nutritionists as well as other medical professionals universally recommend eating more to help prevent illness and disease, especially since only 1 in 10 Americans consume the recommended amount of fruits and veggies each day

But in today’s environment, there is even more emphasis on maintaining a healthy immune system. Dietitians and nutritionists are regularly being asked for their input on staying healthy and most are reiterating the need for appropriate hydration, adequate sleep and a diet that is rich in fruits and veggies.  This video featuring Maya Feller, MS, RD, CDN, Maya Feller Nutrition, provides some simple advice for consumers on what foods and practices contribute to healthy immune function.

And, here are just a few quick reminders of the health-promoting attributes of fruits and veggies.

Apples:  In addition to the many disease-fighting nutrients in an apple, red apples contain an antioxidant called quercetin, which can help fortify your immune system, especially when you’re under stress.  And remember to eat the peel, which is rich in fiber and antioxidants.
Berries:  Blueberries, strawberries and raspberries are rich in vitamins and antioxidants.  Eat them together for a powerful nutrient-rich punch.
Broccoli:  A multi-vitamin approach in every bite, broccoli provides Vitamin A and C, and the antioxidant glutathione as well.
Citrus:  During cold and flu season, everyone knows to reach for some citrus fruit because it is high in Vitamin C.  Studies have shown that Vitamin C is thought to increase the production of white blood cells, which help defend the body against viruses and diseases.
Red Bell Peppers:  Most people don’t realize that red bell peppers are an amazing source of Vitamin C as well as beta carotene, which are both important in boosting your immune system.
Spinach: Often referred to as a superfood, spinach is not only high in vitamin C but it is also rich in antioxidants and beta carotene, which positively impacts the infection-fighting ability of our immune systems.
Watermelon:  Like broccoli, watermelon contains the antioxidant glutathione, which has been shown to strengthen immunity.

While these are just some examples, reaching for any fruit and veggie will provide a nutrient-dense snack or meal component.  Plus, peer reviewed studies have also shown that people who eat more fruits and veggies each day are happier and their mood is enhanced.  And, we can all benefit from a little mood improvement about now.

March is National Nutrition Month

Celebrate National Nutrition Month – Eat More Produce!

March is National Nutrition Month!  And, what is the only food group health experts everywhere agree we should eat more of?  Fruits and vegetables of course. While there are decades of peer reviewed studies that show the benefits of a diet rich in these healthy foods, here are just a few examples as we head into March.

  • A study published in PLOS Medicinedetermined that “prescriptions” for healthy foods could save more than $100 billion in healthcare costs.  The healthy foods include fruits and veggies plus seafood, whole grains and plant oils.
  • A study published in Science Dailyfound that one in seven cardiovascular deaths could be attributed to not eating enough fruit while one in 12 of these deaths could be attributed to not eating enough vegetables. Put another way, low fruit and veggie consumption resulted in an estimated three million deaths from heart disease or stroke.
  • A University College of London studyshowed that people who ate seven or more servings of fruits and vegetables per day reduced their risk of premature death by 42%. Consuming that many servings of produce each day reduced the risk of death from cancer by 25% and heart disease by 31%.

A plant rich diet may also positively influence fertility.  A 2018 study in human reproduction found females under 35 undergoing in vitro fertilization had a 65% to 68% increased chance of success with a stronger adherence to the Mediterranean diet, which emphasizes eating lots of fruits and veggies each day.
Studies have shown that eating enough fruits and veggies has other positive benefits too like improving your mood, better sleep, shinier hair and whiter teeth.  It’s true!  Visit the Alliance for Food and Farming’s “A Dozen Reasons” section to learn more.

Don’t Fear Pesticide Residues

New Report Seeks to Reassure Consumers, Calm Unwarranted Safety Fears re: Pesticide

This time of year, food becomes a primary focus of conversation as we turn our thoughts to colder weather, cozy family dinners and the holidays.  Food should be a source of fun, healthiness and good flavors – it should not be a source of fear.  But, when it comes to fruits and vegetables, some groups actively promote inaccurate messaging designed to evoke fear in an effort to promote one farming method over others.

Study after study and government sampling programs repeatedly confirm the safety of produce.  Decades of studies also show the significant health benefits of a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, including the prevention of diseases and increased lifespan.  Yet these groups continue promoting disparaging messaging and have even increased the veracity of their statements in recent promotional efforts.

Even more concerning is this is done in light of peer reviewed research which is showing that when consumers are exposed to inaccurate messaging about “high” residues, they state they are less likely to purchase any produce – organic or conventionally grown.  With only one in 10 Americans eating enough produce each day, registered dietitians and nutritionists have a hard enough time working with clients and consumers on overcoming barriers to consumption, now they also have to counter safety fears?  Doesn’t seem right.

Now a new report seeks to reassure consumers by describing how information from complex risk assessments can be misinterpreted in news stories and by certain groups. “Consumers should feel confident, rather than uncomfortable, when purchasing fruits and vegetables,” says Dr. Carl K. Winter, Cooperative Extension Food Toxicology Specialist Emeritus at the University of California, Davis, and chair author of the Council of Agriculture Science and Technology publication. Continue reading blog post.

Help Avoid Cardiovascular Death—Produce is Medicine

Study: Low Produce Consumption Results in Millions of Cardiovascular Deaths

News Release

Over the last two months, the findings of three major peer-reviewed studies have led the lead authors to the exact same conclusion:  We must increase our efforts to promote produce consumption for the benefit of public health.

The most recent study published in Science Daily found that one in seven cardiovascular deaths could be attributed to not eating enough fruit, while one in 12 of these deaths could be attributed to not eating enough vegetables. Put another way, low fruit and veggie consumption resulted in an estimated three million deaths from heart disease.produce

“Fruits and vegetables are a modifiable component of diet that can impact preventable deaths globally,” according to lead author Dr. Victoria Miller, Tufts University, Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy. “Our findings indicate the need for population-based efforts to increase fruit and vegetable consumption throughout the world.”

Another study recently published found that “prescriptions” for healthy foods could save more than $100 billion in healthcare costs.  The healthy foods included fruits and veggies plus seafood, whole grains and plant oils. And the third found that improving eating and drinking habits could prevent one in five deaths around the world.  “Eating too few fruits and vegetables and too much sodium accounted for half of all deaths and two-thirds of the years of disability attributable to diet,” according to this study.

While these findings about the nutritional benefits of produce are significant and dramatic, the three studies simply support decades of research which found that a plant-rich diet leads to better health and a longer life.

This is why the Alliance for Food and Farming (AFF) strongly advocates for consumer choice by working to remove misguided safety fears as a barrier to consumption.  Click here to continue reading or to “Like” or share this blog post.

Food Bloggers, Dietitians Learn More About Produce Safety in Salinas

“Facts Not Fear” Educates Participants on Vegetable Production

News Release Edited By Patrick Cavanaugh

The Alliance for Food and Farming, in conjunction with Markon Cooperative, hosted its second “Facts Not Fear” Produce Safety Media tour last week in the Salinas Valley.

“Our goal is for … [registered dieticians], health and nutrition writers and bloggers to see firsthand the care and commitment farmers have for producing safe and wholesome foods.  We believe we met that goal.  But, what we learn from our tour guests continues to be just as valuable,” said Teresa Thorne, Executive Director of the Alliance for Food and Farming, based in Watsonville.

In addition to farm and facility tours, the AFF and Markon facilitated a round table meeting where tour guests were joined by farmers and farming companies, scientists, regulators and chefs for a free-flowing discussion that encompassed food safety, farming practices, food waste, pesticide use, food safety regulations, new technologies, health and nutrition, and consumer outreach.

The RDs, bloggers, and writers attending the tour reported they enjoyed the chance to tour the farms one day and then discuss what they saw with these experts.  They also appreciated the opportunity to share their information needs and concerns directly during the round table discussion.

And, what were some of our key takeaways from guests?  Consumers want transparent and honest communication regarding food safety and food production practices.  The RDs, bloggers, and writers share The Alliance for Food and Farming’s concerns about produce safety misinformation and appreciate and need access to scientists and experts that can assist them when addressing consumer questions and correcting misconceptions.

“And, they were very impressed with the technological advancements they saw in the harvesting and processing of produce,” said Thorne.

“While the importance of seeing the fields and harvest and touring processing facilities cannot be underscored enough, meeting and connecting with the people growing our food, directly sharing concerns with farmers and scientists in a group and one-on-one setting and the expansion of their produce industry network is of equal importance for our guests,” Thorne explained.

“Our sincere thanks to everyone who allowed us to visit their farms, watch the harvest, view their processing facilities as well as joined us for the round table discussion,” Thorne said.  “And, our thanks and appreciation to our tour partner, Markon Cooperative, for making this tour possible as well as our tour sponsors Cal-Giant Berry Farms, the California Strawberry Commission and the Produce Marketing Association.”

Thorne also praised the 2017 and 2018 tour alumni.

“We will keep the conversation going and look forward to learning more from the attendees as we all work toward our shared goal of increasing daily consumption of organic and conventional fruits and veggies,” she said.

The host, The Markon Cooperative, supplies the food service industry fresh fruits and vegetables.

Kroger Backs off “Net 90” Payment Plan to Produce Shippers

Produce Industry Gets Praise for Unified Voice on the Matter

News Release

The California Fresh Fruit Association is pleased with Kroger’s recent announcement that produce shippers will not have to comply with its new “Net 90” payment plan.

California Fresh Fruit Association President George Radanovich stated, “We appreciate Kroger’s acknowledgment that the ‘Net 90’ payment plan didn’t work for the produce industry. We stand by our position that Kroger’s original push to implement its plan was wrong and illegal.”

To force suppliers to forfeit their rights under the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act (PACA), an act created specifically to protect the perishable fresh fruit industry, was unconscionable and should never have been proposed.

Radanovich continued, “We would like to commend the fresh produce industry for coming together as a unified voice for our industry. Today we held the line on an important issue.”

Radanovich concluded, “As I’ve stated before, the fresh produce industry has been a good partner to Kroger; we appreciate that Kroger remembered that partnership and fixed the mess it created.”

Eating Healthy Produce Important for Kids

Produce Critical to Healthy Lifestyle

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director

Fruits and vegetable are an important part of a balanced and healthy lifestyle. Eating healthy produce is especially important for kids whose minds and bodies are still developing.

Teresa Thorne, the executive director of the Alliance for Food and Farming in Watsonville, recently talked to California Ag Today about a peer-reviewed study that showcased the importance of healthy eating during childhood.

Teresa Thorne

“It’s another study, and it mirrors other peer-reviewed research that shows the health benefits to children of eating more fruits and vegetables,” Thorne said.

“There have been other studies that also have come out and said that increasing consumption of fruits and vegetables, especially among young children, can really increase IQ. This study, which was conducted in Australia with 4,200 kids, found that test scores on standardized academic tests increased markedly from students that ate more fruits and vegetables and ate them every day,” Thorne explained.

Thorne emphasized that it’s very important for people of all ages to eat their fruits and vegetables.

“We know fruits and vegetables have a benefit for all of us, and on overall health, and that does include brain health, including when your kids are young and growing and maturing,” she said. “Giving the brain those nutrient-rich foods that fruits and vegetables really provide is important, and these types of studies just underscore that.”

It’s not just one type of produce that’s healthy. No matter if you choose organic or conventional, the important part is that you eat more fruits and vegetables.

“Organic or conventional, where ever you purchase them, whether you like to shop at your local grocery store or warehouse store or farmer’s market, buy either organic or conventional, but just always choose to eat more,” Thorne said.

“Even the most loyal, say organic shoppers, there’s times you’re eating in a restaurant or what have you, that they may not have that choice for you, but you should know that the choice to order that salad is always the right choice, whether it’s conventional or organic. Both production methods yield very, very safe and healthy foods.”

Farmers Appreciate Leafy Green Marketing Agreement

Leafy Green Marketing Agreement Raises Bar

By Jessica Theisman, Associate Editor

The Leafy Green Marketing Agreement took huge steps in the advancement of food safety.

Scott Horsfall, CEO of the California of the Leafy Green Marketing Agreement, said, “In 2007, there had never been government inspectors on the farm on a routine basis related to food safety.”

Many other regulators such as the Department of Public Health would often check in on businesses. However, there had never been a routine food safety oversight program on the farm.

Farmers joined this agreement voluntarily. “All of these companies that have joined, and been in the program since 2007, they do so voluntarily, and they pay the freight,” Horsfall said. This raises the bar for food safety and provides value to the industry.

Farmers, who were wary at first, came back to Horsfall saying, “They sleep better at night knowing that they’ve got this program in place, that the auditors are going to be there.”

The California Leafy Green Marketing Agreement continues to improve. Every year, the numbers are studied to see what areas have a continuing problem.

“We have used that to decide what to create in a training program. We hope that we’re helping the industry to better comply with these standards as we go along too, by offering the training,” Horsfall said.

For more information, visit the California Leafy Green Marketing Agreement web page.

 

Raley’s Wants More Fresh Produce

Raley’s Owner Mike Teel On California Farmers

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director

California Ag Today recently had an exclusive conversation with Mike Teel, the owner of the Raley’s Supermarket chain, which has 135 locations throughout California and Nevada. We asked him what he’s looking for in terms of the produce produced by farmers in California.

“We’re looking for fresh, and any new products that could be in development, because that’s what differentiates us from the rest of the competitors,” Teel said.

“You know, there are new products coming on, and while most of them are not in the produce and fresh arena, there are interesting ways to combine and bring fresh produce and different combinations for our consumers. We’re a great chain for that, because we’re not too big, but yet not too small,” Teel explained.

Teel told us that Raley’s being based in California does have an advantage in being close to the farming industry. “It does make it easier for us to get it into the market faster,” he said.

And Teel said that consumers want to know more about the produce they’re buying. “Today’s consumer wants to know where their food comes from, and who’s producing it,” Teel said.

“They want to have somewhat of a relationship, even if it’s just the knowledge of who they are, particularly if they’re a family business, and so we try and highlight that,” he continued. “We have great relationships with our producers.”

Teel added that consumers would like to see an image of the farmer on the package. “I think they want to see that. They want to have a connection with the source of their food, and so any way that we can convey that to our consumer, whether it is with photographs or information at point of sale, or highlighting them in an ad, where it be online or on television. I think it resonates with the consumer.”