BPA is safe ... or is it?

Congress has asked FDA to expedite its review of the scientific evidence on the safety of bisphenol A (BPA) in food contact/packaging products, especially those formed from polycarbonate-based materials.

In a public statement, the American Chemistry Council (ACC) agreed with Reps. Henry Waxman and Bart Stupak that an immediate, transparent assessment of the science including all relevant data and scientific studies is welcome and in the public’s best interest.

General consensus in the international community, as reported in FE’s March 2009 Food Safety online news, is that BPA in its current uses does not pose a health risk to children and adults, although Canada banned the use of BPA in polycarbonate baby bottles in 2008. According to ACC, within the last year several European food safety authorities have extensively evaluated the science around BPA and uniformly concluded that BPA is safe in food-contact products.

The state of California, however, isn’t so sure. The state has a proposed law (SB 797) in process that would ban the use of BPA in food applications. ACC criticized the California Senate, which has already passed the bill, for ignoring the findings of the international community that BPA and other food-contact products are safe. According to ACC Senior Director Tim Shestek, “California elected officials have bowed to pressure from vocal special interest groups.

“If this bill becomes law,” he adds, “it will do nothing to enhance product safety; it will, however, result in reduced product choice for consumers and needlessly more expensive food products.”

The city of Chicago has banned the use of BPA-based baby bottles, sippy cups and other kids’ containers in its BPA-Free Kids Ordinance passed at its May 2009 city council meeting. The measure was approved by a unanimous 48-0 vote and will become effective in January 2010. Retailers are required to post notice in their stores that baby bottles and other cups are not composed of BPA.

A May 2009 Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) study found that survey participants who drank for a week from polycarbonate bottles (typically hard bottles) showed a two-thirds increase of BPA in their urine. A control group that drank from non-BPA sources showed no increase in urine BPA levels. The study is said to be the first to show that drinking from polycarbonate bottles increased the level of urinary BPA, and thus suggests that drinking containers made with BPA release the chemical into the liquid that people drink in sufficient amounts to increase the level of BPA excreted in human urine.

According to the study’s authors, exposure to BPA has been shown to interfere with reproductive development in animals and has been linked with cardiovascular disease and diabetes in humans. The test was done with cold beverages. “If you heat those bottles, as is the case with baby bottles, we would expect the levels to be considerably higher,” said Karin B. Michels, associate professor of epidemiology at HSPH and Harvard Medical School and senior author of the study.

“This study is coming at an important time because many states are deciding whether to ban the use of BPA in baby bottles and sippy cups. While previous studies have demonstrated that BPA is linked to adverse health effects, this study fills in a missing piece of the puzzle-whether or not polycarbonate plastic bottles are an important contributor to the amount of BPA in the body,” said Jenny Carwile, one of the study’s authors.

Industry associations weigh in on FDA overhaul

Legislation to overhaul FDA took a step forward as a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee held hearings on a draft of the Food Safety Enhancement Act of 2009.

The measure addresses a number of concerns-from both food industry groups and consumers-about the agency’s jurisdiction and resources. Specifically it would:

·        For the first time, provide FDA with mandatory recall authority. Under current law, FDA can only request recalls.

·        Require high risk facilities to be inspected at least every six to 18 months. Currently, facilities are inspected once a decade on average.

·        Require electronic traceability systems that are able to track identified contaminated food back to its source. All food producers-both foreign and domestic-would be assessed a $1,000 registration fee to help pay for the increased oversight.

“We strongly support in concept many of the proposals in the draft,” said Grocery Manufacturers Association CEO Pamela Bailey, in testimony before the subcommittee.

Bailey said her group is particularly supportive of proposals that give FDA strong enforcement powers to deal with companies in violation of food safety laws, including mandatory recall authority when needed.

“Together, these reforms will prevent contamination, raise the bar for the entire food industry and deter bad actors,” she added. Bailey told the panel, however, that GMA had offered “important modifications” to the draft to committee staff and would continue to work with them to address those provisions.

Another food industry group-the International Dairy Foods Association-took stronger issue with some aspects of the draft. The group says the bill would place increased safety responsibility on the food industry with enhanced ingredient tracking, country of origin labeling and fees for routine FDA inspections. IDFA said it has consistently opposed those measures.

Both IDFA and GMA also oppose the provision requiring all food companies to pay an annual, uncapped registration fee. The fee would be used to increase FDA’s funding by approximately 50 percent.

“We believe asking manufacturers to pay the fees associated with routine inspections of their facilities represents a potential conflict of interest,” said Ruth Saunders, IDFA’s senior director of policy and legislative affairs. “However, we would support performance-based fees and fees for accelerated FDA services.”

Can processors cope with price cuts?

Study says mid-tier products losing market share to value and premium options

It’s no surprise that the depressed economy has shoppers of all demographics flocking to value brands as a strategy to save money. What is a surprise is that many consumers also are increasing purchases of premium brands, which show a smaller loss in sales than mid-tier brands, says a report from IRI Research. The report, The Value/Premium Dichotomy, reveals that value brands are growing rapidly in terms of dollars, while mid-tier brands lag behind.

On a unit sales basis, value brands saw more growth in 2009 than 2008, while premium brand sales shrank just over 1% and mid-tier brands shrank nearly 3%. “Several shopper trends have converged to create this dichotomy,” says Thom Blischok, president of IRI Consulting and Innovation. “The most obvious trend is the move to trade down. Shoppers have moved away from their traditional brands to value brands, including both retailers’ private brands as well as economy brands from national brand manufacturers.”

But, shoppers also are focused on premium brands through what IRI has called “sophisticated splurging.” Shoppers are holding onto premium brands they crave but are purchasing them at value stores. Premium brand purchases have grown the most at dollar stores, supercenters and Wal-Mart, while shrinking at grocery, drug, mass merchandise and club stores.

In addition, retailers have dramatically increased the sophistication of their private brand strategies. Many now offer high-end private brands at a lower cost than premium national brands, according to the report.

With the drop in sales for mid-tier brands, processors may be forced to lower prices and production costs. “While many branded products companies are refusing to publicly acknowledge a need to lower prices, many are internally planning to do so,” says Mark Sutcliffe, president of CDC Software’s CDC Factory. “They’re setting targets for productivity improvements, labor, material and energy cost reductions so they are in control of the cost of production,” adds Sutcliffe.

Sutcliffe points out a few strategies that processors need to adopt to stay ahead of the competition:

·        Refocus on a “back to basics” performance agenda, driven by the CEO, which highlights core activities from non-core activities;

·        Plan margin expansion goals with timelines set against these core priorities for precise decision making;

·        Separate genuine constraints from operating assumptions and evaluate operating assets and leverage them, tapping into valuable assets like human capital and plant capacity;

·        Employ a player-coach line management style from the senior level all the way down and obsessively manage actionable data to make action unavoidable.

According to Sutcliffe, “Companies need to move forward carefully, but they need a plan to take action. Doing nothing is not a cost-free option, and in fact, it’s the worst of all responses.”

For more information on the study, The Value/Premium Dichotomy, visit IRI or contact John McIndoe, 312-474-3862.

Mark Sutcliffe of CDC Factory, CDC Software can be reached at 770-351-9600.

Recycled Frito-Lay snack bags provide the material for a 100% recycled tote bag. Source: TerraCycle.

Yesterday's chip bags become today's reusable tote

Frito-Lay North America, a division of PepsiCo, established a partnership with TerraCycle (Trenton, NJ), an upcycling company that will take used packaging from Frito-Lay snack products and turn them into affordable, quality goods such as tote bags, purses and pencil cases. Through this joint program, consumers and local community groups can earn money by collecting used packaging, instead of sending it to landfills.

Frito-Lay is asking consumers to form “chip bag brigades;” for every bag a brigade sends to TerraCycle, Frito-Lay will donate two cents to its favorite charity. Initially, 1,000 collection sites are planned and more will be added during the year. The goal of the program is to engage at least 150,000 people and divert more than 5 million bags from landfills. Consumers can learn more about forming chip bag brigades at a special Frito-Lay Web site.

Frito-Lay has made packaging initiatives a priority over the past few years. For example, the company reduced the amount of plastic in its packaging by 10% and in the last five years eliminated 12 million pounds of materials used to make snack bags. In 2010, Frito-Lay’s SunChips brand will use a fully compostable bag made from plant-based renewable material.

TerraCycle was founded in 2001 by a Princeton University freshman, and its products are sold at major retailers like The Home Depot, Target, Wal-Mart and Whole Foods Markets. TerraCycle also has partnered with Mars Inc. to recycle materials from five of its business segments. Mars has committed to reducing its waste by 3% a year.

AIB claims mass media left out important information

CEO James Munyon, tells his side of the story about the Peanut Corporation of America fiasco and AIB’s role.


32nd Annual Plant Construction Survey

Green is the color of savings-and sustainability-when utilities are conserved and production is peaked.
View Food Engineering’s 2009 Construction Survey. (PDF)

Food Automation & Manufacturing Conference report

Best practices and benchmarking, innovation and execution, sustainability and cost reduction-conferees tackled today’s key manufacturing issues.

The flexible facility: Yoga for manufacturers

To meet consumers’ changing tastes and diversity demands, today’s food and beverage plants must be flexible.

People, Plant and Industry News

ConAgra Foods confirmed that three employees were found dead inside the company’s plant in Garner, NC, where an explosion occurred around 11:30 a.m., June 10, 2009. “No words can express how saddened we are by these events today,” said Gary Rodkin, CEO of ConAgra Foods. “All of our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families.” About 280 workers were at the plant. The facility, located at
4851 Jones Sausage Rd.
, is approximately 500,000 square feet and produces Slim Jim products. ConAgra Foods acquired the facility in 1998.

Dean Foods Company agreed to acquire the Alpro division of Vandemoortele N.V., Belgium’s largest privately-held food company, at a cost of approximately euro 325 million. The sale is expected to be completed in the third quarter of this year.

Cargill opened a new plant dedicated to chocolate coatings and fillings in Deventer, The Netherlands. The €16 million plant expands Cargill’s existing operations and capabilities at the site and doubles the production capacity of coatings, particularly for the chocolate industry.


Danone Waters of America (DWA) appointed two new vice presidents. Jerome Goure joins as vice president, marketing, North America, and Steve Finn joins the company as vice president, retail sales, US.


Campbell Soup Co.’s board of directors elected William Perez, former chief executive officer of Wm. Wrigley Jr. Co., to the board.


John B. Sanfilippo & Son appointed Robert J. Sarlls as vice president, strategy and business development.


Tate & Lyle appointed Javed Ahmed as its new chief executive, effective November 15, 2009. Iain Ferguson, current CEO, will remain until Ahmed’s arrival.


The Pepsi Bottling Group Inc. completed its acquisition of Better Beverages Ltd., a Pepsi-Cola and Dr Pepper franchised bottler that serves portions of central Texas.


Nestlé S.A. launched its first Japan-based research unit for nutrition and health. The unit is located at the University of Tokyo. In another announcement, Nestlé opened its second Nestlé Nespresso Production and Distribution Centre in Avenches (Switzerland). The new site is a CHF 300 million investment in one of Nestlé’s four key strategic growth platforms: nutrition, health and wellness; popularly positioned products; out-of-home; and premium and luxury products.


Butterball achieved its newest worker safety milestone when its Huntsville plant reached 3 million hours without any lost-time injuries.


Divya Prakash joins Matrix Technologies as its director of manufacturing execution systems (MES) implementation. Prakash will formalize and expand the company’s MES and manufacturing intelligence programs.


The Green Building Certification Institute (GBCI) began testing candidates who wish to pursue the new LEED Green Associate credential or the LEED Accredited Professional (AP) operations and maintenance (O+M) credential.


Netherlands-based EBI Food Safety, provider of LISTEX bacteriophage to fight Listeria, formed a partnership with US distributor HELM New York Inc. to market its product to the North American dairy and fish industry.


Mettler Toledo Garvens was awarded the European FoodTec Award 2009 silver medal for the X-ray CombiWeigher /XS3 AdvanCheK.
Endress+Hauser has invested more than $18 million in new production and calibration facilities at its plant in Greenwood, IN. The investment involves the company's Coriolis, vortex, ultrasonic and electromagnetic flowmeter lines.


Emerson Climate Technologies, a business of Emerson, acquired Vilter Manufacturing LLC, a privately held compressor manufacturer based in Cudahy, WI.


Haskell has expanded its process services capabilities through ownership in PTS Engineering, an Atlanta, GA-based process engineering company specializing in the food and beverage industries.


The Associated Builders and Contractors will honor Stellar, a design, engineering, construction and mechanical services firm, with a National Safety Merit Award on June 24. The award recognizes companies whose safety performance and programs are exemplary and exhibit a lasting commitment to jobsite safety.


Qualtia Alimentos (a division of Xignux, S.A. de C.V.) selected Hixson to design and engineer a large food processing facility in Monterrey, Mexico. The project consists of a multi-phased expansion and renovation that will increase capacity at Qualtia’s existing facility to 300,000 sq.-ft., and provide state-of-the-art production systems to support its expanding meat business.


OMAC appointed Rick VanDyke of Frito-Lay to its board of directors.


Ecolab Inc. was named a 2009 recipient of the IFT Food Expo Innovation Award for the development of the first peroxyacetic acid-based commercial sterilant system registered with US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for use against the highly resistant pathogen, Bacillus cereus.


Apple International, a food processing equipment supplier headquartered in Hull, England, and pāco manufacturing (Clarksville, IN) formed Apple Food Systems to market, sell, manufacture and service Apple International food processing machinery in the US.


Alex Chu joined Microbia Inc. (formerly Microbia Precision Engineering), a producer of sustainable, specialty ingredients and biomaterials. He will serve as vice president of process development. 


Barry-Wehmiller International Resources (BWIR) signed a letter of understanding with think3 (Milan, Italy) to transition and integrate think3’s engineering services division with BWIR’s operations in Chennai, India. Think3 is a provider of engineering products and services. In another announcement, Eric L. Motley, Ph.D., was appointed to the company’s board of directors.


Technology Group International (TGI), an ERP systems provider to small and mid-market manufacturing and distribution companies, created its new ERP Insights blog. ERP Insights will serve as a forum for individuals in manufacturing, distribution, ERP selection, and IT consulting to interact with TGI representatives and discuss a variety of ERP industry-related topics.


Joachim Guhe was appointed as vice president of operations of the Parker Seal Group Europe.


EMS Technologies appointed Stephen Newell as general manager of LXE Inc., the company’s rugged mobile computer business.


Reiser has begun construction of a 6,600 sq.-ft. state-of-the-industry customer center at its Canton, MA headquarters.


ESE Inc. has become a Rockwell Automation qualified process solutions provider program company. The Rockwell program has to date recognized 15 companies in this status.