Further food safety legislation in the offing

Food safety reform legislation continues to advance through Congress, having cleared a key hurdle in mid-June. The House Energy and Commerce Committee approved “H.R. 2749, the Food Safety Enhancement Act of 2009,” and sent it to the House floor, where it could come up for a vote this month.

Supporters say the legislation grants the Food and Drug Administration the authorities and resources it needs to better oversee the safety of the nation’s food supply. The legislation also increases the industry’s responsibility for overseeing the safety of its own products and provides FDA with new and enhanced tools to hold processors accountable when problems occur. Much of FDA’s expanded budget would come from fees levied on food producers, under the proposed legislation.

The Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) gave qualified support to the bill. GMA President and CEO Pamela G. Bailey expressed some reservations but said overall the measure would improve the system.

“This bipartisan bill contains many of GMA’s food safety proposals, and we look forward to continuing our work with Congress to enact food safety legislation that makes prevention of contamination the foundation of our food safety strategies,” Bailey said.

Meanwhile, the late June recall of 421,000 lbs of beef, possibly tainted with E. coli bacteria, has increased the pressure in Congress for food safety oversight and reform. One of the food industry’s biggest congressional critics, Rep. Rosa L. DeLauro (D-CT) issued a statement calling the recall part of a larger pattern.

“It is deeply troubling that it has been over two months since this meat was produced and only now are we learning that thousands of Americans have potentially been exposed to E. coli-tainted beef,” DeLauro said. “I urge the USDA to aggressively and expeditiously investigate why in the company’s words the safety of this product could not be assured.”

An investigation into the at least two dozen illnesses in multiple states is ongoing. The suspect beef was distributed by JBS Swift Beef Co. of Greeley, CO.

Cavendish Farms’ bio-gas plant produces bio-gas to fuel its boilers and creates organic fertilizer. Source: Cavendish Farms.

Potato waste creates fuel, fertilizer

Cavendish Farms, a frozen potato product producer located in Prince Edward Island, Canada, unveiled its bio-gas facility, which is expected to produce 10 million liters of gas per year to fire boilers in its processing plants. The new facility, in development since 2004, will reduce the number of trucks required to deliver fuel to the plant and will achieve a 30-35% reduction in the plant’s overall carbon footprint.

According to Robert Irving, Cavendish Farms president, “This is the first facility in the potato industry to take solid potato waste and convert it into usable energy.” While most facilities treat wastewater produced from potato processing, the Cavendish bio-gas facility also takes the solid waste material from potato processing, and through anaerobic digestion, converts it into useable energy. What’s left over is converted to organic fertilizer.

“The investment in this new technology benefits our environment while being financially beneficial to our business model,” Irving said.

Adds Richard Brown, minister of environment, Energy and Forestry, “By taking a waste product and turning it into both energy and usable compost, Cavendish Farms is demonstrating a commitment to innovation, energy efficiency and waste reduction.”

The new facility reduces the amount of truck traffic by 1450 km (901 miles) per day, and the spent potato waste from the reactor is converted into an organic, natural fertilizer that can be used on fields in place of chemicals.

CPG beats S&P 500, Dow Jones

The consumer packaged goods (CPG) industry performed significantly better than the rest of the market in 2008, as measured by the S&P 500 and Dow Jones Industrial Averages, topping both by at least 10 points, according to a report released by the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) and PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP (PwC).  The study, 2009 Financial Performance Report: Focusing on Today, Envisioning Tomorrow, also found that CPG manufacturer median sales grew approximately 10% last year, down just slightly from 2007 median sales figures. 

“Given the CPG industry’s laser focus on delivering value, innovation and investment in the future, it’s no surprise that it appears to be weathering this economic cycle better than other sectors,” said GMA President and CEO Pamela G. Bailey. “This performance is testimony to the fact that CPG companies are fulfilling their core mission, which is giving consumers the quality products they need at an affordable price.”

The food sector experienced sales growth of 10.2%, evidence that consumers are increasingly cooking and eating at home. The beverage sector recorded 9.9% sales growth, followed by household product at 9.1% growth. The food sector was the performance leader among the major CPG sectors, with 2008 median shareholder returns down 21%. Overall CPG company shareholder returns for 2008 were down slightly more than 25%, which actually showed better performance than the rest of the market.

While gross margins and sales growth remained steady, the beverage sector still seemed to be swimming upstream, especially in the market that once fairly defined the sector-carbonated drinks. According to the study, while sales of carbonated soft drinks have been eroding steadily for years, the biggest players in the sector continue to respond aggressively. The study says the emphasis for beverage manufacturers is to protect and rejuvenate their core brands. With the competition of store brands, defining and differentiating name brands is more important than ever.

For more information on the study or to download it, visit GMA’s Web site or the PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP Web site.


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People, Plant and Industry News

PepsiCo appointed Jonathan McIntyre, Ph.D., to the newly created position of senior vice president, PepsiCo R&D Global Beverages, reporting to Mehmood Khan, chief scientific officer, and Massimo d’Amore, chief executive officer, PepsiCo Americas Beverages.


NutraCea appointed W. John Short  president of the company. Short reports to interim CEO James C. Lintzenich, and will be responsible for operations.


Toray Plastics (America) Inc. appointed Michael Brandmeier senior vice president and member of the board of directors.


Erik Bronander has joined LSI as director of sales.


Yoshiki “Steve” Sekiguchi was appointed president and CEO of DENSO International America (DIAM), DENSO’s North American headquarters. 


Haskell received notification of its 12th LEED-certified project for the food and beverage industry, now with projects in every category: certified, silver, gold and platinum. The firm has added staff, totaling 107 accredited LEED professionals.


Intelligrated Inc., an American-owned supplier of integrated material handling systems, completed the purchase of FKI Logistex operations located in North and South America from Melrose plc, a UK-based specialist manufacturing investment group.


LXE Inc. formed an alliance with IntelliTrack Inc., provider of inventory control and asset-management software for small to medium businesses.


Bayer CropScience AG and Monsanto Co. agreed to cross license their respective herbicide tolerance traits in rapeseed/canola on a non-exclusive basis for commercialization within their respective branded canola seed businesses. Under the terms of this global agreement, Monsanto will grant Bayer CropScience access to Monsanto’s Genuity Roundup Ready canola trait and Bayer CropScience will grant Monsanto access to its LibertyLink tolerance trait for use in canola.


James T. Murray joined Johnsonville Sausage LLC, as corporate chef. Murray has nearly 30 years of foodservice experience.


Fuchs North America, manufacturer of custom seasonings and spices, named Jill Biagi western division sales manager.


MAVERICK Technologies, a global engineering, systems integration and operational consulting firm, acquired the assets of Program4 Engineering, a regional solution provider of manufacturing automation and plant process information systems solutions.


Atlas Copco’s ZR series of water-cooled, oil-free air compressors with built-in energy recovery systems has been TÜV certified for net-zero energy consumption at specific design conditions.


Silliker, part of the Mérieux Alliance group of companies, acquired 100% of Biofortis, a French firm noted for its clinical nutrition studies


Detlev D. Ansinn joined Triangle Package Machinery Co. as director of engineering.


Frank Mueller, president of Kaeser Compressors Inc., was named president of the Compressed Air and Gas Institute.