● This past Sunday I arrived back from Barcelona, Spain. There, I had attended the 2013 Global Food Safety Conference, the main annual gathering for GFSI, the Global Food Safety Initiative. About 780 delegates from some 53 countries were present. It was clear to me that this private organization is primarily driven by the commercial needs and requirements of large retailers (for example, Walmart and Carrefour) and major international food companies (for example, Cargill, Coca-Cola, and Tyson Foods). One participant from Nestlé mentioned that his company had 328,000 employees, 461 factories in 83 countries, 10,000 branded products, and dealt with over 12,000 vendors. Given the complexities of today’s global food system, GFSI would like to be the entity that the United States government looks to when seeking certification of the safety of food produced in foreign lands and shipped to our country.

—The head of the biological safety department at Germany’s Federal Institute for Risk Assessment was a speaker in Barcelona. I happened to meet Dr. Bernd Appel at a coffee break and discovered that one summer in his youth he had worked harvesting peaches on an orchard located in Oregon. He also affirmed that fresh apples and pears had not come across his desk as causing any consumer food safety problem in Germany.

—At international meetings, it is often difficult to explain the nature of the Northwest Horticultural Council. When asked by a university scientist from Beijing, the People’s Republic of China, who I worked for, I simply said the apple industry of the United States. He nodded understandingly and pointed to his Apple iPhone.

● The new senior agricultural counselor to the administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is an attorney, Sarah Bittleman. Ms. Bittleman, who takes the place of Larry Elworth (who once worked for the Pennsylvania apple industry), most recently was a special advisor on energy to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack and had previously worked on Capitol Hill for Senator Ron Wyden (D/Oregon).

● USApple:

—Next week I plan to be in Washington, D.C., for the United States Apple Association’s annual Capitol Hill Day (Thursday) and spring board meeting (Saturday). Friday will be taken up with separate meetings on international trade matters.

—Two staff vacancies have been filled at USApple: Jessica L. Allen is its new director of membership and communications, while Windy Brannen starts April 22 as director of consumer research and education program.

● U.S. Representatives Doc Hastings (R/Washington) and Jim Costa (D/California), the co-chairs of the House Specialty Crop Caucus, are arranging for a staff briefing next Wednesday afternoon in the Longworth House Office Building on the Food Safety Modernization Act. At that time, Dr. Dave Gombas of the United Fresh Produce Association and I are scheduled to give congressional staffers a private industry view of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s proposed FSMA rules.