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Tainted beef: Déjà vu

USDA’s FSIS reported Nebraska Beef, Ltd. (Omaha, NE) is recalling 1.36 million pounds of primal cuts, subprimal cuts and boxed beef, which may be contaminated with E. coli O157:H7. The August 8 announcement comes on the heels of a 5.3 million pound Nebraska Beef recall, which covered ground beef produced between May 16 and June 26. For more information on this recall, see Tech Flash Vol. 4, No. 9.

The latest recall concerns beef products produced on June 17, June 24 and July 8, 2008. The shipping containers and product labels bear the establishment number “Est. 19336” inside the USDA inspection mark as well as the brand “Coleman Natural.” Since these products were sent to establishments and retail stores nationwide for further processing to the consumer market, most end-use products do not bear the “Est. 19336.”

Fred Meyer stores in Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Alaska have warned their customers, that although the stores are no longer selling beef that may be contaminated, consumers should check and return to the store any ground beef packages they recently purchased with sell-by dates of July 6 through August 11 and labels that read “Lean Ground Beef Family Pack Not To Exceed 20% Fat.”

Whole Foods Market also announced a voluntary recall of fresh ground beef sold since June 2, based on a modest supply from Coleman Natural Beef. Seven cases of E. coli in Massachusetts and two in Pennsylvania were also linked to the product.

The tainted beef problem was discovered through a joint investigation of government health and agriculture departments, CDC and FSIS. Thirty-one cases in 12 states and Canada have been identified in the investigation.

Pilgrim's Pride not happy with EPA ruling

Pilgrim’s Pride is extremely disappointed by the EPA’s rejection of Texas Governor Rick Perry’s request for a partial waiver of the 2008 Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). According to J. Clinton Rivers, president and CEO, “The RFS has caused feed ingredient prices to spiral out of control, inflicting extreme economic damage on food companies, and ultimately, on consumers, in the form of increased food costs.

“We expect our company’s feed-ingredient costs for fiscal 2008 will increase $900 million from last fiscal year as a result of the US government’s failed ethanol policy.” Rivers adds, “It’s apparent that the government intends to blindly pursue this misguided and destructive policy despite reams of data demonstrating its negative impact on the environment, food prices and world hunger.”

Rivers says that not only are the 2008 mandates destructive, but the scheduled mandate next year will increase corn usage for ethanol another 16.7%, consuming an additional 4.5% or more of the 2009-2010 corn crop than the anticipated 34% of the crop being consumed this year for ethanol production.

Processor gets a better handle on supply chain

Organic Alliance, Inc., supplier of USDA-certified organic produce, is implementing the GS1 system to track its products. GS1 is a global organization with an integrated system of standards that provides accurate identification of products and locations through the use of standards, barcodes and electronic product code/radio frequency identification (EPC/RFID) tags. The GS1 system plays a vital role in product recalls because it enables product traceability on a global scale across the supply chain.

Organic Alliance will install the system to track avocados grown in Mexico and shipped to the US. According to Tom Morrison, Organic Alliance’s CEO, “Utilizing the GS1 system, we have the ability to not only track our produce back to the farm of origin, but all the way down to the actual row on which it was grown.”

Morrison says this system can provide assurance to consumers that the products they buy are not contaminated. He adds, “This is also beneficial for farmers and the FDA because the GS1 product labels and technology expedite tracking, quickly isolating the problem to a specific farm and clearing other safe products.”

In addition to food safety, GS1 also works with the healthcare, defense, transport and logistics industries. For more information on GS1, visit

Plastic bags issued a reprieve for now

In California a bill, had it passed, would have placed a 25 cent “tax” on every plastic bag provided by a grocery store. The bill was thwarted by the California Senate Appropriations Committee. According to the Progressive Bag Affiliates of the American Chemistry Council (PBA), the bill would have imposed a $4.75 billion tax on grocery shoppers.

According to PBA, the proposed tax could have added upwards of $400 a year to the grocery bill of average families, who are already struggling with rapidly rising food and energy costs. Shari Jackson, PBA director, states plastic bag recycling is on the rise with 812 million pounds of plastic bags and film recycled nationally in 2006, up 24% in a single year.

According to California’s Heal The Bay action group, the bill was not introduced to be a “tax,” but to be an incentive for grocery shoppers to bring their own bags from home and reuse them in future shopping trips, or to purchase sturdy, reusable bags at the store. The group says California grocery shoppers use 19 billion plastic grocery bags and merchandise bags each year, or roughly 552 bags per person. Almost 600 bags per second are used in California and simply discarded, winding up in landfills and lakes, bays and estuaries, often choking wildlife when the material is ingested.

Today, several grocery stores and big-box stores such as Costco and Wal-Mart sell relatively inexpensive reusable bags. Costco’s approach for several years-no bags at all-has worked well; shoppers unload grocery carts right into their trunks for transport home. Cardboard cartons emptied of goods for store shelves also provide customers with some consolidation of products, preventing chaos in the trunk.

Knowledge revolution in manufacturing

Alvin Toffler, renowned futurist and keynote speaker at Rockwell Software’s RSTechEd 2008, has a stern warning for manufacturers.


Training: The ultimate plant optimization tool

Sophisticated technology demands technically competent workers to function properly. Better training is the mantra for both incumbent workers and young adults.

Tech Update: Robotics

Creative automation solutions to worker shortages and retailer demands are ushering in a golden age for robotics in food packaging.

Food's chemical signature

Food and beverage manufacturers will be among the first commercial beneficiaries of nanotechnology that delivers amazingly small and inexpensive electronic noses.

Dry Processing Technology: Snack maker finds a better way to control ingredient flow

Getting the flavor right on specialty potato chips requires consistent and controlled ingredients.

Tom Deschler

People, Plant and Industry News

Tom Deschler was promoted to vice president of continuous improvement at the T. Marzetti Company. He will be responsible for leading continuous improvement initiatives for all manufacturing locations, warehouses and offices. Deschler joined the company in 1973 and previously served as VP of manufacturing in Columbus, OH.


ConAgra Foods Lamb Weston and Ochoa Foods, a privately owned potato processing company based in Boise, ID, have entered into a 50/50 joint venture to operate Ochoa Foods’ current potato processing plant in Warden, WA. The joint venture, Lamb Weston/BSW, will develop, process and sell frozen potato products.


Pilgrim’s Pride Corporation plans to idle a chicken processing plant in Clinton, AR and a further-processing facility in Bossier City, LA. Both moves are part of the company’s ongoing effort to operate more efficiently and return to profitability amid high feed costs and an oversupply of chicken on the market.


Kellogg Company announced several key executive changes in keeping with the company’s plans to achieve sustainable and dependable, long-term performance. Brad Davidson, previously senior vice president, Kellogg Company, and president, Kellogg US Snacks and Canada, was promoted to senior vice president and president, Kellogg North America. Paul Norman, senior vice president, Kellogg Company, and president, US Morning Foods, was promoted to senior vice president and president, Kellogg International. John Bryant, executive vice president, chief financial officer and president, Kellogg North America, was promoted to chief operating officer, Kellogg Company. Jeff Montie, executive vice president, Kellogg Company, and president, Kellogg International, global innovation, marketing and sales, made the decision to leave the company. The company also announced the following promotions: Juan Pablo Villalobos, previously senior vice president, Kellogg Company, and president, Kellogg Latin America, was named senior vice president and president, US Morning Foods. Todd Penegor, chief financial officer, Kellogg Europe, was promoted to vice president, Kellogg Company, and president, Kellogg US Snacks, and will join the global leadership team. Finally, Mark Baynes, global chief marketing officer, was named global chief marketing officer and vice president, Kellogg Company, and joins the company’s global leadership team.


The Natural Pasta Company appointed food industry veteran Rick McKelvey as president. Last month, the 25-year-old, all-natural food company received a $2.35 million investment from Sea Change Investment Fund, LLC, a venture capital fund focused on environmentally preferable seafood.


Multivac opened a manufacturer-certified, pre-owned business unit, dedicated to rebuilding and reselling previously owned Multivac equipment. The unit is headed by Tom Ritter, who joins Multivac as director of rebuilding and remanufacturing. For more information on the unit, call 800-800-8552,


Racine Federated Inc. appointed Dave Perkins as president. He succeeds John Erskine, Jr., who assumes the role of the chairman of the board. Erskine was president of the company since 1980.


Solbar Industries Ltd, Israel, appointed Greg Horn to direct the company’s business, marketing and sales activity in North America.


Dan Mack assumed the position of product manager for Multivac’s FormShrink and vacuum skin packaging (VSP) systems. Mack was formerly market development manager for a broad range of products.


Douglas Sharratt, president of ProSoft Technology, Inc., lost his life in a plane crash in Sunriver, OR. In accordance to Sharratt’s succession plan, Gary Joke, chief financial officer, assumes the new position of president and CEO.


Barry-Wehmiller Industrial Resources promoted Jim Webb to the position of senior partner-engineering services. Webb’s group specializes in machine design, new product development, CAD and product data management for industrial machinery.


Pacific Ozone named Jeff Mitchell as its new vice president of finance and operations. Mitchell filled a similar role at Sartorius Stedim. The company also named Brian Lowe as its new director of sales for Latin America.