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Tech Flash Vol. 5 No. 23 -- Food Engineering's E-Newsletter

December 14, 2009
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Roxarsone molecule.

To minimize human exposure, arsenic may be banned in animal feed

The Center for Food Safety (CFS) and the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) filed a petition last week with the Food and Drug Administration calling for the immediate withdrawal of approvals for all animal drug applications for arsenic-containing compounds used in animal feed. According to CFS, these additives are commonly used in poultry production to induce faster weight gains and create the appearance of a healthy color in meat from chickens, turkeys and hogs. The petition was supported by a coalition of food and farm groups around the country.

“The fact that arsenic-a known and powerful carcinogen-in these feed additives leads to arsenic residue in chicken is now well known,” said CFS Executive Director Andrew Kimbrell. “FDA’s failure to investigate the mounting evidence that these compounds are unsafe is a breach of public trust, and the use of arsenic-containing compounds in food animal production is a needless and dangerous risk to human health.”

“Arsenic can be poisonous. Its use in animal feed, therefore, is unnecessarily risky and has not been shown to be safe given the latest science,” said Dr. David Wallinga, director of the food and health program of IATP. “To best protect public health, all avoidable exposures to arsenic should be eliminated. FDA can and should act,” he said.

The most commonly used arsenic-containing compound in chicken feed since the 1940s is roxarsone, and according to a paper entitled “Roxarsone in Natural Water Systems,” presented at a US Geological Survey (USGS) proceedings in 1999, very little roxarsone is retained in chicken meat-less than the FDA limit of 0.5 parts per million (ppm). Roxarsone is an organic compound, and by itself is not thought to be as dangerous as inorganic arsenic compounds.

According to the USGS paper, most of the roxarsone ingested in chickens is excreted unchanged. However, the degradation product (3-nitro-4-hydroxyphenylarsonic acid) has been detected in the urine of hens fed roxarsone. This and other degradation products eventually break down into dangerous inorganic arsenic compounds such as AsO4-3 (arsenate ion). When chicken litter is spread on cropland and further degradation occurs, the inorganic arsenic contaminates soils and can find its way into ground water.

According to 2007 American Chemical Society research entitled “Arsenic in Chicken Production,” another source of inorganic arsenic contamination stems from the production of fertilizer pellets made from contaminated chicken litter, which is used on home gardens and lawns. Arsenic from these pellets can contaminate local water systems and vegetables grown with the pellets, and the arsenic dust from the pellets is hazardous if inhaled.

While any residual level of inorganic arsenic in food or drink is not considered safe, the EPA ruled in 2006 that public water supplies must test and maintain their water at concentrations less than 10 parts per billion (ppb), with a goal being 0 ppm. Random chicken meat samples from Minnesota and California supermarkets were tested by Wallinga prior to 2007 and found residual levels of arsenic ranging from 1.6 to 21.2 ppb in 55% of the samples, according to the ACS research. Samples from Foster Farms and Tyson, which stopped using roxarsone, showed zero arsenic levels in the pre-2007 tests.

According to the ACS research, banning roxarsone altogether from chicken feed will not prevent poultry protein products from containing trace levels of arsenic because poultry often consume water from contaminated wells, and heavy use of arsenical pesticides used in past cotton cultivation have contaminated the ground.

In an exclusive interview with Food Engineering, Wallinga indicated that the conversion of organic arsenic into inorganic arsenic occurs via bacteria in the soil, or bacteria living in the gut-either chicken or human. The degree to which the conversion occurs is unknown. Wallinga says, “We know this [conversion process] does and can occur, and we also know that the use of the roxarsone is completely unnecessary for growing chickens.”

Wallinga also suggests that new information shows organic arsenic may be directly toxic in ways previously unknown-certainly not in the 1940s when FDA first approved roxarsone’s use in chicken feed. One study found that roxarsone exposure could induce angiogenesis, the central process of tumor formation.

Whether or not the samples in Wallinga’s study indicate the residual levels of arsenic in the sampled chicken are organic or inorganic, the question is moot. If roxarsone is banned, then one source of arsenic exposure is eliminated.

For more information, visit IATP.


Water index offers measure of corporate risks and opportunities

The World Resources Institute (WRI), in partnership with General Electric and Goldman Sachs, launched an initiative to measure water-related risks facing companies and their investors. The initiative will develop a water index as a standardized approach to identify and mitigate water-related corporate risk.

The index will aggregate 20 weighted factors capturing water availability, regulations, water quality and issues related to reputation. It will also allow companies and investors to transparently and adequately capture the various components of water-related risk and will enable business leaders to make more well-informed investment decisions.

The index will draw upon publicly available data regarding physical scarcity and water quality, overlaying important factors including the regulatory regime plus issues related to social aspects and reputation. The latter issues have not previously been incorporated into water risk measurement. Ultimately, this mapping tool will allow users to combine and compare different components of water risk assessment.

“In many regions around the world, water scarcity from climate change and pollution is starting to impact a company’s performance, yet few analysts account for water-related risks,” says WRI President Jonathan Lash. The institute hopes that investors will begin ‘pricing in’ these under-appreciated risks, driving investments to support more hydrologically-efficient designs and technologies.”

From the perspective of GE and Goldman Sachs, the water index will allow each company to better advise customers and clients on water-related risks and opportunities.

For more information, visit World Resources Institute.


Study to wirelessly monitor leafy greens' temperature in transit

Sensor Wireless Inc. (Charlottetown, PEI, Canada) was selected as the primary technology partner in a four-year study led by California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo. The multi-institutional project, which also includes Michigan State University and the United States Department of Agriculture, will actively monitor time and temperature fluctuations that occur during commercial transport of leafy greens in various distribution systems. 

The project, funded by USDA under the CSREES National Food Safety Initiative Program (NIFSI), aims to identify a series of pre-and post-harvest E. coli intervention strategies for fresh-cut lettuce and spinach to aid in developing a highly-integrated risk assessment model for E. coli in these products. Data collected by wireless sensor technology will be used to develop and validate a predictive mathematical model for changes in E. coli growth and survival that are likely to occur during commercial distribution of these products throughout the supply chain.

The information will be critical for establishing best handling practices and scientifically based “best used by” dates to identify suspect produce prior to consumption, which will reduce the risk of food-borne illness.

For more information, visit Sensor Wireless.


Organic livestock operation decertified by USDA

The United States Department of Agriculture’s National Organic Program (NOP) received a decision on an important case the NOP had brought against a certified organic operation, Promiseland Livestock, LLC. The decision, issued by an administrative law judge, suspends the organic certification of the Nebraska-based livestock operation for four years. All responsibly connected parties to Promiseland Livestock were ordered disqualified from receiving certification under the Organic Foods Production Act during this period.

The decision also states the importance of records and making them available to the NOP upon request, by acknowledging that operating as an organic operation is a privilege rather than a right.

“Sound recordkeeping and being able to produce those records ensure transparency and compliance to the standards required to produce organic products,” said Rayne Pegg, administrator of the Agricultural Marketing Service, which oversees the NOP. “Consumers must have confidence in the USDA organic label, and ensuring that all certified operations are complying with the NOP regulations is priority number one-and that means being able to examine operations records.”


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People, Plant and Industry News

Kellogg Company promoted Ronald Dissinger to chief financial officer. Dissinger was previously vice president and chief financial officer for Kellogg North America.

 

Vitasoy appointed Susan Rolnick as its new marketing director, Mark Sherburne as director of sales and Jay Toscano as sales and marketing.

 

Cargill agreed to purchase Goodman Fielder’s commercial edible fats and oils business, which includes several edible oil refineries in Australia, for $240 million Australian dollars.

 

Clayton Industries, a designer, manufacturer and global marketer of steam boilers, formed a joint venture company that will produce and sell equipment in the People’s Republic of China. The new enterprise, Clayton-KLD China, Ltd., is headquartered in Macau and includes KLD Industrial Developing Co., which operates a factory in Hangzhou.

 

Koch Membrane Systems hired Dr. Hamid Rabie as its senior vice president of technology. He will manage all R&D activities within the company and oversee the process design work in the US.

 

John Paul DeJoria, co-founder of John Paul Mitchell Systems and The Patrón Spirits Company, led an investor group in acquiring a substantial interest in Rock-n-Roll Gourmet, LLC, a developer and marketer of healthy snack food.

 

Dover Fluid Management, a segment within Dover Corporation, named Dean E. Douglas to the position of president of its pump solutions group.

 

The US EPA has granted nationwide approval to three In Situ Inc. RDO optical dissolved oxygen methods under the Alternate Test Procedure, or ATP, process.

 

United Natural Foods, Inc. plans to lease a new 590,000 sq.-ft. distribution center in Lancaster, Texas. Owned by ProLogis, the recently constructed building is located 15 miles south of downtown Dallas. Operations are scheduled to start in the fall of 2010 and, within the first year, the company expects to employ approximately 130 new associates at the facility. Strategically, the Lancaster distribution center extends UNFI’s focus on lowering operating costs in its distribution network; enhancing efficiencies, improving productivity through “best in class” warehousing and inventory control systems as well as reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

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