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Stainless robotic dairy application debuts at Dean Foods

KUKA Robotics Corporation, manufacturer of industrial robots, announced that its system partner, Forte Automation Systems, installed a KUKA KR 15 SL stainless steel robot into Dean Foods' dairy product manufacturing facility. The robot is the first stainless steel robot to be installed in North America. Dean Foods is using the robot in its dairy case packing process.

"Dean Foods came to us needing to increase their case packing production using their current staff," said Toby Henderson, president of Forte Automation Systems. "We reviewed their facility and determined that the KUKA KR 15 SL with its stainless steel exterior would more than meet their wash down requirements and free up at least four employees."

"Food manufacturing workers are highly susceptible to work related injuries due to the highly repetitive nature of their work," said Bill Schaefer, general manager of Dean Foods. "Anytime you can move workers from tedious assignments to more mentally challenging ones, the more productive you will be, which is exactly what we wished to accomplish by adopting this new robot and process."

The KUKA KR 15 SL robot is a six-axis articulated robot and its high IP rating makes it suitable for applications with stringent requirements for hygiene, sterility and absence of particles.

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Classifying low-carb

Milk producers are taking issue with a recent USDA decision reclassifying how a popular low-carb dairy beverage is priced. A judge ruled that the product Carb Countdown should not be classified as a Class I product, but instead should be priced at a Class II level.

National Milk Producers Federation CEO Jerry Kozak says the decision will be costly for milk producers, who will not only get less for the milk they supply to the product's maker, but will also be forced to make refunds to the company.

Food jobs created

A new USDA report suggests that consolidation of food industries does not lead to fewer jobs in the industry. In fact, just the opposite occurs. "Empirical analysis of mergers and acquisitions in eight important food industries suggests that workers in acquired plants realized modest increases in employment and wages relative to other workers," the report states.

Food safety remains top priority at USDA

The US Department of Agriculture continues to collaborate with states and private industry to protect the nation's food supply from terrorist threats. "We remain steadfast in our commitment to work with our federal, state and private sector partners so that we can keep our agricultural commodities safe," said Dr. Richard Raymond, USDA under secretary for food safety.

USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is in the midst of conducting five critical food defense exercises this year. The first exercise took place in Alameda, CA, last month. Through these exercises USDA will practice reporting a non-routine incident while coordinating with all levels of government, non-governmental agencies and the private sector. The exercises will challenge all participants to collaborate more closely and become better prepared to keep the food supply safe.

The first day of the exercise focuses on non-routine incident reporting and how program offices would manage an emergency. The second day focuses on product recall and public health and communication issues.

Additionally, FSIS will test its ability to coordinate with organizations outside of USDA, such as the local and state departments of health and agriculture, the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security and the FDA, as well as the affected industries. The remaining exercises will be conducted in Raleigh, NC on March 22-23; Chicago, IL on May 17-18;Minneapolis, MN on July 19-20; and Albany, NY on September 20-21. FSIS will eventually conduct similar exercises in all 15 FSIS regional district offices. Last July, USDA announced the Strategic Partnership Program Agroterrorism (SPPA) Initiative. In December, the first pilot visit was conducted by USDA's Farm Service Agency and Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration in cooperation with FDA and the grain export elevator industry in New Orleans, LA. The purpose of these visits was to assess and identify vulnerabilities in the agriculture and food sectors.

In March, USDA and FDA will jointly assess frozen foods in Wisconsin and Florida.

Also in March, USDA will conduct an assessment on swine with the Iowa Department of Agriculture and the National and Iowa Pork Producers. For more information, visit

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People, Plant & Industry News

Stavis Seafoodscompleted a plant and warehouse expansion at the company's primary facility in Boston, MA. The expansion includes the addition of three loading docks, 30% more floor square footage and 300% more refrigerated cooler space. It will allow Stavis to serve and grow with the needs of current customers and take on new ones.

Hansen Technologies, a manufacturer of components for refrigeration systems, promoted Jeffrey Nank to president. Previously, he served as vice president of sales and marketing for the company.

McCain began commercial production in its new $43 million potato processing plant in Harbin, China. Construction on the plant began in late 2004. The company also recently announced plans to build an $18 million processing plant in India.

Linguagen Corp., a developer of compounds to improve the taste and quality of food and beverage products, appointed Susan Welsh, MD, MBA, as president. Prior to joining the company, Welsh was group vice president, global project management at Schering-Plough.