Politico’s Morning Ag report  says House Republicans want to derail some of the USDA’s school lunch reforms in the appropriations process. Good grief, the GOP is no friend to the fresh produce industry lately. No help with immigration reform and now they want to roll back fresh-produce friendly school lunch nutrition standards. So tell me again why it seems that everybody in the fresh produce industry votes Republican?

The American Frozen Food Institute is launching a national effort to encourage consumers to “take a fresh look at frozen foods” through the “Frozen. How Fresh Stays Fresh.” category education and promotion initiative.

Yes, you read that correctly. “Frozen. How fresh stays fresh.”

From my perspective, when you freeze something, it is no longer fresh. It is frozen.

From the AFFI release:

Leading American frozen food makers have come together to launch this first-of-a kind national dialogue to inform and remind consumers that freezing simply pauses just-picked, just-baked and just-crafted foods, locking in their freshness, flavor and nutrients.

The “Frozen. How Fresh Stays Fresh.” initiative is a three-year, $30 million per year effort to engage consumers where they live, work and shop through national television, digital and print advertising, online engagement and in-store and out-of-store promotion.

“Keeping food fresh is what freezing is all about,” said AFFI President and CEO Kraig R. Naasz. “Freezing is simply nature’s pause button that keeps fresh foods at their peak of freshness. We are excited to talk with consumers about the many benefits of frozen food and encourage shoppers to visit the frozen food aisle and take a fresh look at frozen,” said Naasz.

The “Frozen. How Fresh Stays Fresh.” consumer education initiative is being supported by AFFI members who make some of America’s most popular and beloved foods, including ConAgra Foods, General Mills, Heinz, Hillshire Brands, Jasper Wyman & Son, Kellogg’s, Lakeside Foods, Nestlé USA, Pinnacle Foods, Schwan’s Foods and Seneca Foods.

TK: In the face of such double speak, wouldn’t it be great if fresh produce advocates would spearhead a "three-year $30 million per year" campaign (right!) to keep the consumer perception of “fresh” where it should be. That, of course, is in the fresh produce department, not in frozen foods. 

Check out the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau’s comment to the FDA on the proposed rule for the Foreign Supplier Verification Program. From those comments, a few excerpts:

It is critical when promulgating FSVP requirements to ensure that the importers’ foreign suppliers are producing in compliance with processes and procedures that provide at least the same level of public health protection as those processes and procedures required of domestic suppliers. The rules on domestically produced items must be applied in the same manner as rules on imported items covered under the FSVP rules. If this is not achieved, the FSMA rules could be considered as constituting a trade barrier that may then be open to a World Trade Organization (WTO) challenge.

Increased federal standards will place United States producers at a competitive disadvantage with foreign producers if the same standards are not aggressively enforced on imports. The same standards and exemptions for domestic produce must also be extended to imported produce in order to comply with WTO rules.

The proposed regulatory exception based solely on size for growers with farm sales of $25,000 per year or less in the produce safety rule would be particularly relevant when applied to foreign suppliers. While we believe that few, if any, domestic growers would qualify for this exemption, its consequences for imports are dramatic.

The amount of farm production required to reach the equivalent of $25,000 (U.S.) is vastly different in numerous foreign countries, many of which are serious produce exporters to the United States. In its comments, AFBF cited the example of Chinese apple production, which leads the world, but is the product of many small farms, several of which make less than $25,000 (U.S.) per year.

Under the small farm exemptions in the proposed rule, the vast majority of apples imported from China would be exempt from the proposed rule, putting United States producers at a significant competitive disadvantage in their own domestic markets, creating a widely divergent and unpredictable level of food safety regulation for United Staes consumers. In many cases, inclusion of this exemption in its current form will mislead the consuming public on the actual degree to which imported food products have been subjected to the regulations’ food safety protocols.

At the same time, we have concerns about the treatment of very small importers (as defined in § 1.500) and very small foreign suppliers (as defined in § 1.512). As proposed in § 1.512, modified FSVP requirements would only mandate written assurance of compliance rather than hazard-analysis and verification. FDA already estimates that 59 percent of processed food suppliers and 93 percent of raw produce suppliers would fall under this category, which would leave a large amount of imported foods outside the program.

TK: The issue of “fairness” reltative to how domestic and foreign suppliers are treated under food safety regulations is a critical test for the FDA. As the comment suggests, any regulation that is too severe on foreign suppliers invites a WTO challenge. Yet any lax treatment of foreign suppliers could put U.S. producers are a competitive disadvantage in their own domestic markets. Here is the comment from the Fresh Produce Association of the Americas about the FSVP.

That document, submitted by the FPAA’s Lance Jungmeyer, will take you much deeper into the weeds of what the FDA’s proposed rule expects from importers and foreign suppliers.

Other links of interest today:

Increase in assessment for California desert grapes 

20 years of NAFTA success USDA FAS