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New: FDA releases pistachio recall widget

This tool tracks the Setton pistachio recalls for potential salmonella contamination.


Congress calls for outbreak prevention over mitigation

Hot on the heels of the peanut fiasco earlier this year, the pistachio recall has produced even more calls for Congress to reform the nation’s food safety system. Current responsibility for food safety is divided between the Department of Agriculture and FDA.

In testimony before a House Appropriations Subcommittee, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack acknowledged the need for change. “There is no question that whatever system is ultimately devised has to be a system that provides for specific accountability,” Vilsack told the panel that oversees USDA.

He also conceded that change might not come easily. “It seems to me today we have competing philosophies,” he said. The food system should be modernized, he added, with an emphasis on preventing, rather than mitigating, the consequences of food-borne illness outbreaks.

Congress should focus on bottoms-up traceability

United Fresh Produce Association President and CEO Tom Stenzel testified before the House Committee on Appropriations, Subcommittee on Agriculture, as part of a hearing to address food traceability systems, and to discuss a report of mock tracebacks released by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Inspector General.

“Congress continues to view food safety reform as a top policy priority this year,” Stenzel said. “With the hundreds of recalls related to the peanut paste outbreak the past several months, traceability of all foods and food ingredients is now at the center of this Congressional debate. I’m pleased that Congress recognizes the produce industry’s strong voice in these deliberations, and we have a very good story to tell in produce traceability.”

In his testimony, Stenzel highlighted current one-up, one-down traceability practices in the produce industry. He also called on Congress to support the new Produce Traceability Initiative. Launched last year, the initiative is intended to drive streamlined whole-chain traceability based on industry-wide common standards for case coding.

“As you weigh various traceability provisions of all the food safety bills under consideration by Congress, I ask you to look at the unique aspects of tracking bulk fresh produce,” Stenzel said. “We are likely to find that overly prescriptive mandates from the top-down are not as likely to be effective as bottom-up efficiencies and systems designed for unique challenges. That’s what we believe we have achieved in the Produce Traceability Initiative. I ask the Committee to support our efforts in this regard, and allow industry innovation similar to what I’ve shared here to flourish. We suggest that Congress should set the goal, not mandate the process.”

Food safety solution in sight

“The recent recall of pistachios is the latest reminder of how vulnerable our food safety system is,” says Jeff Levi, Ph.D., executive director of Trust for America’s Health (TFAH). “It is encouraging that this response was quick, but we need to move to a system that focuses on prevention through the entire production process,” he added.

“It is also encouraging that Kraft Foods alerted the FDA to the results of its internal food testing and was able to identify the Setton Pistachio Co. of Terra Bella, CA, as the source of the contaminated pistachios,” Levi says. He adds that since notification of this sort is not required under current food safety laws, and unfortunately, in cases such as Peanut Corp. of America, companies can conceal test results from state and federal food safety officials.

TFAH released Keeping America’s Food Safe: A Blueprint for Fixing the Food Safety System at the US Department of Health and Human Services. This report suggests:

  • Increasing and aligning resources with the highest-risk threats;
  • Modernizing the mandate and legal authority of the HHS Secretary to prevent illness, which would include enforcing the duty of food companies to implement modern preventive controls and meet government-established food safety performance standards;
  • Immediately establishing a deputy commissioner at FDA with line authority over all food safety programs;
  • Working through Congress toward the creation of a Food Safety Administration within HHS, strategically aligning and elevating the food safety functions currently housed at FDA, and better coordinating regulation policies and practices with the surveillance and detection of outbreak functions at CDC and with food safety agencies at the state and local level.
The full report is available on TFAH’s Web site,

New safety net for tuna industry

Marine scientists, non-profit environmental community members and leaders of the seafood industry have joined forces to establish the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation (ISSF). This non-profit organization was developed to respond to the growing threats to global tuna populations. ISSF aims to support the long-term conservation and sustainable use of tuna stocks through science-based initiatives.

“This is an unprecedented collaborative commitment on the part of major industry players to work alongside the world’s premier marine scientists and environmental non-governmental organizations, especially our founding conservation partner WWF, to preserve the world’s marine ecosystem,” said ISSF President Susan S. Jackson.
“Our mission is to help ensure that targeted tuna stocks will be sustained at or above levels of abundance capable of supporting maximum sustainable yield,” said Jackson.

“This includes working towards the reduction of by-catch and helping to fund scientific research that supports improved management of tuna stocks.”The ISSF founders are Bolton Alimentari; Bumble Bee Foods/Clover Leaf Seafoods; MW Brands; Princes Ltd.; Sea Value Co., Ltd.; StarKist Co.; Thai Union Manufacturing Co. Ltd / Chicken of the Sea Intl.; TriMarine International; and WWF.

Too much sodium in American diet

New data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides additional scientific evidence that the majority of Americans over the age of two should limit the amount of sodium (salt) they consume to prevent and reduce high blood pressure. The new data are published in the March 26, 2009 issue of the CDC’s Mortality and Morbidity Weekly Report.

“In light of new data from the CDC, which show that 69 percent of adults are salt sensitive, the need to reduce sodium consumption has become an even higher priority for our country’s health,” said Linda Van Horn, Ph.D., chair of the American Heart Association’s Nutrition Committee and professor of Preventive Medicine at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago.

“The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends that most people strive to lower the amount of sodium consumed daily to less than 1,500 mg, to prevent or manage high blood pressure, a major but modifiable risk factor for heart attack and stroke,” Van Horn said. The US food supply contains excessive amounts of sodium, which makes limiting salt consumption difficult. According to the CDC report, Americans age two and older consumed a daily average of 3,436 mg between 2005-2006, up from a daily average of 3,329 mg from 2001-2002.

In response, the AHA currently is working with federal agencies to strategically reduce the amount of sodium in the food supply and is encouraging food manufacturers and restaurants to reduce added salt by 50% over the next 10 years.

South Asian community focuses on food production

This self-sustaining social/commercial community is located near rail, air, sea and highway transportation and provides an easy route to Asia.


Plant of the Year

Celebration Foods faced capacity constraints, but its new plant had to be true to the handmade tradition of its ice cream cakes.

Tech Update: Contamination killers

Food products and the plants that process them aren’t meant to be sterile, but disinfecting and sanitizing technologies can reduce contaminants significantly.

Engineering R&D: Nanoscale silver on deck

The end of a long road to regulatory approval of silver dihydrogen citrate for food-contact surfaces is approaching, promising manufacturers a new antimicrobial weapon.

Food Safety: The great peanut butter debacle

Learning from past mishaps is one of the food industry’s most valuable food safety tools.

People, Plant and Industry News

The Dow Chemical Co. announced it’s subsidiary Rohm and Haas, has agreed to sell the stock of Morton International Inc., the salt business of Rohm and Haas, to K+S Aktiengesellschaft. K+S is one of the world’s leading suppliers of specialty and standard fertilizers, plant care and salt products.


MAVERICK Technologies opened its new Asian operation in Singapore and will operate as MAVERICK Technologies (Singapore) Pte. Ltd. In addition, Tom Bruhn joined the company in Birmingham, AL, and will focus on manufacturing technology and system integration.


Ofra Strauss, chairperson of Strauss Group, announced the board’s decision to appoint Gadi Lesin as president and CEO of Strauss Group, replacing Erez Vigodman.


Martin Engineering’s R. Todd Swinderman was elected president of the Conveyor Equipment Manufacturers Association.


Sumitomo Machinery Corp. of America appointed Arther S. Pantelides, Ph.D., to director of engineering to oversee the engineering, design and R&D groups.


Jacobs Automation LLC appointed Mike Hyslop as its senior vice president of sales and marketing.


The board of directors of Marel Food Systems appointed Theo Hoen to the position of CEO to lead the united companies of Marel and Stork Food Systems.


S+S Inspection appointed Doug Pedersen as sales manager-inspection systems for Canada, US and Mexico.


Complete Filtration Resources Inc. opened its European Divisional office in London, which will be directed by Michael Dolan.


The Danish actuator company, Concens A/S, appointed René Lynge as CEO, and Peder Jorgensen, former CEO, will focus fully on sales and marketing.


The Association of Industrial Coaters and Laminators presented its 2009 Sustainability Award to Unifoil Corp. for its UniLustre and UltraLustre processes, which are used to produce recyclable, non-laminated film-free and foil-free metallized packaging and printing materials.


Affiliated Engineers opened a new office in Minneapolis, MN. Rolf Rogers, Stuart Innes and Robert Green have joined the company, establishing a local Process Industries and Manufacturing Group.