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OSHA under fire after sugar plant explosion

Both the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Union and the US government’s Chemical Safety Board (CSB) have criticized OSHA for the lack of an emergency standard on combustible dust following the recent Imperial Sugar Company refinery explosion in Port Wentworth, GA. The Teamsters and the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) filed a petition with the Labor Department demanding that OSHA follow the 2006 recommendations of CSB.

The Teamsters claim that OSHA under the Bush administration has ignored the 2006 recommendation from CSB to issue a rule that would have prevented this and other combustible explosions. In 2006, CSB conducted a major study of combustible dust hazards following three worksite dust explosions that killed 14 workers in 2003. The CSB report noted that a quarter of the explosions between 1980 and 2005 occurred at food industry facilities, including sugar plants.

According to CSB Investigations Manager Stephen Selk, “The Board identified 281 fires and explosions over a 25-year period that took 119 lives and caused 718 injuries. Some 24% of these incidents took place in the food industry. CSB made several recommendations-including recommendations to OSHA-which OSHA has so far partly acted on.” Selk adds, “But the tragic event that occurred here in Savannah demonstrates that the problem of dust explosions in industry has yet to be solved. It is a problem that requires further attention.”

By law, OSHA was supposed to respond to the 2006 CSB recommendation within six months. In 1987, OSHA issued the Grain Dust Standard (29 CFR Subpart 1910.272), which addresses the hazards of combustible grain dust. The problem, says the Teamsters, is that OSHA has never extended the regulation to cover combustible dust in other industries.

Test for low concentrations of E. coli O157:H7

USDA and DuPont are working together to find new ways to detect an E. coli strain in beef that, even in low concentrations, can cause severe illness.

Through a cooperative research and development agreement, the US Meat Animal Research Center (USMARC) at Clay Center, NE and DuPont Qualicon will develop a new test for E. coli O157:H7 that is faster, more accurate and able to detect lower levels of the pathogen in meat.

“Our mission is to develop scientific information and new technology to solve high-priority problems for the US beef, sheep and swine industries,” said Mohammad Koohmaraie, USMARC director. He added that the goal is to quickly develop a new test.

Consumer demand for RTE food drives Tyson changes

With both parents working, and kids participating in extra-curricular activities, consumers don’t have the time they used to for creative cooking. According to Tyson Foods, 83% of consumers’ main meals include ready-to-eat (RTE) foods, and many of these meals come from retail grocery delis. Tyson is providing new RTE products such as rotisserie pork loin and gourmet wraps.

While Tyson also supports the production of hot, rotisserie chicken in retail delis, the increased popularity of this product has contributed to the decreased demand for Tyson’s long-standing line of refrigerated, oven-roasted chicken. After a thorough review, the company has decided to close production of it nearly 20-year old oven-roasted line.

Affected Tyson team members will be given the opportunity to apply for job openings in Tyson’s two other Wilkesboro plants or any Tyson facility. The Wilkesboro plants include a fresh facility for retail grocery, club and fast food chains; and a food service plant, which produces chicken for schools and institutions.

Meanwhile, Tyson is considering an expansion at its Berry Street poultry processing plant in Springdale, AK. If approved, Tyson will spend approximately $10 million to add some deboning operations at the plant. $17.6 million has already been approved to upgrade and modify equipment at Berry Street to enable the facility to handle bigger birds.

Winning strategies increase OEE

Picking the right automation tools can increase overall equipment effectiveness as demonstrated in two presentations at the recent ARC Strategy Forum in Orlando, FL.


Protecting your human assets

“Quality is Job One” is a catchy marketing claim. For the men and women who manage and work in America ’s food and beverage plants, on-the-job safety is an even higher priority. 

The business case for better maintenance

When manufacturers tighten their belts, maintenance usually feels the pinch. By demonstrating maintenance’s contribution to operational improvements, managers hope to change that.

Tech Update: Power transmission

Whether or not it meets regulatory demands, stainless steel can be used in devices and housings.

Have we lost sight of HACCP?

Those who fail to understand history are doomed to repeat it.

People, Plant and Industry News

McCormick & Company, Inc. has purchased the shares of Billy Bee Honey Products Ltd. for $75 million in cash.


The FDA announced that Brownwood Acres Foods Inc., Cherry Capital Services Inc. (doing business as Flavonoid Sciences) and two of their top executives signed a consent decree that prohibits the companies and their executives from manufacturing and distributing any products with claims in the label or labeling to cure, treat, mitigate or prevent diseases.


United Natural Foods, Inc. announced the retirement of Robert A. Sigel as president of Specialty Distribution and president of Millbrook Distribution Services, Inc. Sigel joined United following the acquisition of Millbrook in November 2007.


Charles Ross & Son Company, manufacturer of dry solids blenders and high-shear mixers, will open a new plant in Pune, India. The plant is a 100% owned facility and is 150 km (93 miles) from Mumbai.


Rockwell Automation will acquire CEDES’ Safety and Automation Business, which is a Swiss supplier of safety and measuring light curtains as well as other safety and non-safety optoelectronics, control units and related accessories.


Air Products announced the grand opening of its Asia Food Technology Center at the Thailand Science Park in Bangkok. The center has been established to provide innovative solutions and technical expertise to support the ever-increasing demands from the growing Asian food market.


Wago Corporation completed the expansion of its North American headquarters, which increases the manufacturing and storage capacity from 60,000 to 75,000 sq.-ft.


Adept Technology, Inc., manufacturer of vision-guided robotics systems and services, signed Han Shin Power Technical Co., Ltd. of Korea as its exclusive dealer in Korea.


Todd Lucich has joined Bison Gear as VP of sales. Lucich has more than 27 years of experience in power transmission, and was formerly VP of distribution and national accounts with Rexnord Industries. James Parejko was promoted to vice president, continuous improvement and engineering.


Associated Builders and Contractors, Inc. (ABC) awarded Stellar its Accredited Quality Contractor (AQC) status. The AQC program was launched in 1993 to recognize and honor construction firms that have documented their commitment in four key areas of corporate responsibility: safety, employee benefits, training and community relations.


PneumaticScaleAngelus (Cuyahoga Falls, OH) promoted Paul Kearney to vice president of new machine sales, Jim Foley to vice president of after-market sales and David Utrup to vice president of customer service.


Mettler-Toledo Hi-Speed announced that Gwendolyn Irvan has joined the company as West Coast regional sales manager.