Brazil targets US dairy with retaliatory tariffs

Trade tensions increased between Brazil and the United States last week when the Brazilian government unveiled plans to retaliate against US cotton subsidies by increasing tariffs on select US imports, including dairy. The plan, which will likely take effect within a month unless the governments reach an agreement, strategically targets more than 50 US products including milk powder with less than 1.5 percent fat, whey powder and protein concentrates.
Without a compromise, tariffs for milk and whey powder would raise to 48 percent, a 45-percent increase over current levels. Tariffs for protein concentrates would increase to 34 percent, marking a 41-percent increase. 
The International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) and other industry groups have formed the Brazil Trade Action Coalition to encourage US officials to solve the dispute without harming third-party industries. The coalition sent letters to Congressional leadership asking for a swift compromise.
The dispute began in 2002, when, according to IDFA, Brazil initiated a World Trade Organization case against provisions in the US cotton program. The United States made changes to comply with the WTO findings, but Brazil continued to challenge US actions. Last August, the WTO authorized Brazil to suspend trade concessions for the United States or impose trade sanctions equivalent to the damage caused by cotton subsidies. Brazil threatened in November to retaliate with excessive tariffs, but waited until this week to set an implementation deadline. 

Dairy exports to Brazil have grown exponentially since 2004, reaching more than $24 million in 2008, IDFA said. The proposed retaliatory tariffs would affect more than $5 million worth of US milk proteins exported to Brazil, according to US Department of Agriculture figures for 2009.

Foodborne illnesses costly to US

Acute foodborne illnesses cost the United States an estimated $152 billion per year in healthcare, workplace and other economic losses, according to a report published recently by the Produce Safety Project (PSP).
Produce accounts for roughly 19,700,000 of the reported illnesses documented, at a cost of approximately $1,960 per case. The study, “Health-Related Costs from Foodborne Illness in the United States,” estimates that more than a quarter of these costs, an estimated $39 billion, are attributable to foodborne illnesses associated with fresh, canned and processed produce. California, Texas, New York, Florida, Illinois and Pennsylvania were the states most impacted by foodborne illness cases related to produce.
The FDA announced that it will propose before the end of the year mandatory and enforceable safety standards for growing, harvesting and packing fresh produce. These will be the first nationwide safety standards for fresh fruits and vegetables.
“An up-to-date cost analysis of foodborne illnesses is critical for FDA officials and lawmakers to craft the most effective and efficient reforms,” said Jim O’Hara, PSP director. “A decade ago, we spent more than $1.3 billion annually to try to reduce the burden of foodborne illness and today we are spending even more.  We need to make certain we are spending limited funds wisely and hitting our target of reducing sicknesses and deaths, and this study gives us a yardstick to measure our progress.”
The study was written by Robert L. Scharff, PhD, a former Food and Drug Administration (FDA) economist and current Ohio State University assistant professor in the department of consumer sciences.

Russia to reopen pork market to US

The US and Russia have reached an agreement to reopen the Russian market to US pork and pork products, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced recently.
The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Office of the US Trade Representative have been in negotiations with the Russian Veterinary Service since last December 2009, when Russia closed its market to US pork. The negotiations led to the development of a new veterinary certificate to ensure that pork exports from the United States meet specific Russian requirements.
The Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) and the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) have developed an export verification program for pork to Russia to address the specific product requirements. US plants that want to export to Russia must apply for approval with the AMS, which is expected to begin approving plants soon. The FSIS will then provide Russian authorities with a list of approved US pork facilities.
“The re-opening of this important export market is a very positive development for the United States pork industry, which has a reputation for safety worldwide,” said J. Patrick Boyle, AMI president and CEO.
Russia imported $257 million worth - 6 percent - of US pork and pork variety meat exports last year.

Packaging weight-loss resolution met two years early

Kraft Foods set out in 2005 to lose weight in packaging materials throughout its supply chain. Starting the year 2010 off right, the company finds it has eliminated 150 million pounds of excess packaging, exceeding its goal two years ahead of schedule.
According to Jean Spence, executive vice president, research, development & quality (RDQ), employees were creative in finding opportunities to reduce packaging material while assuring convenience and safety. “We’ve invented a tool to help us design more efficiently. And we’re finding smarter source materials, reducing our footprint and thinking differently about packaging end of life,” she adds.
The greatest opportunity to influence the environmental impact based on a package’s size is early in the design phase. Kraft developed its Packaging Eco-Calculator-a tool that helps designers create efficient and optimized packaging.
Oscar Mayer Deli Creations packaging was redesigned with 30% less paperboard, uses less shelf space and is expected to keep 1.2 million pounds of packaging out of landfills per year. In addition, according to Perfecto Perales, senior director for RDQ packaging research, Kraft reduced headspace in Oreo Cakesters packaging, resulting in a 12% smaller carton.
In Europe, the removal of packaging layers from Milka chocolate bars decreased package weight by 60% and eliminates 5.7 million pounds of packaging material per year. In Australia, Kraft salad dressing bottles were redesigned to eliminate more than 100,000 pounds of plastic per year, and more bottles can be shipped per truckload.
In addition to design changes, material changes can have an impact. In the UK, Kraft sells Kenco coffee in refill bags to complement glass jars. The bags use 97% less packaging material by weight than a new jar and less energy in the packaging conversion process. In North America, Maxwell House, Yuban and Nabob coffee brands are now packaged in composite paperboard that weighs 30% less than the former cans. The paperboard uses 50% recycled content and is expected to eliminate 8.5 million pounds of packaging.


Food safety imperative: Protecting your supply chain

Food company owners and CEOs have a litany of issues to fret about, but the one that’s increasingly likely to keep them up at night is food safety.

Sanitary equipment design

With food safety becoming a top priority, the cleanability of equipment and the professionalism and status of personnel are emerging as industry flashpoints.

Giving pests the cold shoulder

Many techniques, old and new, are available to help processors eliminate pests while maintaining food safety and sanitation.

Vow to make 2010 a safer year

More regulation is not the answer, but making vows to keep the food supply safe is a good start.

People, Plant and Industry News

Thomas Angle, vice president, product engineering for Weir Specialty Pumps, was named 2009 Member of the Year by the Hydraulic Institute. Angle was selected for his involvement with the institute, particularly for advancing its technical work in a variety of venues, most recently as the co-chairman of the Pump Piping Committee. He has also served the institute in various capacities on a number of committees and projects, has been a member of DOE’s Advisory Group on the Pump Systems Assessment Tool (PSAT), and is a qualified PSAT Instructor. He is also a member of the Submersible Pump Manufacturers Association.


Reddwerks Corp., an Austin, TX-based provider of warehouse performance management software and solutions, named Alex Ramirez as director of engineering. Ramirez has extensive domain expertise in supply chain management across several verticals, including manufacturing, distribution, 3PL/4PL and retail.


Marcos Magoni joined Fristam Pumps USA as regional sales manager for South America. He has more than 10 years of pump and process industry experience.


Advantech, a Cincinnati, OH-based IPC and eAutomation provider, announced the acquisition of DLoG GmbH from Augusta Technologie for $17.5 million. DLoG is headquartered in Munich, Germany, and provides industrial computers; it has about 75 employees.