- THE MAGAZINE
- FOOD MASTER
CDC unsure of progress in fighting foodborne illnesses
Campylobacter, Listeria, Salmonella, Shigella, E. coli O157, Vibrio and Yersinia did not decline significantly, and the estimated incidence of Cryptosporidium increased when compared with the three previous years (2004-2006). Although there have been significant declines in the incidence of some foodborne infections since surveillance began in 1996, these declines all occurred before 2004.
“The results show that prevention efforts have been partly successful, but there has been little further progress in the most recent years,” says Dr. Robert Tauxe, deputy director of the CDC’s Division of Foodborne, Bacterial and Mycotic Diseases. Tauxe adds that more work needs to be done to make our food safer.
According to the report, Salmonella outbreaks caused by contaminated peanut butter, frozen pot pies and a puffed vegetable snack in 2007 underscore the need to prevent contamination of commercially produced products. Yet, at the same time a USDA FSIS testing program showed declines of Salmonella in poultry (broiler chicken carcasses) from 16.3% in 2005 to 11.4% in 2006 and 8.5% in 2007.
Unfortunately, declines in the incidence of E. coli O157 infections in 2003 and 2004 have not been maintained. Despite interventions from beef processors and FSIS to reduce ground beef contamination, 21 beef product recalls for possible contamination with STEC O157 were issued in 2007, 10 of which were illness associated, representing an increase compared with previous years.
Risk factors for many of these diseases still remain high for children under five years of age. Therefore, CDC encourages consumers to follow safe food handling and preparation techniques.The CDC report can be found online at www.cdc.gov/mmwr (Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report). Look for Volume 57, number 14 (week of April 11, 2008). For more information on FoodNet, visit, www.cdc.gov/foodnet.
Robots do the heavy lifting
Of the 200 packagers interviewed, 22% use packaging machinery with three or more axes, and 21% are planning to use robotics in the next five years. Robotics usage often accounts for more than one application at a packager’s site and continues to grow with palletizing (61% of respondents) and case/carton packaging (33%) being the most widely used applications for packaging robots. Pick-and-place applications were selected by 26% of the respondents.
The primary reasons packagers initially added robotics to packaging lines were to reduce costs, achieve higher efficiencies, reduce the labor force and increase manufacturing flexibility. According to PMMI supplier members, robotics usage has almost doubled from five years ago-from an average of 9.5% of packaging lines having robotics to 17.4% today. In addition, robotics usage is expected to continually grow rapidly over the next five years.
More than 75% of packagers with robotics equipment in their lines expect to see an increase in robotics usage in the next five years. PMMI member suppliers agree that food and food preparation is currently the largest robotics market. Packagers for chemicals, food and beverages and pharmaceuticals are the most likely to have robotics on their packaging lines.More than 90% of packagers have given their robots good grades, saying robots are successful in performing their jobs, and nearly 80% of packagers interviewed think robots are important to their packaging operations. The food and durable goods industries rated the importance of robotics slightly higher than other industries. The most popularly mentioned desires for future systems include vision systems, increased speed and greater flexibility.
Corn prices too high?
But according to an LECG LLC study entitled The Relative Impact of Corn and Energy Prices in the Grocery Aisle, the actual relationship between ethanol, corn and retail food prices is less clear. Well-known consultant and professor and LECG director, John Urbanchuk, author of the study, says that a 33% increase in crude oil prices (which translates to a $1.00 per gallon increase in the price of conventional gas) results in a 0.6% increase in the CPI for food while an equivalent increase in corn prices ($1.00 per bushel) would cause the CPI for food to increase only 0.3%.
According to USDA’s most recent statistics, some industries are affected more than others by rising corn prices. For example, a 2-liter soda uses 15 oz. of corn in HFCS sweetener. At $3.40 per bushel (the average price of corn in 2007), the cost of the corn in the soda is 5.7 cents compared with 3.8 cents when corn was $2.28 per bushel (the 20-year average).
Currently about 55% of the corn produced in the
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