FDA and FSIS collaborate to improve tracing of unsafe food products

A joint public meeting focused on improving the system for tracing food products and ingredients that are causing illness outbreaks or presenting other health risks to consumers was announced by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS). Recognizing the need to increase the speed and accuracy of traceback investigations and traceforward operations, both agencies are building on existing efforts by seeking public input that would help increase the  effectiveness of tracing systems, identify current gaps in food product tracing, and suggest specific mechanisms for improvements.

The meeting is also intended to improve the ability of FDA and FSIS to use the information in such systems to respond to outbreaks more quickly by rapidly identifying the source of contamination during outbreaks of foodborne illness, and improving the ability of all persons in the supply chain to more quickly identify food that is contaminated and remove it from the market during traceforward operations.

“This public meeting provides an opportunity for FDA to collaborate more closely with FSIS as well as with members of the food industry, many of whom have been making important innovations in food safety practices and technology, and all of whom bear primary responsibility for producing and marketing safe food,” said Michael R. Taylor, senior advisor to FDA’s Commissioner Margaret Hamburg, MD.

“The Food Safety and Inspection Service is eager to work with FDA, public health officials, consumer advocates, and the food industry to improve our ability to trace products that may cause illness outbreaks,” said Jerold R. Mande, USDA’s deputy undersecretary for food safety. “The public can provide valuable input to strengthen our prevention, surveillance and response and recovery efforts, as outlined by the Administration’s Food Safety Working Group.

The meeting will be held December 9 and 10 in Washington DC, at  USDA’s south building in the Jefferson Auditorium.

Those interested in attending can preregister online or call 877-366-3322. Preregistration deadline is December 2.

Recession takes its toll in UK

In the UK and Irish food and beverage industry, confidence remains fragile, but signs of slow recovery are emerging as the pre-Christmas production period looms, says a report from Protel Associates Ltd. and Industrial Info Europe. Further site closures are expected during the coming years as the industry consolidates,  including Northern Foods plc’s pending closure of Cavaghan & Gray, the scheduled closure of Kwok’s ready-meals plant in Grimsby, the closure of East End Bakery in Glasgow, and the recent announcement of the intended closure to Scottish & Newcastle’s Dunston brewery.

Following the closure of Dairy Farmers of Britain coop, Robert Wiseman Dairies and Milk Link are in the process of restructuring their businesses. Due to increased business, Robert Wiseman is relocating distribution to a new $24.5 million facility in Almesbury, Wiltshire. Milk Link will absorb its Llandyrynog pre-packaging operations into a dedicated packaging facility at Oswestry.

Supermarkets, farmers and producers have seen the recession lead to plunging customer demand for organic produce. Despite claiming to support the recovery of the organic segments, supermarkets such as Tesco plc and ASDA Group (owned by Wal-Mart Stores Inc.) have reduced the range of organic products on their shelves by one-third, says the report.

With a lower level of sales reported in the summer, large players in the chilled ready-meats sector are expecting a recovery. Northern Foods is planning to invest in factories that support expansion and increased automation.

The UK market for frozen foods is currently $17.8 billion, but as consumers switch from chilled to frozen foods in an attempt to save money, opportunities in the market are expected to increase during the next five years, says the report. The British Frozen Food Federation stated that potato products, vegetables, meat and poultry have all grown by more than 20% in the past three years.

According to the report, the combination of Kraft Foods and Cadbury plc, if successful, would create a global powerhouse in food and confectionery. Kraft Foods has announced the terms of an offer for Cadbury where Kraft Foods will offer to acquire the whole of the issued and to-be-issued share capital of Cadbury. Cadbury shareholders will be entitled to receive for each Cadbury share, 300 pence in cash and 0.2589 new Kraft Food shares. Cadbury shareholders will also receive for each Cadbury ADS, 1,200 pence and 1.0356 new Kraft Foods shares. Based on the closing price of $26.78 per Kraft Foods share on Nov. 6, 2009, the offer values each Cadbury share at 717 pence and values the entire share capital of Cadbury at approximately GBP 9.8 billion (based on an exchange rate of 1.6609 USD/GBP).

For more information on the report, Trends in the UK and Ireland Food and Beverage Industry Going into 2010, visit Industrial Info.

State of state health departments could be better

A survey of state health departments concerning their ability to track produce-related food-borne illnesses found that the response and investigation of outbreaks varies greatly and can lead to delays in public-health response.

The survey was commissioned by the Produce Safety Project (PSP), an initiative of The Pew Charitable Trusts at Georgetown University, and conducted by Safe Tables Our Priority. Thirty-nine of the 51 state and District of Columbia health departments responded to the survey, which inquired about the types of questions and questionnaires administered to victims of foodborne illness, and the time frame in which they completed and stored the resulting data for calendar year 2007.

Despite the increase in the number of multi-state outbreaks of illnesses linked to fresh produce over the past several years, the data show that only 25 of the 39 states asked victims about specific produce items-even if the item was associated with a past outbreak.

Nearly 60% (23 out of 39) of the responding states indicate that they are unable to link electronically their investigative data for analysis. An improved food safety system would include data from multiple sources in a single system that investigators can analyze quickly and efficiently, says the report.

For a copy of the executive summary or the report, Survey of State Health Departments Underscores Gaps in Foodborne Illness Response, visit PSP’s Web site.

US Foodservice offers certified sustainable farm-raised and wild seafood

US Foodservice has partnered with the Global Aquaculture Alliance to offer its customers farm-raised seafood certified as sustainable under the Best Aquaculture Practices certification logo. Initial offerings will include catfish, shrimp and tilapia. This is the second sustainable seafood certification offered by US Foodservice. In April of 2008, the company became the first food distributor to provide sustainable wild-caught seafood certified by the Marine Stewardship Council, which uses eco-logo labels to indicate certification of seafood products from fisheries that are sustainable and environmentally responsible through a third-party audit system.

Sierra Nevada Brewing takes top sustainability honor

In its inaugural Sustainable Plant of the Year Award ceremony, Food Engineering bestowed its top honor to Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. (SNBC), Chico, CA


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Martin Cole moves to Sydney, Australia.

People, Plant and Industry News

Martin Cole, PhD. is leaving the National Center for Food Safety and Technology, Illinois Institute of Technology to become the chief the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization's Division of Food and Nutritional Sciences in Sydney, Australia.

Kaman Industrial Technologies Corporation appointed Steven J. Smidler to the newly created position of senior vice president and chief operating officer.

Hapman welcomes Tracy Swarttzendruber as its director of marketing.
Snyder’s of Hanover and Utz Quality Foods discontinued pursuit of their proposed merger. After receiving word that the first and second filing had not been cleared by the Federal Trade Commission, Utz decided to withdraw from what would likely have been a protracted approval process.
Michael Foods, Inc. hired James E. Dwyer, Jr. as its president and chief executive officer.
Kardex AG, the parent company of Kardex Remstar International, acquired Kardex Systems Inc. of Marietta, OH, at the beginning of 2009, and fully merged the operations, renaming the new organization KardexRemstar Inc.
Sargento Foods Inc. hired Elizabeth Neils as associate marketing manager-Consumer Products Division. Jim Schafer was promoted to senior director of marketing-Food Service Division.
Ball Corporation agreed to acquire Guangdong Jianlibao Group Co., Ltd.'s 65 percent interest in a joint venture metal beverage can and end plant in Sanshui, China. Ball has owned 35 percent of the joint venture plant since 1992.