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Are you confident your labor records would stand up to an ICE audit?


Feb. 9-12, 2010
National Grocers Association Annual Convention & Supermarket Synergy Showcase, Paris Las Vegas Hotel, 703-516-0700, www.nationalgrocers.org/


Food Safety and Labor
Food safety has dominated the discussions around fresh and fresh-cut produce – perhaps rightly so. But with immigration reform still looming, employee documentation shouldn’t be put too far out of mind.

Food production, everything from farming to processing to the supply chain, is considered critical infrastructure for the United States. The Obama administration has made it clear that it’s going after employers that employ unauthorized workers, not the employees. Failing to keep proper records can result in fines and downtime from having to get rid of unauthorized employees, and knowingly employing or recruiting unauthorized employees can result in seized assets or jail time.

Last June, Department of Homeland Security Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) audited 650 companies, followed by 1,000 more in November. Of the 85,000 employees at the first audits in June, 16 percent were unauthorized.

The basis of employment authorization is the I-9 form, which was recently updated. New hires should fill out the new form, which has an expiration date of Aug. 31, 2012, in the upper right hand corner. The new form also has four boxes in Section 1 instead of three, which make it less ambiguous, according to ICE. The new I-9 has changes to Section 2, which is filled out by the employer, no longer allowing expired documents.

Staying up to date on records and completing an I-9 for every employee is the simplest way to make ICE go away. Watch for more on this topic in an upcoming issue of Fresh Cut.

Industry Spotlight
Alan Heinzen, CEO Heinzen Manufacturing International

How has the global economy affected your equipment business?
Are processors backing off equipment purchases?
The Euro is high against the dollar, so customers seem to be buying from domestic sources. We still see new European equipment in the U.S. but not like we did a few years ago in the value added business.

How are you adapting to the economic situation?
We have reduced overhead, to deal with lower sales, and are working on labor saving devices ourselves to save money. Plus we have changed our processes to be more efficient.

Do you think the economy is picking up?
We are seeing more sales from mid 2009 to today on retail and institutional equipment, some could be to catch up to demand that was not purchased because money was tight in late 2008 and early 2009. The majority of our equipment sales are to increase production capacity and to reduce labor on existing systems.

Where is the fresh-cut equipment industry going from here?
People still have to eat, they don’t need electronic stuff, or other toys. I think the demand for value added products will continue to increase as households need two incomes to make things work and have less time to cook and no money to go out. Since mid-2009 we have seen the demand increase for retail related production equipment. Fast food demand is still solid, we have seen steady volume of food service equipment since mid-2009. Our business over all was down 20 percent in 2009 compared to 2008 because of a slow first half. 2010 volume looks about the same as 2009 from our projections, it has started out strong so we will see how it continues. We are here to serve the industry for the long term, so we will do what it takes to survive.

Market Report
Vegetable and melon production in the United States decreased slightly last year, but the value of the products increased, according to USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service.

Total harvested acres, at 1.71 million acres, decreased slightly from the previous year, but the value of production is estimated at $10.4 billion, an improvement from 2008.

California grew nearly half of the total production of U.S. vegetables and melons in 2009, which accounted for 52 percent of the total value. Florida produced 9 percent of total production and 13 percent of total value, followed by Arizona with 7 percent of both total production and value.

Three crops accounted for 38 percent of total vegetable and melon production – tomatoes, head lettuce and onions. The three products also accounted for 32 percent of the total value.

More than 53 million hundredweight of head lettuce was grown in the United States in 2009 with a value of more than $1.5 billion. Production increased over 2008, as did the total value. Production of leaf lettuce decreased from 2008 to 2009 by almost 1.5 million hundredweight to 11 million hundredweight, according to NASS. Total value of leaf lettuce production dropped only $6 million, however. Romaine lettuce production recovered from a low production year in 2008, producing 26 million hundredweight or more than 3 million hundredweight more than the previous year. The value of 2009 Romaine production increased from $479 million in 2008 to $614 million.

Acreage for cantaloupe increased in 2009, but the production remained about the same as 2008 due to low yields in Arizona, the No. 1 cantaloupe-producing state. Arizona had 23,500 acres planted of cantaloupe, but yields were 215 per acre, down from 250 in 2008 and 305 in 2007. Overall, the value of cantaloupe production in the United States was estimated at $359 million, about $3 million higher than 2008 and $56 million higher than 2007.

Product Highlight:
Ishida QX Tray Sealer

The new compact Ishida QX tray sealer allows customers to seal any size or shape of tray.

One-button changeovers make the sealer ideal for packaging salads, fresh-cut fruits and vegetables, and multi-compartment snack trays.

Integrate the tray sealer with up to five fillers. Ishida’s user-friendly touch screen control stores all operating configurations for each filler and tray. Tooling can be exchanged in minutes using a portable cart. Ishida's Intelligent Tool function automatically recognizes the correct tooling for each product preset for fast, accurate changeovers. In addition, tool redundancy allows individual sealing heads to be switched off without reducing production speeds.

Models are available for medium speed manual loading or fully automated sealing of up to 200 trays per minute. Modified atmosphere functions include gas flushing, vacuum-gassing, or seal-only operation. Redundant cutting and heating tools assure minimal downtime.

To simplify sanitation, Ishida QX tray sealers are self-draining and have no inaccessible areas. Conveyors and belts can be removed without using tools.

Additional features are available to configure the tray sealer for liquid products, printed film, checkweighing, metal detection and labeling.

For more information, call Heat and Control Inc. at 800-227-5980, e-mail info@heatandcontrol.com or go to www.heatandcontrol.com.