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FDA earns poor grades on food labeling

A new report on food labeling from the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) gives FDA poor grades on tracking how foods are labeled. The report says FDA “needs to better leverage resources, improve oversight and effectively use available data to help consumers select healthy foods.”

FDA oversees federal labeling rules for 80% of foods, but does not have reliable data on the number of labels reviewed. GAO says the number of inspections, which include label reviews, has declined. For example, of the tens of thousands of foreign food processors in more than 150 countries, just 96 were inspected by FDA in 11 countries in fiscal year 2007-down from 211 inspections in 26 countries in 2001.

FDA’s testing for the accuracy of nutrition information on labels in 2000 through 2006 was limited, and FDA could not provide data for 2007.

GAO says while the number of food firms in FDA’s jurisdiction has increased, the number of warning letters FDA issued to processors citing food labeling violations has held fairly steady. GAO also blamed FDA for not tracking the complete and timely correction of labeling violations and other labeling oversights. In addition to its official recalls database, FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition has continued to waste resources on a second recall database that FDA agreed to eliminate in 2004, the GAO report says.

In its defense, FDA reports that limited resources and authorities challenge its efforts to carry out its food safety responsibilities, and these challenges have an impact on its ability to oversee food labeling laws. FDA’s Food Protection Plan cites the need to collect a reinspection fee, accredit third-party inspectors and require recalls when voluntary recalls are ineffective.

A complete copy of the GAO report, Food Labeling, is available at the GAO’s Web site.

Cut the ammonia, burn the methane

Kreider Farms, one of Pennsylvania’s largest dairy farms, has teamed up with Bion Environmental Technologies Inc. to build a multimillion-dollar livestock waste treatment system company called Cleantech at Kreider’s Farm in Manheim, PA. The farm hosts 2,000 dairy cows and 3.5 million egg-laying chickens and has 2500 acres of farmland. Kreider’s has a dairy that produces milk and ice cream onsite.

Cleantech’s process will largely reduce the environmental impacts of concentrated animal waste, including excess nutrients, ammonia and greenhouses gases. Winner of the US Poultry & Egg Association’s 2008 “Family Farm Environmental Excellence Award,” Kreider Farms already implements several eco-friendly initiatives in its operations.

“Cleantech will also include an integrated renewable energy facility to make the waste treatment environmentally sustainable. No fossil fuels will be needed to run the system,” says Ron Kreider, president and CEO of the Farms.

Cleantech is approved by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to generate approximately 140 nutrient credits per milk cow’s waste treated. Bion will sell the credits via PA DEP’s nutrient crediting/trading Web site. This program will help clean up the sensitive Chesapeake Bay estuary system.

The plant will produce renewable energy by combusting the biomass in Kreider Farms’ dairy and poultry waste and emission streams. Greenhouse gas emission credits will be earned by significantly reducing methane emissions during its livestock waste treatment process. A stabilized nutrient-rich fertilizer will be generated as a byproduct of the dairy and poultry waste treatment process.

Canada allows use of sodium diacetate in meats

Health Canada, according to the Canada Gazette, will permit the use of sodium diacetate as a preservative in standardized and unstandardized preparations of meat, meat byproducts, poultry meat, poultry meat byproducts, fish and several other meat products-all at a maximum level of 0.25% of final product weight.

Sodium diacetate has been approved in the US for the same applications. In a direct final rule, the US FSIS approved the use of sodium diacetate at the same concentration level in meat and poultry products on January 20, 2000 (9 CFR Part 424). Sodium diacetate can be used as a flavor enhancer and an inhibitor in the growth of certain pathogens, especially Listeria.

Evaluation of available data supports the safety and effectiveness of sodium diacetate in the production of these food products. This announcement comes on the heel of the recent Listeria outbreak in Maple Leaf meat products. Sodium diacetate is effective in retarding the growth of, and/or killing, Listeria.

According to Health Canada, the use of this food additive will benefit consumers by increasing the availability of quality food products. It will also benefit industry through more efficient and improved manufacturing conditions.

Sodium diacetate was evaluated for acceptable daily intake by the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives in 1961. Acetic acid from vinegar and from other sources is normally consumed by man in amounts of about 1 g daily, apparently without adverse effects.

Don't wait for the dust to settle

The National Fire Protection Association has declared that its NFPA 68 Standard on Explosion Protection by Deflagration Venting is now a standard rather than a guideline.


Energy management: Your new competitive edge

Reclamation of thermal heat is a conspicuous example of the many energy initiatives underway as the food industry rethinks the ROI on energy management.

Fabulous food plant

Market conditions pushed Fresherized Foods to get back to basics this year, but the innovator in high pressure processing expects to emerge even stronger in global guacamole production.

Packaging trends study

With customers demanding less material waste and manufacturing looking for ways to trim transportation costs, the trend toward sustainable packaging is gathering momentum.

Tech Update: Thermal processing

Basic equipment adjustments improve product quality and energy savings.

People, Plant and Industry News

The ISA has renamed itself International Society of Automation. Formerly, it was known as The Instrumentation, Systems and Automation Society. Originally, ISA was known as the Instrument Society of America.

DNV signed partner agreements with US-based food-safety firms ASI Food Safety Consultants and Seacrest International. Along with its existing resources, these new collaborations will enable DNV to offer supply chain certifications and safety assurance programs in the US food industry.


Saxbys Coffee Worldwide completed a private transaction to acquire the assets of Bucks County Coffee Co., including its 15 retail locations and a distribution channel to approximately 400 grocery outlets.


Cargill will cease operations at its Carthage, MO facility in December 2008. Production will be transitioned to its Charlotte, NC facility.


John Bean Technologies Corporation named Kenneth C. Dunn as its vice president and general counsel. Dunn brings considerable experience in working closely with executive management teams and in leading both business and legal related duties.


Pepperl+Fuchs acquired Christensen Display Products (Preston, WA), which designs and manufactures ruggedized, industrial-grade, flat-panel monitors for the process and industrial control markets.


Bison Gear & Engineering Corp. appointed Sylvia Wetzel as chief learning officer. She’s responsible for connecting business performance with human performance through wide-ranging programs beyond traditional training.