Tech Flash Vol. 4 No. 8
Cellulosic biofuels possible alternative to corn
“This year, the US will divert nearly one-third of our total corn production to make ethanol. It’s contributing directly to record corn prices-spiking even higher due to the tragic flooding in Iowa,” said Rep. Moran. “The unprecedented price of corn is having a ripple effect on food prices directly impacting consumers at the grocery store, not to mention the poor and starving in the third world. We call on the EPA to redouble its efforts to rapidly transition away from biofuels that draw down our food supply toward newer, more sustainable energy sources.”
The letter notes that at present, food price inflation in the US is rising at twice the overall rate of inflation, while global food prices have nearly doubled in the past three years. The bipartisan group is emphasizing the importance of finding sources for biofuels that “do not divert food and feed from domestic and international supplies.”
Under existing policies, 30-35% of all US corn will be diverted for ethanol production this year. According to Moran’s letter, the conversion of corn to ethanol will only displace 4% of America’s gasoline supplies this year.One sustainable alternative to corn is switchgrass. According to a large farm study completed earlier this year by researchers at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, switchgrass grown for biofuel production produced five times more energy than needed to grow, harvest and process it into cellulosic ethanol. But a change to switchgrass cannot be accomplished in a year or two.
Is dieting on the way out?
“While dieting for both women and men remain huge markets, they are not growing markets,” says Harry Balzer, vice president of NPD. “The desire to lose weight really was a ‘90s trend. Today, consumers appear to be making healthier food choices.”
The study found that, at least once in a two week period, over 70% of Americans are consuming reduced fat foods, and over half of them are eating reduced calorie, whole grain or fortified foods. In addition to these, other “better for you” foods include diet, light, reduced cholesterol, reduced sodium, caffeine free, sugar free, fortified, organic and low-carb varieties. The average American, according to NPD’s National Eating Trends, has at least two “better for you” products a day.Balzer says that Americans used to think of subtracting bad foods from their diets; today they think positively about adding healthy foods to their regimen.
Chemists help with healthier foods
The number of published papers exploring these disease-fighting properties of food components has quintupled since 2003, according to the report. Scientists have already developed carrots with super-high antioxidant levels. Other foods designed to target cancer, high cholesterol and other health conditions may soon be on the way.Creating healthier foods that still taste good can be problematic, as changing certain food components can make flavor and texture unappetizing. The challenge is to boost nutrition levels without losing the qualities that consumers find appealing.
Kraft spins off Post Cereals
Real time SPC data provides an edge
As a general theme, best-in-class manufacturers differentiate themselves from the competition by incorporating real-time data into their processes. Specifically, these best-in-class manufacturers are more than twice as likely than laggards to monitor exceptions on the plant floor in real time and use real-time data in production optimization processes and for production release and control.
Furthermore, the study points out that 55% of the best-in-class manufacturers use automated statistical process control (SPC) software to achieve production and business advantages.According to study participant Marty Slagel, corporate quality, Hormel Foods, “We believe that you measure what is important and what is important gets improved. Variation is our enemy and by using statistical process control to reduce this variation we have seen multiple benefits. Namely, we remain in compliance with our nutritional statements and the USDA, we deliver a more consistent product to our customer, all while simultaneously reducing costs.”
High-tech flowmeters catch on
Markets for older types-such as positive displacement, turbine and variable area flowmeters-have been declining slowly. The study estimates a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) in revenues for the total worldwide flowmeter market to be 4.9% through 2012. By 2012, the worldwide market is expected to exceed $5.7 billion.
The market is undergoing a shift from traditional types to high-tech, multi-variable devices at the rate of about one percent a year. Increased concerns with accuracy and reliability in measurement could accelerate these trends.For more information, visit www.flowresearch.com.
FDT: On the road again
Ron Gul, Shell Global Solutions International, shared with his Calgary audience the WIB (Working party on Instrument Behavior) Test Report findings on FDT/DTM (device type manager) or EDDL (electronic device description language) for asset management using FOUNDATION Fieldbus Technology. Both seminars included technical presentations and live demonstrations to help visitors understand how the technology works.FDT Group will host technical seminars in Houston, TX (Sept. 25th) and Greenville, SC (Oct. 28). For more information, visit www.fdtgroup.org/events.
Demands abroad drive PLC market
While PLC growth has been notable, the market is demanding the programmable automation controller (PAC), a multi-disciplined controller capable of providing real-time logic, motion and process control in addition to HMI and other logic functions on a single platform. Major automation suppliers have extended PLC functions beyond just logic, especially in the higher-end models.The PLC-based PAC market growth is expected to be greater than the overall PLC market growth. This growth will be driven by the logical extension of PLC functionality to a multi-discipline platform. It is expected that most of the small and large PLCs of today, as well as some of the micro PLCs, will morph into PACs, and the pure PLCs will remain at the nano and some of the micro level.
Food Safety News
Jury is still out on bisphenol-A
Frank M. Torti, MD, MPH, FDA’s principal deputy commissioner and chief scientist, asked Science Board Chairwoman Barbara J. McNeil, MD, PhD and head of Health Care Policy at Harvard Medical School, to establish a subcommittee to assess BPA, a plastic substance used in some baby bottles, food containers and water bottles.
BPA has been suspected of being hazardous to humans because it mimics estrogen and may induce hormonal responses. FDA has been reviewing emerging literature on BPA for years and CFSAN initiated a formal re-examination of the safety of BPA in early 2007.In April 2008, the National Toxicology Program (NTP) of the National Institutes of Health published a draft brief indicating that some studies in animals suggest BPA may raise concerns for developmental effects in humans. In the brief, NTP stated that, based on animal studies, it had “some concern” for neural and behavioral effects in fetuses, infants and children at current human exposures and also had “some concern” for exposure in these populations based on the effects in the prostate gland, mammary gland and an earlier age for puberty in females.
Color it hyperactive
Dairy's raw milk products may contain Listeria Monocytogenes
Raw milk that has not been pasteurized or homogenized can be sold in Pennsylvania, but requires permits and inspections.
In 2007, the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture revoked Stump Acres’ permit after the Department of Health identified several individuals who became sick after consuming raw milk from the dairy. State inspectors found that the dairy began selling raw milk again without a permit.
Samples were taken from the farm on June 12, and preliminary tests showed the presence of Listeria Monocytogenes on June 20. Final test will be forthcoming.So far no illnesses have been reported as a result of the potential contamination, but if people who consumed the raw milk become ill, they are instructed to consult their physician.
FSIS to help Spanish-speaking plant owners/operators
FSIS will award between $50,000 and $100,000 to one or more cooperative agreements this fiscal year. The program will support operations that generally have fewer technical and financial resources than large facilities that may be exacerbated when English is not the predominant language spoken by plant owners and operators. The program is intended to increase the knowledge and compliance with FSIS regulations while providing specialized assistance to this market segment.Applications must be received by Aug. 11, 2008 and may be submitted through www.grants.gov, or directly to FSIS by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, contact Mildred Rivera-Betancourt, FSIS, Training and Operations Branch by phone at 515-727-8987.