(April 11, 6:35 p.m., PACKER WEB EXCLUSIVE) McDonald’s USA, one of the nation’s largest sellers of apples and salads, is among the companies to be honored during by the United Fresh Produce Association in Las Vegas.

Washington, D.C.-based United Fresh has announced the winners in its inaugural effort to honor companies and chefs who excel at promoting produce on their menus. Winners of the United Fresh Research and Education Foundation’s Produce Excellence in Foodservice Awards will be recognized during the May 5-7 convention.

Dan Coudreaut, director of culinary innovation for Oak Brook, Ill.-based McDonald’s, won in the quick-service category.

McDonald’s spokeswoman Danya Proud said the company had sold about 650 million salads since 2003. The hamburger giant also has become big in the apple business with its Fruit & Walnut salads and Apple Dippers.

“We continue to look at ways to add produce to our menu,” she said. “This is a testament to Dan’s leadership and the overall menu management team at McDonald’s.

The foodservice awards, sponsored by Monterey, Calif.-based foodservice network Pro*Act, complement United Fresh’s annual retail produce manager awards program.

“Chefs (who) incorporate more fresh fruits and vegetables in creative ways help increase consumption, which is critical for improving the general health and obesity problems facing our country today,” said Steve Grinstead, Pro*Act’s president and chief executive officer. “If consumers try new and exciting things in eating establishments, it is more likely that they will purchase them at retail as well.”

More than 100 nominations were made in five categories. A panel of industry representatives judged the nominees based on factors such as how they incorporate fresh produce in menu development and storage and handling protocols.

Other winning chefs:

  • Fine dining: Tony Baker, executive chef and partner in of Montrio Bistro, Monterey, Calif.;

  • Casual and family dining: Reinhard Dorfhuber, executive chef and partner in Elephant Bar Restaurant, La Mirada, Calif.;

  • Business in industry and colleges: Jonathan Davey, catering banquet chef of Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah; and

  • Hotels and Healthcare: J.P. Hagot, chef of Peconic Landing, Greenport, N.Y., a life care retirement community.

The winning chefs — who will receive airfare, hotel accommodations and registrations to the United Fresh show — will be recognized during a May 6 awards banquet. The chefs will also participate in a session dedicated to foodservice trends at 10:30 a.m. that same day at Bally’s.