Tyson Foods Inc. is the first major food company to become a full member of the IMAGE program with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), company and government officials announced.

IMAGE is short for 'ICE Mutual Agreement between Government and Employers.' The program enables businesses, if they meet rigorous standards, to voluntarily partner with the federal government to ensure they are employing people who are legally authorized to work in the United States.

At a signing ceremony in Washington, D.C., Tyson Senior Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer Ken Kimbro said, "We believe our participation confirms to our customers, plant communities and others that Tyson uses best hiring practices to maintain a lawful workforce. We also believe this partnership will enhance our ability to collaborate with government officials on immigration-related matters."

"ICE's collaboration with Tyson Foods illustrates this administration's commitment to working with industry to encourage a culture of compliance with U.S. employment laws," said ICE Director John Morton. "Tyson Foods is setting the gold standard for Fortune 500 companies everywhere, and ICE is proud to be partnering with the company in this significant effort to protect our nation's lawful workforce."

Tyson employs almost 100,000 people at locations throughout the United States. To become certified, the company made all of its Form I-9 employment eligibility documents available for ICE review, cooperated with government field audits of selected plant locations and also allowed ICE to check the Social Security numbers of all company employees.

The certification process gave Tyson the opportunity to show how the company is already using best hiring practices.

"We use all available tools provided by the U.S. government to verify the documents of the people we hire," said Kimbro. "We also go beyond government-provided tools in our verification efforts. In fact, we've spent millions of dollars over the years on such things as training, computer systems and help from outside consultants to make sure we're employing people who are authorized to work in our country."

Since 1998, Tyson has voluntarily participated in the online government employment verification program currently known as E-Verify. The company also voluntarily uses the 'Social Security Number Verification System,' an online service that allows employers to verify the names and Social Security numbers of employees against Social Security Administration records.

In addition to government tools, Tyson has also taken its own measures, which include:
--  Training all of its employment managers on the hiring process, proper completion of the Form I-9 and on document examination and fraud detection.
--  Permitting only salaried managers who have been trained to conduct job interviews and certify Form I-9's. All hiring managers are re-certified through an I-9 certification test on a yearly basis.
--  Maintaining an internal website with immigration-related information and tools hiring managers can use at any time. This includes I-9 certification training as well as links to important government websites with information about employment verification.
--  Regularly auditing its Form I-9s, as well as its hiring process. These internal audits are conducted on a weekly, semi-annual and annual basis by the location and by corporate Human Resources representatives.
--  Also using an independent, outside company -- with expertise in immigration matters -- to conduct its own audits of the company's hiring practices.
--  Maintaining a "Help Line" anyone within the company can use to report unauthorized workers or illegal activity.
--  If company officials learn an employee may not be authorized to work in this country, immediate measures are taken. If the worker involved is unable to correct any discrepancies in their documents, he or she is released from employment.
--  Tyson also has a protocol for any 'no match' letters it receives from the Social Security Administration. Such letters are promptly addressed and situation is tracked until resolved.
--  Tracking identity fraud trends and enforcement actions and communicating those to hiring managers. This ensures diligence in the face of changing identity fraud trends in the communities and the industries where Tyson operates.

At a press event announcing the partnership, Morton said that Tyson set the standard for a Fortune 500 business.

“The food processing business is very, very competitive,” he added. “Some out there have questioned whether or not individual businesses in that field can survive while playing by the rules. Today’s announcement should put an end to such speculation. If a company as large as Tyson Foods can get compliance right, any company can.”

Morton noted that enforcement efforts were at an all-time high in 2010, and he announced that a new ICE center in Crystal City, Va., is being opened. It will be home to 15 ICE auditors who will focus solely on large-scale employment verification inspections. With the new center in place, Morton said, ICE will have more than 150 auditors on staff and will be able to audit and investigate I-9 records of the largest companies in the United States.

Source: Tyson Foods Inc., ICE

JBS has arranged bid funding for Sara Lee: Report

Reuters is reporting that a group of companies led by JBS SA has arranged a package to bid for all or parts of Sara Lee Corp. A source with direct knowledge of the situation told Reuters that JBS has won commitments from international banks for loans and could tap equity markets to complete the funding package.

Sara Lee, valued by analysts at about $12.5 billion, has been examining various options such as selling itself or splitting itself up into meat and beverage units. The board is expected to approve a plan to split the company at a meeting by the end of January unless a compelling takeover bid emerges, a separate source familiar with the situation previously told Reuters.

Indications of interest in Sara Lee are expected on Friday, a third source familiar with the situation said on Thursday. Sara Lee's board is also expected to meet on Friday and pick a bidder to continue talks, said the first source, who said any decision to continue the talks hinges chiefly on the price per share that Sara Lee asks.

"It is in this meeting that (Sara Lee's board members) will decide with whom they will continue talks," that source said on Thursday. "From there, any further development will probably be a function of the price offered."

Source: Reuters

School meals manufacturers pledge to provide healthier products

A new multi-industry voluntary agreement announced by the Alliance for a Healthier Generation brings together leading food manufacturers, group purchasing organizations and technology companies to help America's schools serve healthier meals at more affordable prices. As a result of these agreements, more than 30 million students across the country will have access to healthier school meals – including at least 14 million students who currently participate in the free and reduced lunch program.

AdvancePierre Foods, Domino's Pizza, JTM Food Group, McCain Foods USA, Rich Products Corporation, Schwan's Food Service, Trident Seafoods, HPS, Premier healthcare alliance, Summa/Provista, Interflex, Dole Food Company, Inc., and the National Turkey Federation have joined the effort to combat childhood obesity by agreeing to increase the availability of products that can lead to healthy schools meals. Signatories to these first of their kind agreements brokered by the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, founded by the American Heart Association and the William J. Clinton Foundation, have agreed to develop, market and competitively price products that will lead to healthier school meal options; streamline the ordering process; and make identifying healthy options easier.

"With students consuming up to half of their daily calories at school, healthy school meals are key to winning the fight against childhood obesity," said former President Bill Clinton, founder of the William J. Clinton Foundation. "Building on our agreements that have reduced the number of calories in beverages shipped to schools by 88 percent, the Alliance is now focusing on helping provide more nutritious meal options to more than 30 million school children nationwide."

Manufacturers including AdvancePierre Foods, Domino's Pizza, JTM Food Group, McCain Foods USA, Rich Products Corporation, Schwan's Food Service and Trident Seafoods pledge not to price healthy options out of reach of school cafeterias. Signatories will set prices for healthier items that meet the Alliance for a Healthier Generation's science-based standards for nutrition at prices no higher than less healthy comparable products. Participating manufacturers have also pledged to increase the sales of compliant products to at least 50 percent of their entire school sales within five years.

Manufacturers have committed to aggressively promote products that align with the Alliance's Healthy Schools Program standards and will help schools meet or exceed the requirements currently being finalized by the USDA. Product commitments fall in at least one of the following categories within the Alliance's science-based guidelines for school foods:
    * Lean protein products, such as lean red meat, skinless poultry, lean deli meats, fat-free or low-fat cheese, beans, and tofu.
    * Low-fat lunch entrees with reduced total fat, saturated fat and sodium levels.
    * Whole-grain products, such as bread, pasta and pizza crust.
    * Fresh, canned or frozen fruit.
    * Non-fried vegetables.
    * Zero trans fat cooking oils.

"Increased access and lower prices to purchase healthy meal components makes it easier for schools to offer healthier school meals — a key strategy to help combat childhood obesity and to move students and staff toward ideal cardiovascular health," said Ralph Sacco, M.D., president of the American Heart Association and chairman, department of neurology Miller School of Medicine University of Miami.

Schools can also save time and gain buying power by joining a group purchasing organization (GPO). With today's agreement three of the largest GPOs in the U.S. with more than $70 billion in combined buying power, HPS, Premier healthcare alliance and Summa/Provista, have agreed to offer products that meet the Alliance's nutritional guidelines. GPOs have been successful at consolidating buying power in other institutional food service settings including hospitals, healthcare facilities and universities. By applying this same model to America's schools, schools will see a savings of 10 to 20 percent in their food and beverage purchases.

In order to help schools take the first step in changing their purchasing process, the Alliance is collaborating with the technology firm Interflex to create an online tool that streamlines the procurement process by assisting schools with planning, bidding and purchasing healthier products. Dole Food Co. Inc. and the National Turkey Federation have also agreed to leverage their tools and resources to support schools in their implementation of this new approach to school meals.

"Today is just the beginning. The food manufacturer, group purchasing and technology agreements are just three components of the Alliance's larger healthier school meals strategy with the goal of impacting more than 30 million students within a five year period," said Ginny Ehrlich, executive director of the Alliance for a Healthier Generation.

Additional components in the Alliance's school meals strategy to support foodservice professionals being launched over the next year will include in-person and online training programs, menu planning and cooking techniques and recipes from celebrity chefs to school food service staff.

Last week, the USDA released the proposed rule for the nutrition standards in the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Program. To help schools more easily navigate the Alliance and USDA standards, the Alliance will update their guidelines to meet or exceed the final rule. The Alliance agreement helps alleviate barriers districts will face in serving healthier school meals, and will enhance schools' ability to meet those updated standards.

Parents, school administrators and food service directors can help the Alliance fight childhood obesity and bring healthier meals to schools across the country by joining the Alliance for a Healthier Generation's Healthy Schools Program online at www.healthiergeneration.org. There is no cost to join the Healthy Schools Program, and members have access to hundreds of resources, including a variety of free technical tools that enable anyone who makes purchasing decisions about school meals to implement and promote healthier options for students.

Source: Alliance for a Healthier Generation

Land O'Frost, Emmitt Smith team up for Hall of Fame ceremony giveaway

Land O’Frost is teaming up with the Pro Football Hall of Fame for the second year in a row to offer consumers an unmatched sporting experience – four VIP tickets to the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s 2011 Enshrinement weekend.

Emmitt Smith, 2010 Hall of Fame Inductee, has joined Land O’Frost to promote the contest offered through instant win cards found in packages of Land O’Frost One Pound Premium brand luncheon meats. Beginning January 3, 2011, Land O’Frost released 8 million instant win game cards in packages of Land O’Frost One Pound Premium brand luncheon meats. Consumers have until March 31, 2011 to identify and claim prizes. The unique grand prize is a trip for the winner and three of their guests to the 2011 Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement Festival in Canton, Ohio on Saturday, August 6, 2011. The grand prize package includes airfare and hotel, VIP access to the 2011 Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement Ceremony, premium tickets to the Hall of Fame Game, including pre-game tailgating, tickets to the Grand Parade, Pre-Enshrinement Brunch and Hall of Fame Museum, featuring all new inductees from 2011. In addition to the grand prize, consumers have the opportunity to win footballs autographed by the entire 2011 Pro Football Hall of Fame Class and Official 2011 Pro Football Hall of Fame Commemorative Game coins.

“We had such great success with our Hall of Fame partnership last year and are excited to continue that partnership in 2011,” said Stephan Williams, vice president of marketing at Land O’Frost. “This year, we are thrilled to work with Emmitt Smith as part of our national advertising campaign to support the promotion. Being a family owned company with strong ties to family values and community in general, we are very pleased to be working with Emmitt Smith and his entire family.”

Source: Land O’Frost

Smashburger announces hires to executive team

Smashburger has appointed four new members to its executive leadership team. The fast-growing chain's new leaders bring experience from some of the world's most successful companies and brands, including McDonald's, Blue Moon, Clorox and Chipotle.

Craig Leonard will serve as executive vice president and president international, Julie Reeves will serve as vice president of marketing, David Milliken will serve as vice president of marketing and Chris Smith with serve as regional director of operations.

"These appointments signify the bright future Smashburger has as it strives to become America's favorite place for burgers," said David Prokupek, CEO & chairman of Smashburger. "Craig, Julie, Dave and Chris all bring a record of proven success to our company and I look forward to working closely with them as Smashburger continues to grow."

Leonard brings more than 20 years of experience in restaurant operations, franchising and sales to Smashburger. He has managed global brands such as McDonalds, Burger King and Popeye's. Prior to becoming executive vice president and president international for Smashburger, Leonard worked as chief operating officer for Century 21 Real Estate LLC.

Reeves has more than 10 years of strategic and consumer communications experience. She has worked on a number of admired consumer brands including Clorox, Silk Soymilk and Brita Water Filtration. Most recently, Reeves served as brand manager for Whitewave Foods.

Throughout his career, Milliken has managed beer brands including Blue Moon, Coors Light and Killian's Irish Red while working as a brand manager for MillerCoors. Most recently, Milliken served as senior brand manager for Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy. Previously, Smith served as operations director for Chiptole Mexican Grill, overseeing dozens of restaurant operations as vice president for Star Concessions Ltd. and most recently served as senior vice president of Mexican Restaurants Inc.

Source: Smashburger

Institutional food distributor launches Meatless Monday initiative

Sodexo has launched the Meatless Monday initiative nationwide by promoting and adding the option of a plant-based entree to its menus each week. Sodexo expanded the initiative to its more than 900 hospital client accounts across the country in January 2011, following successful pilot implementations at a number of hospitals, schools and colleges. The program has also been made available to Sodexo's corporate and government accounts.

By spring Sodexo corporate and government clients will have menus and materials in place to support the program. This fall the program will officially begin in Sodexo-served colleges and schools, already more than a dozen have implemented Meatless Mondays. The company's senior living community clients will also pilot the program for residents and staff in 2011.

"Once people realize that vegetarian meals provide the protein that they need and are just as interesting, flavorful -- and fun to prepare -- people find them easy to integrate into their lives," said Shawn Fields, executive chef, Cobblestone Cafe, Johns Hopkins Hospital.

The not-for-profit organization The Monday Campaigns (www.mondaycampaigns.org) developed the public health initiative in 2003 with the assistance of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future.

"Sodexo is proud to combine our culinary expertise with the knowledge of our clinical dietitians to integrate meatless meal options that meet the nutritional needs of students learning in schools, patients recovering in hospitals, and employees engaging worksite wellness programs," concludes Nitu Gupta, vice president of brand management for Sodexo health care. "Meatless Monday provides a healthy and tasty alternative for people looking to implement a healthy diet change, which explains why it has been so popular."

Source: Sodexo