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Jalapeño peper. Source: FDA

US tomatoes, jalapeños, Serrano peppers exonerated

After months of speculation, tomatoes have finally been exonerated as the culprit behind the Salmonella Saintpaul outbreak, which sickened more than 1,200 people across the US and Canada. In addition, jalapeño peppers and Serrano peppers grown in the US are not connected with the current outbreak. According to an earlier FDA report, one jalapeño pepper sample had shown a positive genetic match with the Salmonella Saintpaul strain causing the outbreak that began in April (see Food Safety News below).

According to FDA, additional traceback and traceforward information obtained has led to the determination that the Agricola Zarigoza produce distribution center in McAllen, TX-from where FDA took the positive jalapeño pepper sample-was not the original source of the contamination. FDA, however, continues to advise consumers to avoid raw jalapeño peppers-and the food that contains them-if they have been grown, harvested or packed in Mexico.

FDA is working with state regulatory agencies and food industry groups that represent restaurants, grocery stores and wholesalers to ensure everyone clearly understands this new, more narrow advisory. FDA will continue to refine its consumer guidance as the agency’s investigation continues.

FDA continues to advise people in high-risk populations to avoid eating raw Serrano peppers from Mexico or food made from raw Serrano peppers from Mexico until further notice.

Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) Food Safety Director Caroline Smith DeWaal suggests paper records and repacking practices effectively hide the identity of produce in the distribution chain. DeWaal blames the Bush Administration for watering down the traceability tools adopted in the Bioterrorism Act of 2002. “Provisions stripped from the regulations, like requirements for distributors to record lot or code numbers, and requirements for record availability in 4 to 8 hours, might have been helpful nailing down this Salmonella outbreak much earlier," said DeWaal.

Recycled aluminum beverage cans help energy savings

According to new statistics from The Aluminum Association, Can Manufacturers Institute (CMI) and Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (SRI), there was a 2.2% increase in aluminum can recycling rates in 2007, the largest gain in recycling rates in the past decade. Last year Americans and the aluminum industry recycled 54 billion aluminum cans, two billion more than in 2006. At a recycling rate of 53.8%, the aluminum can is the most recycled beverage container in the US. According to CMI President Robert Budway, recycling 40 aluminum beverage cans has the energy-saving equivalent of one gallon of gasoline. In 2007, recycled cans represented an energy savings of more than 15 million barrels of oil.

Look abroad for growth in beverages

The US non-alcoholic, ready-to-drink (NARTD) beverage market is mature, but there are growth opportunities abroad, says a report from Fitch Ratings. Because of the weakened US economy, NARTD producers will struggle to grow in the US, and there will be some potential takeover candidates in the US energy drink and tea segments, allowing larger companies to enhance their beverage portfolio offerings. Organic growth also will be constrained by a more difficult pricing environment as economic growth slows.

To continue to grow internationally, beverage companies will have to either make acquisitions of established local brands and distribution networks or introduce company-owned brands and make capital outlays to establish comprehensive local distribution systems.

While Coca-Cola and PepsiCo accounted for 75% of the US carbonated soft drink market in 2007, the overall trend in this market has been downward, with a peak of 54.9 gallons average consumption per capita in 1998, dropping to 48.8 gallons in 2007.

For more information and to download the report, Large Beverage Companies: In Search of Growth as US Trends Remain Weak, visit

Fat is "green"

Tyson Foods and Syntroleum Corporation will build a synthetic fuels facility in Geismar, LA. The facility will produce about 75 million gallons of renewable synthetic fuel annually from various non-food grade animal fats produced or procured by Tyson Foods. These fats include beef tallow, pork lard, chicken fat and greases.

The fuel produced by the plant will offer the same benefits of synthetic fuels derived from coal or natural gas while providing substantial performance and environmental advantages over petroleum-based fuels. These benefits include higher cetane levels (a measure of combustion quality) and superior thermal stability, making this product compatible for advanced military applications.

Construction of the joint venture’s Dynamic Fuels refinery is expected to begin in October and be finished by the end of 2009.

Automation News

Portion of the XCS Systems Ltd. Canning line project, which runs on an EtherNet/IP network. Source: Rockwell

Food and beverage SI cuts programming time 80% on canning line

UK-based system integrator, XCS Systems Ltd., builds large production lines for the food and beverage industries. In 2007, the SI designed and commissioned a production line project for a canning plant which included 160 motors and drives plus conveyors. Programming such a system typically involves handling each motor and drive separately, which creates a massive time constraint.

XCS wanted to build and integrate a network-based control system that would link all the drives and variable speed control software, and improve the process as well to minimize damage to cans on the air-powered conveyor. Controlling the speed of the system could improve product quality and save energy. According to Paul Croad, XCS company director, “Using variable-speed drives allows us to run the fans much slower when there are no cans on the air-powered conveyor. Running them only as fast as we need to, at, say 20 Hz, allows us to gain energy savings.” Croad adds, “Speed control is the most important factor, which is obviously why a network comes in handy. You get the speed feedback from machines and their drives directly across the network whereas in the past we would have to hardwire analog signals back into the feedback loop.”

Croad chose a Rockwell solution strategy consisting of A-B PowerFlex 40 ac drives for the conveyor line and PowerFlex 70 ac drives for the elevator and air-powered conveyors. The drives link together using an EtherNet/IP network and connect to PanelView displays, ControlLogix programmable automation controllers (PACs) and Point I/O and RSLogix 5000 Software (Version 16).

According to Croad, programming that used to take two months to write and implement can now be done in one week providing an 80% savings in time. The software’s custom instruction feature allows XCS to edit an instruction just once to affect all the drives. “Furthermore, with Ethernet networking, if we need additional functions, we write a bit of software rather than pulling cables,” says Croad. He adds that the use of fiber optic media (rather than copper) eliminates problems with electrical interference.

The EtherNet/IP network bandwidth provides a 50-70 ms system response time for feedback signals to the drives and allows XCS to interlock all the machines for the various sections of the line.

Don't overlook packaging line operations

According to Sal Spada, ARC Advisory Group research director discrete automation, managing packaging line performance is critical to a highly reliable value chain. Packaging line operations define the ability of an organization to configure product delivery at the final stage in the manufacturing process and provide retailers with a rapid response to inventory fulfillment. Essentially, packaging operations are demand-driven and now a critical path in the supply chain.

Vast amounts of data available from systems on the packaging line should enhance manufacturing capabilities. Packaging line operations management (POM) is the merger of two distinct systems: packaging execution systems (PES) and manufacturing execution systems (MES). These systems deliver a comprehensive operations management system that is an effective knowledge tool surpassing the basic functions of collecting and storing data.

Industry survivors will be characterized as low-cost producers capable of operating at high efficiency with zero defects in a world of customized packages. In many cases, the security bar will be raised even higher, says Spada. The security of the supply chain along with zero defects will be imperative in the food and beverage industries.

Industry leaders will recognize that POM systems put in place to manage design change requirements in packaging operations can be leveraged as a competitive advantage and form a catalyst for business growth and market penetration. For more information on Packaging Line Operations Management the Cornerstone of a Lean Initiative, visit

PLM and ERP work hand-in-hand

As product lifecycle management (PLM) takes on a larger footprint in the enterprise application ecosystem, manufacturers have begun to make a better attempt at tracking product information across the full lifecycle. This often takes the form of integration between PLM and ERP.

While this is the most common area for integration work cited by participants in Aberdeen Group’s Integrating the PLM Ecosystem report, analysis also found a clear connection to company performance, with leading companies 40% more likely than the industry average to have integrated PLM with ERP. The study found integration of the two systems often fills a noticeable gap in the information available in most ERP systems. Although it serves as the system of record for a large amount of corporate information, ERP has not been the primary location to store design and engineering data.

For more information on the study, visit

USDA gives robot OK to handle food

USDA has officially given the green light to FANUC Robotics America’s M-430iA high-speed robot to handle food in picking applications. Satisfying the hygiene requirements for meat and poultry processing, the robot has met or exceeded the USDA, AMS criteria as published in the NSF/ANSI/3-A 14159-1 2002 specifications. Designed for washdown environments, the five-axis robot is capable of picking primary food and packaged products weighing 1kg at speeds up to 120 cycles/minute on a continuous basis.

Food Safety News

Salmonella Saintpaul infects 1,251 ... and counting

According to the Centers for Disease Control, 1,251 persons have been infected with the same Salmonella Saintpaul genetic fingerprint found in 43 states, Washington, DC and Canada.

An initial epidemiological investigation in New Mexico and Texas, which compared foods eaten in May by persons who were ill to foods eaten by well persons, identified consumption of raw tomatoes as strongly linked to the illness. A similar but much larger nationwide study in June comparing persons who were ill to well persons found ill persons were more likely to have consumed raw tomatoes, fresh jalapeño peppers and fresh cilantro. These items were commonly-though not always-consumed together, making it difficult to determine which caused the illness.

Recently, many clusters of illnesses have been identified in several states among people who ate at restaurants. Most clusters involve fewer than five ill persons. Three larger clusters have been investigated intensely. The resulting data shows fresh jalapeño peppers, rather than tomatoes, are most likely to be the major cause of this outbreak. Serrano peppers and certain fresh tomatoes remain under investigation.

Several issues have made it difficult to track this disease. Only six people infected with this strain of Salmonella Saintpaul were identified from April through June 2007. It takes an average of two to three weeks between the time a person becomes ill and when the illness is reported. Another issue is that people often have difficulty in remembering exactly which foods they ate, and remembering specific ingredients in those foods is even more difficult. Although lab testing of foods might help identify the source, perishable foods that were consumed by ill persons are often not available to test.

When all these food items are mixed together and consumed in the same dish, all the items consumed could conceivably be linked to the illness. In such a case, determining by statistical means which item caused the illness can be difficult or impossible. Tracing back to processors and growers, however, is an integral part of the effort to identify a single source as a possible means of contamination.

Food safety: What we can learn from the EU, Japan and Canada

Several confluent factors have been adversely affecting food safety issues in the US, but according to the US Government Accountability Office (GAO), the US can learn from other countries. In the US, imported food makes up a growing share of the food supply: 60% of fresh fruits and vegetables and 75% of seafood. Consumers are increasingly eating foods that are either raw or had minimal processing. In addition, changing demographics means that more of the US population will increasingly be susceptible to food-borne illness.

The GAO recently studied how Canada, the EU, Germany, Ireland, Japan, the Netherlands and the UK are ensuring the safety of imported food, responding to outbreaks of food-borne illness and measuring the effectiveness of their reorganized food safety systems. The GAO also asked experts in these countries and the EU to identify emerging food safety challenges they expect to face over the next decade.

Several of the selected countries reported three elements of their food safety systems are critical in helping them respond to food-borne illness outbreaks: traceback procedures, cooperative arrangements between government veterinarians and public health officials, and mandatory recall authority. In EU states, all food must be traceable one step forward and one step back so industry and government can quickly track any food products to minimize health risks and reduce the economic impact on industry. Food and feed business operators must be able to document the names and addresses of the supplier and customer as well as the nature of the product and date of delivery. Officials in several countries told GAO that mandatory recall authority is rarely used but is an important part of the food safety system because it is the last stop in the supply chain.

While none of the countries has comprehensively evaluated its reorganized food safety system, most have seen improved public confidence in handling problems in the future. Experts identified food safety challenges they expect to face over the next decade. These include climate change; demographic change with increases in elderly people and immigration; and new types of foods, such as RTE salads, that may result in more incidents of food-borne illness.

The selected countries in this report have a comprehensive, risk-based approach to ensuring the safety of imported food. Specifically, they focus on the entire food supply chain, from “farm to table;” place primary responsibility for food safety on food producers with the government providing oversight; separate risk assessment and risk management; employ a risk-based inspection system; and take steps to ensure certain food imports meet equivalent food safety standards.

To obtain a free copy of the GAO report, Food Safety: Selected Countries’ Systems Can Offer Insights into Ensuring Import Safety and Responding to Food-borne Illness, download a PDF file at The text is available at

Antibiotic-free pork

Cargill Meat solutions released a new line of antibiotic-free pork, which also is free of growth hormones. Its Good Nature brand is backed by processes, food-safety interventions and marketing support geared to consumers desiring a healthy choice in pork. One processing innovation, air chilling, preserves the product’s color, tenderness and moisture.

E. coli lawsuit filed

The first Georgia lawsuit stemming from a national E. coli outbreak linked to seven states was filed against Nebraska Beef Limited. The complaint was filed on behalf of Evelyn and John M. Stewart of Moultrie, GA, who are represented by Marler Clark, a Seattle law firm specializing in representing victims of food-borne illness.

The lawsuit states that on June 20, 2008, the Stewarts ate at the Barbeque Pit in Moultrie, GA. Days later, Mrs. Stewart was admitted to the Colquitt Regional Medical Center, where she tested positive for E. coli O157:H7 and was diagnosed with HUS, or Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome, a severe and life-threatening complication.

A cluster of E. coli illnesses that appeared in Colquitt County in late June was traced to the Barbeque Pit in Moultrie, GA. The restaurant closed voluntarily on July 3, and has been involved in rigorous testing and disinfection procedures. Since then, four of the victims have developed HUS.

The Georgia cases were genetically matched to the outbreaks in Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky, New York, Utah and Indiana. The multi-state outbreak was traced to Nebraska Beef in Omaha, NE, which was a supplier to the Barbeque Pit in Moultrie.