Food Engineering

Tech Flash Vol. 3 No. 5

May 9, 2007
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Acrylamide still cooking

According to a recent LA Times story, Kentucky Fried Chicken will be displaying warning brochures and labels in its California outlets to explain to its customers that its fried and baked potatoes and potato chips may contain acrylamide, a carcinogenic byproduct of the reaction of chemicals in food to high heat. The initiative is part of a 2005 law suit settlement with the state of California.

What levels are dangerous to human health has come into question. According to the EPA, safe levels of acrylamide in public drinking water must be held to less than 0.12 micrograms in 8 ounces. Typical levels of acrylamide in French fries range from 30 to 80 micrograms or more in a serving, says a 2002 report from the Center for Science in the Public Interest. FDA also conducted studies from 2002 through 2006, and the results are posted on its Website.

KFC’s warning explains that the acrylamide is also produced when potatoes are baked or fried at home. In fact, acrylamide is produced in several starch-based foods when they are cooked at temperatures in excess of 250°F. Dr. Elizabeth M. Whelan of the American Council on Science and Health suggests that the problem with the California testing is that “acrylamide in high dose causes cancer in laboratory rodents.” According to Whelan, there is no evidence whatsoever from human observations that acrylamide in foods contributes in any way to the causation of cancer.

According to a FLEXNEWS report, KFC and a dozen other companies-including PepsiCo, Frito-Lay, Burger King and Wendys-were sued in 2005 for allegedly failing to comply with California’s Proposition 65, a 1986 measure that requires businesses to post warnings about dangerous chemicals. KFC will also pay $341,000 in civil penalties.


Milk prices on the rise

According to a Reuters news report, farm-level milk prices are expected to hit new highs in 2007. While farm prices for milk hit a record high of $20 per hundred pounds in 2004, economists say this level could far be exceeded. Dean Foods Co. warned that rising milk prices could squeeze earnings in coming quarters, dropping share prices as much as 9%. Retail prices for milk are expected to increase about 10%, increasing on average from $3.00 to $3.30 per gallon.


Wal-Mart receives organic warning

Consumer fraud investigators in the state of Wisconsin released their findings after a three-month long investigation into allegations that Wal-Mart stores throughout the state of Wisconsin misled consumers by misidentifying conventional food as organic.

In a letter to Wal-Mart Stores Inc., based in Bentonville, AK, the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection stated it found numerous instances of conventional food products improperly labeled as organic by the retail chain. Wisconsin authorities told Wal-Mart’s legal counsel that “use of the term ‘Wal-Mart Organics’ in combination with reference to a specific non-organic product may be considered to be a misrepresentation and therefore a violation” of Wisconsin state statutes.

The Cornucopia Institute, a governmental and corporate industry watchdog, had filed complaints with Wisconsin regulators and the USDA after finding numerous incidents of fraudulent organic labeling in Wal-Mart stores in five states from Texas to Minnesota.

Although Wisconsin regulators sent only a formal warning concerning Wal-Mart’s organic marketing practices, they said they had reached an agreement with the company under which steps would be taken to prevent future organic food misrepresentations.


Webinar to focus on continuous improvement

A Food Engineering Webinar, “How to Accelerate Continuous Improvement with Real-Time Performance Management,” will feature a real-world success story showing how a processor increased operational efficiency by 20% by implementing a real-time performance management system.

In the Webinar, scheduled for May 22 at 2:00 p.m. eastern time, Berner Foods will describe how it transfers critical information collected at the plant floor into actionable manufacturing intelligence throughout the organization, significantly improving performance, reducing manual intervention and costs and improving the bottom line.

Seventy percent of food and beverage manufacturers manage the most critical part of their supply chain based on incomplete, inaccurate and or out-of-date information. The Webinar will show the need for continuous monitoring of critical areas that have a negative impact on performance and explain how to transform plant data into information that leads to better business decisions. Click here to register.


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People, Plant and Industry News

Tasty Baking Company (Philadelphia, PA) will move from its 1922-vintage, six-story manufacturing facility with 15 production lines in south Philadelphia to a new location at The Navy Yard, a relatively new Philadelphia commercial and industrial development. The new 345,500 sq. ft. state-of-the-art facility will house the production facilities, warehouse and distribution center. The site will also be the home of the company’s new, “green” corporate headquarters. Liberty/Synterra will begin site preparation immediately and begin construction. The $75 million project is expected to be completed in 2009 and fully operational by 2010.

 

Scott Salyer, chief executive officer of international food processor SK Foods, has become the sole owner of Salyer American Fresh Foods, a company established 20 years ago by Mr. Salyer and his family. Salyer American Fresh Foods will become a division of SK Foods based in Monterey and the Central Valley.

 

ConAgra Foods hired Paul A. Hall as vice president of Global Food Safety. Hall comes from Matrix MicroScience, Inc., a technology producer for the rapid concentration, capture and detection of foodborne pathogens, including Salmonella.

 

Greg Lee, Tyson Foods, Inc. chief administrative officer and international president, has decided to retire early from full time employment. Lee is a 27-year veteran of Tyson and was scheduled to retire next February. 

 

An affiliate of The Blackstone Group (London, UK) has signed a contract to acquire The Klöckner Pentaplast Group (Luxembourg) and all its holdings from Cinven (London, UK) and JPMorganPartners LLC (New York, NY and London, UK). Klöckner Pentaplast produces films for food, pharmaceutical, electronics and general-purpose thermofilm packaging.

 

Ray Tarnowski of Philadelphia Warehousing & Cold Storage Company was elected as the 2007-08 chairman of the International Association of Refrigerated Warehouses (IARW). John LaRue of Port of Corpus Christi, TX was elected 2007-08 chairman of the International Refrigerated Transportation Association (IRTA).

 

Clegg Ivey, a partner in Redux Beverages said the company will change the name of its soft drink, previously named “Cocaine.” Marketed as an energy drink, the beverage contains no drugs. FDA issued a warning letter last month that the company was illegally marketing the drink as a street drug alternative and dietary supplement.

 

Starbucks has announced that by the end of this year it will no longer use trans fats in any of its food and beverages in the continental US, Alaska and Canada.

 

Tetra Pak, a supplier of processing and packaging equipment to the food industry, is investing 32.6 million Euros in two new buildings in Lund, Sweden.

The new facilities provide 13,000 sq. meters of floor space and accommodate 430 workplaces. Construction is planned to begin at the end of this year, and the projected completion date is the end of 2009.

The investment in Lund follows the announcement in March of plans to build a $60 million state-of-the-art packaging plant in Hohhot, China.

 

Pollo Campero, chain of chicken quick-service restaurants in Latin America, has opened its first US headquarters office in Dallas as part of an ambitious expansion plan across the country.

Pollo Campero combines the best of a modern and comfortable environment with quick service and quality chicken meals that appeal to consumers looking for unique and flavorful experiences.

As part of the strategy to expand the restaurant chain in the US, Pollo Campero plans to open at least four company restaurants in 2007 and 15 in 2008. Franchisees are projected to open 15 new units in 2007. The next openings will be in New York in June, Chicago in July and South Florida at the end of 2007. The company’s goal is to open 500 restaurants by December, 2012.