View the latest edition of FE’s e-newsletter

Tainted beef watch expanded

Nebraska Beef, Ltd., an Omaha, NE establishment, expanded its June 30 recall to include all beef manufacturing trimmings and other products intended for use in raw ground beef produced between May 16 and June 26 totaling approximately 5.3 million pounds. The beef is suspected to be contaminated with E. coli O157:H7, according to the US Department of Agriculture’s FSIS. The original recall totaled 531,000 pounds of ground beef shipped to establishments in Texas, Illinois, Michigan, New York and Pennsylvania.

The recall is being extended based on the ongoing epidemiological and traceback investigation of a foodborne illness outbreak. According to CDC, 21 cases in Michigan and 20 cases in Ohio have been reported. Twenty-two people have been hospitalized. CDC has found that ground beef purchases of the sickened people in these states came from Kroger Company stores in Michigan and Ohio.

Food safety issues are not new to Nebraska Beef. In January 27, 2003, an FSIS statement written by Administrator Dr. Garry McKee discussed the terms of a consent order applying to the processor. In the order, which was in force for two years, the processor must educate all 1,100 employees within 60 days in all aspects of food safety measures and regulatory requirements, including the requirements of the SPS (sanitary and phytosanitary), SSOP, HACCP and E. coli testing relevant to a particular employee’s position. In addition, an independent party was to prepare a written assessment of the company’s sanitation and food safety systems.

A sure death for E. coli?

Bacteriophages, viruses that eat bacteria and are harmless to humans, represent an alternative solution to killing nasty bacteria such as Listeria or E. coli O157:H7. While EBI Food Safety (Netherlands) already has a successful bacteriophage for Listeria, there is not yet a bacteriophage available commercially for E. coli.

But, microbiologist Manan Sharma, with USDA’s ARS Food Safety Laboratory (Beltsville, MD), is working in collaboration with researchers at Intralytix, Inc. (Baltimore, MD) to come up with a bacteriophage to kill E. Coli O157:H7. This research is especially important as these harmful bacteria find new ways to resist antibiotics.

According to USDA, Sharma has completed testing a cocktail of phages (ECP-100) on refrigerated samples of fresh-cut cantaloupe. The trials have shown that the phage treatments could be effective in killing E. coli in produce. According to Sharma, the treatments reduced pathogens on the cantaloupe by 100-fold over untreated melons. Sharma’s research has also been targeting refrigerated, fresh-cut lettuce.

For more information, visit (program 108) or call Manan Sharma at 301-504-9198.

Is bio-based packaging ready for prime time?

While some new food and beverage products are being distributed in plant-based, natural plastic (polylactic acid or PLA) packaging that is completely free of petroleum products, these bio-based plastics still have a rough road ahead before they can completely substitute for petroleum-based, polyethylene terephthalate (PET) equivalents, says a report entitled Biopolymers for Commodity Packaging from Packaging Strategies.

Although it may be advantageous to appear sustainable to the end user, PLA plastics generally under-perform and cost more than their PET counterparts, says David Luttenberger, CPP, director of Packaging Strategies. Couple these issues with the fact that many of these “sustainable” plastics use corn, already at high prices, as their main ingredient.

Hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of time and effort are being used to develop, manufacture and introduce packaging biopolymers. There is no reason to doubt that with a few more years of R&D, biopolymers will be able to compete with PET products, especially considering the rapidly increasing costs of petroleum. Another issue, says Luttenberger, is that while PLA plastics are recyclable, technically they can’t be mixed in large quantities with PET plastics without contaminating the PET recyclable product.

The report, which includes 17 cost assessment models, is authored by three leading industry experts: Gordon Bockner, founder of Business Development Associates Inc.; Dr. Jim Lunt, a founding member of NatureWorks LLC; and Plastex Solutions, LLC President Robert Tremblay. The report also covers the rapidly evolving PLA landscape, biopolymers in development and recommendations for manufacturers.

For more information on the study, Biopolymers for Commodity Packaging, see

Alcohol and caffeine don't mix

As part of a settlement agreement reached with the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) and 11 state attorneys general, Anheuser-Busch will remove caffeine, guarana and ginseng from its flavored malt beverages, Tilt and Bud Extra, and is calling on its competitors in the industry to stop making pre-packaged caffeinated alcoholic beverages. Miller Brewing, which also markets caffeinated alcoholic beverages, is not a party to the settlement agreement, and may face litigation over its beverages. CSPI contends research conducted at Wake Forest University finds young consumers of caffeinated alcoholic drinks are at a greater risk of binge drinking, injury, drunk driving or sexual assault than are the drinkers of conventional alcoholic drinks.

New regs on tap for combustible dust explosions

Former regulations covered only grain dust, but all dust types would be covered under the new law.


6th annual Replacement Parts and Components Survey

Old-school engineers may cling to their slide rules, but new-age maintenance professionals embrace modern information and ordering technology.

31st annual Plant Construction Survey

LEED provides the tools to measure sustainability in new and existing projects.

Food Automation Conference report

Best practices in food safety, asset utilization and sustainability were front and center at Food Engineering’s annual industry idea-exchange.

Tech Update: Post-production solutions

The integrated-plant concept works great, up until the finished product is filled. Machines may do the repetitive tasks, but coordinated activity remains elusive.

Ban bad bags

Unsightly seams on package films can result in lots of rework and manual remedies. Fortunately, technology offers some solutions.

People, Plant and Industry News

InBev (Belgium) and Anheuser-Busch agreed to combine the two companies; the new company will be called Anheuser-Busch InBev, and its North American headquarters will be in St. Louis, MO. All US breweries will remain open. Anheuser-Busch shareholders will receive $70 per share in cash for an aggregate equity value of $52 billion. InBev CEO Carlos Brito will be CEO of the combined company. The expanded company will be geographically diversified with markets in China, US, Russia, Brazil and Germany.

ConAgra Foods, Inc. announced a new licensing and capabilities agreement with The Procter & Gamble Company that provides ConAgra Foods access to nutrition-enhancing food ingredients and packaging capabilities related to sustainability, ergonomics and design, as well as access to the vast amounts of research associated with those technologies.


Tyson Foods, Inc. signed a letter of intent to sell its Canadian-based packing, feedyard and fertilizer assets of Lakeside Farm Industries Ltd and its subsidiary Lakeside Packers, to XL Foods Inc., a Canadian-owned beef processing business. According to Richard L. Bond, president and CEO of Tyson Foods, “Lakeside no longer fits the long-term strategy of our company, as our current international strategy is focused primarily in Asia, Mexico and South America.” Tyson also purchased 51% ownership of Godrej Foods, Ltd., based in Mumbai, India. Godrej Foods is a subsidiary of Godrej Agrovet, Ltd., an Indian agribusiness. The joint venture between Godrej Agrovet and Tyson is called Godrej Tyson Foods.


Kellogg Company acquired the assets of Zhenghang Food Company Ltd. (“Navigable Foods”), a manufacturer of cookies and crackers in the north and northeastern regions of China. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed. Navigable Foods’ 2007 net sales were approximately $50 million.


IDG’s Computerworld magazine named General Mills as the third-best place to work in information technology (IT) in the US. General Mills has made the Computerworld Best Places to Work in IT list for nine years, moving up four spots to No. 3 this year from No. 7 in 2007. 


Del Monte Corporation entered into an agreement to sell its seafood business, including StarKist, to Dongwon Enterprise Co., Ltd. (Dongwon Enterprise); Dongwon F&B Co., Ltd. (Dongwon F&B); and Dongwon Industries Co., Ltd. for $363 million.


SABMiller plc and Molson Coors Brewing Company will combine their US and Puerto Rico operations to create MillerCoors. MillerCoors began operating as a combined entity on July 1, 2008.


Cal-Maine Foods, Inc. reached an agreement to acquire the majority of the assets of 40-year-old Zephyr Egg Company, located in Zephyrhills, FL.


Kedem Food Products formed a distribution partnership with Tree of Life, Inc., which will serve as Kedem’s official distributor in the south Florida market.


Advanced Automation LP, provider of technology solutions to manufacturers in North America; Innovative Automation & Engineering, Dubai-based engineering and system integration company serving Middle Eastern and African oil and gas, water, wastewater, infrastructure and manufacturing industries; and Engro Innovative Automation Pvt. Ltd., provider of industrial automation and engineering support products and services, will immediately begin working under the unified company name of Avanceon. All three companies became affiliated March 1 and have been working together as a single global enterprise. Avanceon’s Exton, PA location will be the worldwide headquarters for the operations and continue to be the management center for global services and solutions.


Nalco Company has won a 2008 Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award for its 3D TRASAR technology for cooling water. The award, given by the US EPA for outstanding chemical technologies that incorporate the principles of green chemistry into chemical design and manufacture, was presented at the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, DC.


Hawk, a global provider of level, positioning and flow measurement technology, formed a joint venture with MS Instrumentos in Brazil. MS Instrumentos Industriais Ltda, supplies a wide range of industrial measurement equipment and controls, concentrating on non-contact measurement of products and materials.


Britt Brockhage has joined Schebler, Bettendorf, as business unit manager of the Food Equipment group. He was most recently with Genesis Systems Group in Davenport, IA.


CSI completed its acquisition of the Chadwick Group of Morrisville, NC. CSI Chadwick focuses on the needs of manufacturers with hygienic processes. Management of the combined companies includes Mark Cook serving as president and CEO and Bud Watts serving as general manager of CSI Chadwick.


Exosect, a provider of pest management solutions, appointed Robert Hend as its regulatory affairs manager within the company’s research and development team.


Innovation Matrix,Inc., a distributor and system integrator of automation applications, opened a new office in Kobe, Japan. The branch office will allow the company to better serve its customers in Asia.


Phoenix Air Systems, a designer and manufacturer of process air management products, appointed Richard Goodale to the position of national sales manager based in Lutherville, MD.