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Innovation program pays off for General Mills

After creating its Worldwide Innovation Network a year ago, General Mills reports the open innovation initiative seeking outside partnerships with entrepreneurs, universities and other food companies has been very successful. The program has generated hundreds of concepts for patented technologies or potential products that could be complementary to its existing brands and businesses.

“We are tremendously encouraged by the success and industry interest we’ve seen from our G-WIN open innovation program,” says Peter Erickson, senior vice president of Innovation, Technology and Quality at General Mills. “Not only have we seen a 300% increase in the number of innovation concepts submitted to us since we initiated G-WIN, but we are also seeing a higher percentage of high-quality, potentially game-changing technologies with broad application across our businesses.”

Progresso Light is one of the innovations resulting from the program, and illustrates the company’s efforts to solicit and foster new methods of innovation and collaboration.

Silicone products and food

The report, Silicone Products for Food Contact Applications, has been published by Research and Markets, and is based on a Food Standards Agency (FSA) project on food contact, silicone-based materials that was carried out from 2003-2005. The objective of the project was to provide detailed information on the types and composition of silicone-based products that are used in contact with food and to identify the extent to which the migration of specific constituents into food occur.
In addition, the report provides an overview of the principal types of silicone products that are used in food contact situations-from a description of their manufacture and chemical composition to a detailed review of the potential migrants and their migration behavior. It also covers the relevant national and EU food contact legislation and describes recent, food-related technological developments.

Kraft Foods' gold-certified LEED distribution center. Source: Kraft Foods.

Kraft facility goes for the gold

Kraft Foods’ 800,000-sq.-ft. distribution center, located in Morris, IL, has been recognized for advanced environmental design by the US Green Building Council (USGBC), a building industry non-profit group that promotes sustainable development.

Owned by ProLogis and leased to Kraft, the building has achieved USGBC’s LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) gold certification and is the largest facility of its kind in the world to achieve this certification. The building was completed in the first half of 2007.

Located in a 168-acre distribution park, this building is the first in the park to have additional land to support up to 2.1 million-sq.-ft. of additional development. Specific architectural design elements contributing to the LEED gold certification include:

·        Energy-efficient fluorescent lighting with multi-level lighting controls, resulting in a 60% reduction in lighting energy usage;

·        HVAC system that improves air quality and reduces power consumption by 40%;

·        Extensive use of recycled and locally sourced materials during construction and nearly 100% of construction debris diverted to recycling rather than landfills;

·        Use of wood-based construction materials harvested from Forest Stewardship Council-certified forests totaling nearly 80% and;

·        Interior paints, coatings, adhesives and sealants with low volatile organic compounds emission levels.

Total Logistics Control, a third-party distribution services provider, operates the facility for Kraft, handling day-to-day inbound and outbound logistics for numerous well-known Kraft products.

What a gas!

Dean Foods Company has begun development of an anaerobic digester on the Big Sky Dairy farm near Gooding, ID. The digester will process animal waste from the farm’s 4,700 cows, reducing both odors and methane gas emissions into the atmosphere. The methane the digester produces is expected to provide enough renewable energy to power approximately 650 homes. The energy will be sold into the local power grid.

The project, which is expected to be operational by early 2009, will be owned and operated by a partnership between Dean Foods and AgPower Partners, LLC.

In addition to the methane output, the digester will produce a sanitary fiber byproduct that can be used as clean animal bedding or as an organic soil enhancement. By reducing emissions of methane, the digester will also generate carbon credits and renewable energy credits.

Automation News

Source: ARC Advisory Group

Wireless in process automation knows no bounds

The market for wireless devices and equipment in process manufacturing will grow to over $1.1 billion in 2012, a growth rate of 32% per year, according to an ARC Advisory Group study, Wireless in Process Manufacturing Worldwide Outlook (See graph).

The market is expected to morph during the period as new standardized hardened, wireless LANs and wireless sensing products penetrate the market. Deployment of wireless devices in process manufacturing has lagged discrete industries because process plants are often larger and often located primarily outdoors. In addition, the presence of dangerous and potentially explosive materials mandates the use of equipment carrying typically hazardous area certifications.

Wireless process sensing is expected to be the fastest growing market segment, although today it accounts for only a small portion of the total market. Wireless sensing products will increase rapidly as new sensing products comply with the wireless version of industrial standards.

Two industrial networking standards, WirelessHART and ISA100, use the same sensor radio hardware as the ZigBee standard, but with their own software protocols. The driving force for wireless process sensing is its much lower installation cost, which will convince many industries to install devices where they may not have bothered with wired devices.

Wireless LAN use is also expected to grow rapidly, spurred by the introduction of new access point products that can safely be installed in hazardous environments that often exist in plants, for example, flammable gas or powder and dust. The longer range and clearer signals of future IEEE 802.11n wireless will also increase wireless devices’ attractiveness to process industry users.

For food processors, wireless sensors can provide visibility into areas of the plant that they didn’t have before. Before wireless, long conduit runs were often necessary, or technicians walked the plant to take readings.

For more information on the study, contact ARC Advisory Group (

ISA 100.11a wireless specification is "10-4"

The ISA100.11a Working Group has begun the initial ballot on its draft standard, the first in the ISA100 universal family of wireless standards, and is expected to be complete in June. The ISA100.11a standard is designed to provide a wireless industrial process automation network to address control, alerting and monitoring applications plant-wide.

The standard focuses on battery-powered field devices with the ability to scale to large installations. It addresses wireless infrastructure, interfaces to legacy host applications plus security and meets network management requirements in a functionally scalable manner.

“This draft standard reflects a collaborative effort between end-users and vendors on the ISA100.11a Working Group, and that’s what makes this standard relevant,” says Jim Reizner, section head, corporate engineering, Procter & Gamble, and co-chair of the ISA100 Users Working Group. “The end-user community will benefit from the ISA100.11a standard once it’s approved, and we’re on our way to making that happen.”

ODVA specifications to be updated

The Open DeviceNet Vendors Association (ODVA) will publish new editions of the specifications for the family of Common Industrial Protocol (CIP) Networks, enhancing the EtherNet/IP, DeviceNet, CompoNet, ControlNet and CIP Safety technologies. The latest editions of the CIP Networks specifications include new capabilities that extend device interoperability and application coverage to a greater range of devices and applications.

Each edition in the family of CIP Networks uses the same, media-independent CIP protocol. This approach provides a comprehensive suite of messages and services needed for control, configuration, information, safety, synchronization and motion as well as topology options for network adaptations to meet specific application requirements. With the publication of these specifications, users can look for device suppliers to begin offering some of the following product features:

·        CIP Safety on DeviceNet and CIP Safety on EtherNet/IP. Introduced in 2005, CIP Safety is certified to be compliant with the functional safety standard IEC 61508 up to SIL 3. The latest edition of this spec includes new functionality to support network features often needed in process and SCADA applications as well as installations utilizing wireless. These features include increased granularity in error detection and more flexibility in configuring safety reaction times.

·        Integration of Modbus serial devices into CIP Networks. Modbus translation services for Modbus TCP devices were added to CIP in the previous editions of the specifications published in November 2007. In these editions of the specifications, a new “Serial Link Object” has been added to round out the Modbus translation services supported by CIP.

For more information on the specifications, visit

Food Safety News

Stevia plant. Source: Cargill

Rebiana sweetener found to be safe

Research from the scientific journal, Food and Chemical Toxicology, has found the use of the sweetener, rebiana, to be safe for general use to sweeten foods and beverages, according to representatives from Cargill and the Coca-Cola Company. Rebiana is the common name for high-purity Rebaudioside A, which comes from the stevia plant.

Beginning in 2004, Cargill commissioned a rigorous safety evaluation program for rebiana in consultation with leading scientists.

Cargill, in partnership with the Coca-Cola Company, has developed rebiana as a natural, zero-calorie ingredient that will be marketed by Cargill under the brand name Truvia. Although stevia today is sold in the US as a dietary supplement, rebiana will be the first available sweetener for foods and beverages that has been purified from the stevia plant.

The study points out the use of rebiana does not affect blood pressure or blood sugar control in people with type 2 diabetes, nor does it affect general health or organ function. However, the use of it or any stevia-derived product may still come under question of FDA’s CFSAN. CFSAN approves the use of stevia-derived products for supplements but not for use in food and beverages.

In an August 17, 2007 letter to Hain Celestial Group, Joseph R. Baca, director, Office of Compliance, CFSAN, states, “While FDA has received inquiries and petitions for the use of stevia or stevia extracts in food, data and information necessary to support the safe use have been lacking. In fact, literature reports have raised safety concerns about the use of stevia, including concerns about control of blood sugar, and effects on the reproductive, cardiovascular and renal systems.”

Traceability initiative for US produce supply chain

The Steering Committee of the Produce Traceability Initiative, supported by industry associations CPMA, PMA and United Fresh, agreed on several key milestones that need to be completed to develop a whole supply-chain traceability for the produce industry.

According to the committee, companies in the entire supply chain need to accomplish the following key milestones to enhance consumer food safety, protect brands and avoid legal liabilities:

·        Minimize recall impact-The industry needs rapid and precise recall. Whole-chain, standardized identification allows locating affected products quickly, recalling in a few minutes.

·        Assure chain-wide external traceability-To trace products across the supply chain, the committee proposes the GS1 Standard, through the application of GTIN, lot number and pack/harvest date to cases, as the most proven standard in the world. GS1 is a global organization dedicated to the design and implementation of worldwide standards and solutions to improve efficiency and visibility in supply chains. GTIN (Global Trade Item Number) provides the global supply chain solution for the identification of any item that is traded (priced, ordered, invoiced).

·        Use case level traceability to have more control, as well as reduce recall scope.

·        Establish dates for each milestone to get retail and food services commitment. Solution providers with real experience and successful business cases are mandatory.

The steering committee of the Produce Traceability Initiative is a North American industry-led effort to adopt traceability throughout the produce supply chain, driven by CPMA, PMA and United Fresh. They met for the first time in Atlanta in January to develop an action plan for establishing industry traceability best practices and goals for their adoption and accountability. Chaired by Food Lion LLC Chief Operating Officer Cathy Green, 41 companies are participating, including food service operators/distributors, retailers and grower/shippers.

No HACCP plan, no business

FDA directed a fish and seafood processing company in Pasadena, TX to shut down and immediately recall all products manufactured at its facility since 2007. The company was under a consent decree of permanent injunction requiring it to develop and implement an adequate HACCP plan for its fish and fishery products.

Hope Food Supply Inc., operating under a different name, manufactured dried, smoked catfish steaks and other smoked seafood products. The company can not restart manufacturing until it has implemented an FDA-approved HACCP plan.

“We simply will not allow a company to put the public’s health at risk by not implementing adequate procedures and plans to produce safe food,” said Margaret Glavin, associate commissioner for regulatory affairs. “The FDA will take action against companies and against their executives who violate the law and endanger public health.”

FDA’s concern with the fish products includes potential existence of Staphylococcus aureus and Listeria monocytogenes, which can cause serious illness in people who consume food containing these pathogens.

Trade more important than food safety?

A report by the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) finds a Bush administration interagency working group is pushing a flawed import food safety system that prioritizes trade considerations over public health.

The report, Import Food Safety in the Twilight of the Bush Administration, analyzes the recommendations of the Interagency Working Group (IWG) on Import Safety, which was established by the Bush Administration following a series of recalls of contaminated and hazardous pet foods and toys imported from China last year. The report, authored by IATP’s Steve Suppan, says food imports are projected to expand greatly in the next decade. About 60% of fruits and vegetables and 75% of seafood currently consumed in the US are imported.

According to the report, many of the IWG’s 14 recommendations and 50 action steps are designed to reduce inspection and testing, and will instead emphasize safety certification of foreign export facilities. The IWG recommendations rely mainly on exporters and importers to implement voluntary prevention controls against food and feed contamination.

“The IWG report prioritizes the trade objectives of the food industry, rather than ensuring a safer food supply for consumers,” says Suppan. “Many of the regulatory tools proposed by the IWG have exposed US consumers to unsafe or potentially unsafe food when implemented domestically. The Administration’s proposal was developed with the help of industry to avoid greater rates of physical inspection and testing.”

The report recommends the following to the next administration to help protect the US food consumer:

1.      Increase the number of inspectors at our ports with better inspection technology;

2.      Allow regulators to limit the number of ports of entry for high-risk products;

3.      Allow regulators to suspend import licenses for repeated failure to comply with food safety and other import rules;

Create an incentive for compliance with import requirements by establishing an importer performance bond that would be reimbursable according to the importer’s compliance rate.