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Tech Flash Vol 7, No. 17 -- Food Engineering's E-Newsletter

September 9, 2011
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FDA takes the heat on FSMA.


FSMA unfairly targets small producers/processors

FDA is taking the heat for parts of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) that affect small producers/processors. First, importers (generally small businesses) will face new inspection fees. Second, small-scale, direct marketing producers will be scrutinized, but so far, the definition of small-scale producers isn’t clearly stated. FDA is currently requesting comments on FSMA.

During a time of worldwide recession, US food importers, most of them small businesses, will soon find themselves affected by additional costs caused by FDA’s new fees for re-examining imported foods, according to Benjamin England, founder and CEO of FDAImports.com. Starting October 1, 2011, FDA will charge food importers $224 per hour to re-examine imported food shipments suspected of a food safety violation-potentially costing importers thousands of dollars per entry. As per its Federal Register notice, this new fee will create a tax-like burden on food importers.

American consumers will certainly feel the effect of these new fees as well, says England. Food importing and distribution has a small price margin, especially compared to other commodities, such as cosmetics or dietary supplements. Thus, the importers are likely to pass these new expenses onto their purchasers, who will ultimately pass it on to consumers. According to England, “these fees amount to a hidden food tax on American consumers. This is no small thing as roughly 20 percent of the US food supply is imported, including 70 percent of seafood and 35 percent of fresh produce.” (See “Import Safety: Status of FDA’s Screening Efforts at the Border.)

According to FSMA, FDA can adjust the imported food re-examination fees, but it must issue regulations to do so. FDA in its August 1 Federal Register notice requested comments on the issue whether to grant waivers or fee reductions to small businesses, says England. FDA opened the comment period until October 31-30 days after the new examination fees go into effect. In the meantime, according to FDA, small businesses can expect to receive invoices from FDA starting on October 1 for the full fee amount. An importer can attempt to appeal the fee and plead for a waiver or reduction, however, no mechanism exists for that appeal, adds England.

While England claims FSMA unfairly discriminates against the small importer, a consumer group suggests there have been much discussion and confusion as to what constitutes a “small-scale producer” to which the Tester-Hagan amendment refers in the FSMA. The Weston A. Price Foundation (WAPF), a consumer nutrition organization, filed its third set of comments with FDA regarding the agency’s implementation of the FSMA. The most recent comments addressed the preparation of traditional foods-specifically raw milk cheeses, bone broths and lacto-fermented vegetables-in a safe manner.

“These foods play an important role in an optimal diet, and their production should be encouraged in the interests of Americans’ health and vitality,” says Sally Fallon Morell, founder and president of WAPF. “These foods have been safely prepared and consumed by people all over the world for centuries, and FDA needs to understand the traditions and science behind them. Treating these artisan foods as [though] they were inherently dangerous would only undermine their quality, while not serving the goal of food safety.”

WAPF’s earlier comments to the agency addressed issues such as what facilities should be exempted as “very small businesses,” how to classify low-risk facilities and factors FDA should consider in prioritizing inspections and enforcement activities.

“Consumers are flocking to farmers’ markets and local producers because they recognize a basic truth: not all food is created equal,” explains Fallon Morell. “When Congress passed the FSMA, it acknowledged this fact by including the Tester-Hagan amendment to exempt small-scale, direct-marketing producers from some of the most onerous of the new requirements. Now it’s up to FDA to respect this fact in its rulemaking and enforcement actions.”


Cargill convenes panel of food safety experts

Cargill has asked a panel of experts in food safety, microbiology and epidemiology to review its enhanced ground turkey food safety program in the wake of the company’s August 3, 2011 voluntary recall of 36 million pounds of ground turkey. Cargill initiated the recall after learning the US Centers for Disease Control detected an outbreak of Salmonella-related illnesses.

“We are leaving no stone unturned,” says Steve Willardsen, president of Cargill’s Wichita-based turkey processing business. “While we have already taken significant steps to enhance our food safety program at our Springdale, AR turkey processing facility, and those measures have been approved by USDA, we believe a panel of independent experts will be able to help us assess and validate the measures we’ve put in place while also providing us with valued external perspectives and recommendations for additional steps we could take. We have asked the panel to look at the entire process from live animal operations through ground turkey production.”

The panel includes Dr. Michael Doyle, professor of food microbiology at the University of Georgia’s Center for Food Safety; Barbara J. Masters DVM, senior policy advisor at Olsson Frank Weeda Terman Matz and former administrator of USDA’s FSIS; and Dr. Craig W. Hedberg, professor at the University of Minnesota’s Division of Environmental Health Sciences, specializing in epidemiology.

Since the recall, Cargill has made several enhancements to its food safety program. These include two additional antibacterial washes, intensifying an existing antibacterial system, disassembling and steam cleaning equipment before resuming ground turkey production and requiring suppliers of turkey meat to add a new antibacterial wash. The company has also implemented an aggressive Salmonella monitoring and testing program.

“We will share best practices emerging from our food safety efforts with other turkey processing facilities,” adds Willardsen. “Effectively dealing with randomly and naturally occurring bacteria is a collective challenge for the industry and its supply chain, as well as for regulators, yet we will never relax our pursuit of better ways to improve food safety and reduce the potential for food borne illness.”


Conference at PACK EXPO strengthened by industry groups, CPGs

PACK EXPO’s 2011 Conference at PACK EXPO addresses the needs of attendees by featuring industry groups and CPGs as presenters. Industry groups include Content from the Alliance for Innovation & Operational Excellence (AIOE), Converting & Package Printing (CPP) EXPO, Institute of Packaging Professionals (IoPP), International Society of Beverage Technologists (ISBT) and Reusable Packaging Association (RPA). The Conference at PACK EXPO runs concurrently with PACK EXPO Las Vegas (Sept. 26–28, Las Vegas Convention Center).

This year’s program includes topics such as sustainability, food safety and the Food Safety Modernization Act, serialization and project management. CPG presenters in the food and beverage industry will lead many of the conference sessions and include Bush Brothers & Co., Coca-Cola, ConAgra Foods, Del Monte Foods, General Mills, Kellogg Company, Land O’Lakes, Inc., Ocean Spray Cranberries, Inc., Procter & Gamble and Smithfield Foods.

Conference registration is available online at Packexpo.com.


Should mushrooms use a tanning salon?

A new commercial processing technology is suitable for boosting the vitamin D content of mushrooms, and it has no adverse effects on other nutrients, says a study on the comparison of natural sunlight vs. artificial UV light exposure to mushrooms. The study, which appears in the American Chemical Society (ACS) Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, set out to answer several questions about commercial-scale ultraviolet B (UVB) light processing of mushrooms.

The study entitled Vitamin D Mushrooms: Comparison of the Composition of Button Mushrooms (Agaricus bisporus) Treated Postharvest with UVB Light or Sunlight, sponsored by the US Mushroom Council, looked at levels of vitamin D produced by both sunlight and artificial UVB light in a production environment. Button mushrooms, when exposed to UVB light, got a dramatic boost in vitamin D (700 percent more of the vitamin than those exposed to no light). The study found UVB processing had no effect on levels of vitamin C, folate, riboflavin, niacin and several other essential nutrients.

According to the study, sunlight exposure resulted in a 26 percent loss of riboflavin, evidence of folate oxidation and unexplained increases in ergosterol (9.5 percent). It was concluded that compositional effects of UVB light are limited to changes in vitamin D and show no detrimental changes relative to natural sunlight exposure and, therefore, provide important information relevant to the suitability and safety of UVB light technology for vitamin D-enhanced mushrooms.

Ryan Simon, lead researcher, and colleagues note that many people do not get enough vitamin D in their diets. Few natural foods are high in the vitamin, and there are limits on what foods can be fortified to boost the vitamin D content. Although few people realize it, mushrooms are an excellent natural source of vitamin D. Some producers have embraced results of earlier studies, suggesting that exposing mushrooms to UVB light can significantly boost the vitamin D content.

For more information on the study, visit the American Chemical Society website.


Anuga FoodTec 2012 expands

Anuga FoodTec (March 27-30, 2012) has outgrown its initial planned size and due to strong industry demand has added an extra hall. The international fair for food and beverage technology will also occupy hall 5.2, in addition to the previously scheduled halls 4.1, 5.1, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10.1 in Cologne, Germany.

With a little less than seven months remaining until the trade fair begins, more than 800 exhibitors have already registered. More than 170 new exhibiting companies from Germany and abroad will take part for the first time. In addition, many companies have announced they will have significantly larger booths.

Anuga FoodTec 2012 will occupy a gross exhibition space totaling 127,000 square meters (31.3 acres or 1.367 million sq. ft.). “Due to the high number of registrations received and the strong demand for booth space, we have already surpassed the total area occupied by Anuga FoodTec 2009,” reports Peter Grothues, vice president food, technology and environment at Koelnmesse GmbH.

Anuga FoodTec takes place every three years and is jointly organized by Koelnmesse GmbH and the German Agricultural Society (DLG).


Cargill facility adds waste-to-energy capacity

Cargill’s beef processing facility located in High River, Alberta, Canada will increase its capacity to generate energy to meet 80 percent of the plant’s needs in 2012 with a new waste-to-energy project.
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Tech Update: Robotics

After they’ve proved their worth in secondary packaging and grunt applications, robots are slowly making inroads for jobs closer to the process.
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26th annual packaging trends survey

Speed always is a priority in packaging operations, but market realities are elevating other considerations for food and beverage professionals.
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Engineering R&D: New solution for slaughter

Systems development can create strange bedfellows. Take, for example, the alliance between an Alabama road construction firm and food scientists addressing animal welfare issues.
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People, Plant and Industry News

The OMAC Packaging Workgroup will meet at PACK EXPO Las Vegas 2011, Room N-219, on Tuesday, September 27, beginning at 1:00 p.m.

 

PerkinElmer entered into a definitive agreement to acquire Caliper Life Sciences to provide extended detection and sample preparation solutions, services and expertise.

 

PepsiCo, Inc. was included in the 2011 Dow Jones Sustainability Indexes (DJSI). PepsiCo is ranked as the number one company in the DJSI Food and Beverage Supersector, the only company based in the US to earn a top ranking in the 19 supersectors assessed.

 

Industrial Info has identified more than $880 million in new project activity for the food and beverage industry in North America for August 2011, with more than 80 project reports.

 

The Glass Packaging Institute (GPI) announced the winners of its 2011 Clear Choice Awards. Sponsored by GPI since 1989, the Clear Choice Awards honor consumer product goods manufacturers who expand the frontiers of glass packaging design by using glass containers in innovative ways.

The 2011 Clear Choice Awards winners are:

  • Beer Category-Boulevard Brewing Co. for Tank No. 7 Farmhouse Ale
  • Wine Category-Jackson Family Wines for Freemark Abbey 125th Anniversary Blend
  • Food Category-Kensington & Sons LLC for Sir Kensington’s Gourmet Scooping Ketchup
  • Carbonated Beverage Category­-H-E-B for H-E-B Dr. B
  • Non-Carbonated Beverage Category-Kyäni, Inc. for Kyäni Sunrise
  • Organic Food or Beverage Category-TruBee Honey for TruBee Honey
  • Distilled Spirits Category-Finlandia Vodka Worldwide Ltd. for Finlandia Vodka
  • Flavored Alcoholic Beverage Category-American Vintage Beverage Co. for Calypso Bay Spritz
  • Conversion Recognition-Traders Point Creamery for Traders Point Creamery Cottage Cheese.

 

Archer Daniels Midland has acquired two oilseeds processing plants in India to expand its global reach.

 

The Kroger Co. promoted Joe Fey to president of the Quality Food Centers (QFC) Division.

 

GPE Process Equipment named Anthony Dalman as its divisional sales manager. He will be based in Chicago.

 

Belden acquired industrial network security firm Byres Security.

 

TriCore, Inc., provider of factory automation engineering services based in Racine, WI, marked its 20th anniversary.

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