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New Stir in Benzene?

 A UK molecular biologist claims that sodium benzoate found in some soft drinks, waters and juice drinks may exist in high enough levels to be dangerous when consumed in large quantity. This claim is in addition to the already known allergenic and carcinogenic effects of sodium benzoate. Professor Peter Piper of the Department of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology of the University of Sheffield believes that sodium benzoate (E211) by itself can damage and inactivate vital parts of DNA in a cell’s mitochondria. Sodium benzoate is used as a preservative in many beverages and naturally occurs in cranberries, plums, apples and other fruits.

Piper says that benzoate can cause “substantial damage” to mitochondria, the small ‘power stations’ within our cells that consume most of the oxygen we breathe in order to generate Adenosine 5’-triphosphate (ATP). He also claims that DNA damage of this kind has been linked to several medical conditions. It is thought to be instrumental in the liver cirrhosis caused by chronic alcoholism, the neuronal cell death of Parkinson’s disease, as well as to the progressive decline in our general state of health in old age.

It is common knowledge that sodium benzoate, when combined with Vitamin C (Ascorbic acid), produces free benzene, a known carcinogenic. A 2006 UK Food Standards Agency survey on benzene in beverages found high levels in 4 brands, which were then removed from the UK market.

Piper would like to see new tests based on his research to verify safe levels of benzoate. There has, however, been some other research on sodium benzoate. No safe levels for sodium benzoate as an allergen have been defined, according to Allergy Resources International, although the World Health Organization has specified no more than 5 mg sodium benzoate intake per kg of body weight on a daily basis. The FDA has no regulatory limits for benzene in beverages other than bottled water. The US Environmental Protection Agency has established a maximum contaminant level for benzene of 5 parts per billion (ppb) in drinking water. FDA has adopted this level for bottled water as a quality standard.

Based on results from a 2006 survey of soft drinks and other beverages conducted by FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSAN), most beverages analyzed contained either no detectable benzene or levels below the 5 ppb limit for drinking water, and do not suggest a safety concern, said Judith Kidwell a CFSAN consumer safety officer.

Higher cost for breakfast

General Mills Inc. is raising its US cereal prices to help offset higher costs for items such as grain and energy. On average, it will be a small single-digit price increase across the company’s portfolio.

General Mills, the No. 2 breakfast cereal maker with brands such as Cheerios, Chex and Lucky Charms, said that the increase is in line with pricing actions taken by other cereal manufacturers over the past 12 months.

Starbucks cuts the fat

Starbucks Coffee Company plans to adopt a new dairy standard for all espresso-based drinks, switching from whole to reduced fat (2%) milk in all Starbucks stores in the United States and Canada by the end of 2007. At the same time, Starbucks is assessing options for conversion to lower fat dairy in the 39 markets it operates outside of North America.

Today, when Starbucks customers order a beverage such as a Vanilla Latte, it is made with whole milk unless otherwise requested. The conversion will establish reduced fat milk, also known as 2% milk, as the standard dairy in all beverages served in Starbuck’s North American coffeehouses. Customers, of course, are free to specify their own desires when they order.


Pirates go after food

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development is urging the US and other governments to take “strong and sustained” action to stem counterfeiting and piracy. And its not just sneakers and software that are vulnerable to counterfeiters.

“World-wide product counterfeiting and pirating has a direct, negative impact on the food, beverage and consumer packaged goods industry and our customers,” said Cal Dooley, President and CEO of the Grocery Manufacturers Association.

The OECD report found that international trade in counterfeit and pirated tangible products could be up to $200 billion. However, since domestically produced and consumed counterfeit and pirated products weren’t included in the study, the report says that figure could be “the tip of the iceberg.”


30th Annual Construction Survey: Projects Go Green

New construction projects are at their highest level since 2002, as processors demand energy-efficient, environmentally friendly plants.

Meeting of the Manufacturing Minds

Challenges abound for food and beverage processors, but creative solutions were the order of the day at the Food Automation & Manufacturing Conference and Expo.

Not Your Mama's Sensor

More rugged, adaptable and reliable sensors are being deployed in industrial automation. The fact they’re taken for granted attests to how well they perform.

Fast-charged material handling

A day’s observation at an airfield inspired a food supply-chain expert to marshal engineering muscle behind fast-charge technology for lift trucks.

Lessons Learned from Recall

Industry group takes steps to stop product contamination

People, Plant and Industry News

Campbell Soup Company, Coca-Cola North America and Coca-Cola Enterprises Inc. have entered into an agreement for distribution of Campbell’s single-serve beverage portfolio. Under the terms of the agreement, CCNA will have the master distribution rights for Campbell’s single-serve refrigerated immediate consumption beverages (24-ounce or less PET plastic), including “V8” 100-percent vegetable juices, “V8 V-Fusion” juices, “V8 Splash” juice drinks and “Campbell’s” tomato juice in the US and a similar variety of products in Canada.


PepsiAmericas, Inc. and PepsiCo have reached an agreement to jointly acquire 80 percent of Sandora, LLC, the leading juice company in the for a total purchase price of $542 million plus assumed debt.


Peet’s Coffee and Tea Inc. expects its high-end coffee beans to be sold in about 5,400 grocery stores by the end of 2007, up from the roughly 4,400 stores that sold its products at the end of last year, Chief Executive Pat O’Dea said.


The Federal Trade Commission approved a complaint challenging the $565 million Whole Foods Market Inc.’s takeover of smaller rival Wild Oats Markets Inc., citing concerns that the reduced competition in the category could prompt Whole Foods to raise prices and cut its quality and services.


Lancaster Colony Corporation has acquired the principal assets of Marshall Biscuit Company, Inc., a privately owned producer and marketer of frozen rolls and biscuits based in . This acquisition is consistent with the company’s efforts to focus on its food operations. Bruce L. Rosa, president of Lancaster Colony’s Specialty Foods Group, said, “This acquisition provides us access to private-label accounts, new products and additional manufacturing flexibility as we plan to continue production at the Saraland facility. ’s strength in the private-label channel nicely complements our Sister Schubert’s branded rolls.” 


Fortitech Inc., provider of custom nutrient premixes for the food, beverage and pharma industries, is finishing the renovation of its plant. The 53,000 sq.-ft. facility will open later this summer and provide 350% more space than its facility, and will produce 7,000 tons of premixes per year.


Barilla’s new facility will open by the end of this year and start production in 2008. With a market share of 26%, the company’s plant will produce more than 100,000 tons of pasta per year.


Beech-Nut Nutrition Corporation will build a new 635,000-sq.-ft. production facility in the town of . In addition, the baby food company will move its corporate headquarters from to the new site. The overall investment for the new site is $124 million, which is expected to open in 2009.


Sixty-one year resident of Pennsylvania, Herr Foods Inc. is expanding its production facility by building a 70,000 sq.-ft. facility at its existing location in . The $15 million project was aided by a $5.2 million funding offer from the PA Department of Community and Economic Development.


A&B Process Systems broke ground on its ninth manufacturing facility. The 53,000-sq.-ft. facility was designed based upon customer input and will primarily manufacture sanitary process and storage tanks for the food and beverage markets..


Archer Daniels Midland Company will build a state-of-the-art cocoa processing facility in . The plant will diversify and expand ADM’s global cocoa origination and processing operations into a strategically important location.


Key Technology has promoted James Ruff to Vice President of Research & Development.  In this position, Ruff is responsible for implementing programs that develop and acquire new technologies that add value to customers.


Stellar has promoted Mike Santarone, a 20-year food industry veteran, to chief operating officer. Santarone will have complete oversight for all engineering, construction and design operations within all Stellar business units.