A good place to start in making systems more energy efficient is to install new heat exchangers (background) that are often more than 90% efficient. Source: Xcel Energy.

Natural gas savings account for 3,030 metric ton annual reduction

Faribault Foods was recognized by Xcel Energy for achieving the largest natural gas reduction among all its industrial customers in the state of Minnesota during calendar year 2009.  The Energy Efficiency Award was developed by Xcel Energy to recognize its customers that are doing the most to conserve energy and reduce emissions, and have a positive impact on the environment.

Faribault Foods started in 1895 as a vegetable company, and was known for small-sized, juicy corn kernels, tiny “petits pois” peas and a willingness to please its customers. Today, the processor makes canned vegetables, sauced beans, refried beans, baked beans, kids’ and family style pasta, soup, chili and organic and Mexican specialties.

The Xcel Energy award was based on results at the processor’s Faribault, MN plant, where natural gas usage has been reduced by 38.2% since 2007. This reduction was achieved by an innovative system, which captures and transfers energy from heated water within the plant to water entering the plant, and was created by Faribault Foods, in partnership with Thermo-Environmental Systems. Given the substantial amount of energy used in the processor’s water-intensive cooking systems, this had a dramatic effect on the natural gas consumption in the plant.

Faribault Foods’ sustainability program was also responsible for a dramatically more efficient use of water in the plant. The annualized reduction in water usage exceeds 100 million gallons and allows the plant to reuse much of the water that used to go down the drain.

Dave Tieman, Faribault Foods’ director of operations, says, “We are very proud of having been recognized by Xcel for the results we’ve achieved in our Faribault plant for natural gas reduction. While the results for natural gas reduction in Faribault are one of our more dramatic achievements, we have been committed to investing in and pursuing sustainability across all of our plants for many years. Faribault has a number of additional sustainability projects planned for the future, with the goal of further reducing use of energy, water and the wastewater stream.”

The impact of the natural gas savings accounts for a reduction of 3,030 metric tons of carbon dioxide annually. This is equivalent to removing 579 passenger vehicles from the roads each year, according to the EPA greenhouse gas equivalency calculator.

For more information, visit Faribault Foods.

Sales of organic foods in 2009 reached almost $25 billion, according to the Organic Trade Association. Source: OTA, Malina Photography.

Organic product sales up despite economy

US sales of organic products continued to grow during 2009 despite the distressed state of the economy, according to a report entitled 2010 Organic Industry Survey from the Organic Trade Association (OTA). Organic sales in 2009 increased by 5.3% overall, reaching $26.6 billion. Of that total, $24.8 billion accounted for organic foods, and the remaining $1.8 billion were sales of organic non-foods. Non-food items include organic fiber (e.g., linen and clothing) and personal care products.

While total US food sales grew by only 1.6% in 2009, organic food sales grew by 5.1%, says Christine Bushway, OTA’s executive director. Meanwhile, organic non-food sales grew by 9.1% as opposed to total non-food sales, which saw a 1% slip in sales.

Experiencing the most growth, organic fruits and vegetables, which represent 38% of total organic food sales, reached nearly $9.5 billion in sales in 2009, up 11.4% from 2008 sales. Organic fruits and vegetables now represent 11.4% of all US fruit and vegetable sales, says the study.

Since the approval of the final National Organic Program rule published in 2000, sales of organic fruits and vegetables have grown from $2.55 billion (representing approximately 3% of all fruits and vegetables) to 2009’s nearly $9.5 billion level. Meanwhile, during the same period, organic food sales have grown from $6.1 billion to $24.8 billion in 2009, jumping from 1.2% to 3.7% of all US food sales, says the report.

For more information on the study, visit OTA’s Web site.

USDA clears the fog on National Organic Program

The US Department of Agriculture announced the correction of a 2006 decision by the National Organic Program (NOP) regarding “accessory nutrients” in organic processed food. The new interpretation of the National Organic Standards is based on new information from FDA.

“Consumers have the right to the best information about what is included in products carrying USDA’s Organic seal, and producers need clearly defined standards and processes to ensure they can meet regulatory requirements and satisfy market demand for organic food,” says Miles V. McEvoy, deputy administrator of the National Organic Program.

In 2006, NOP issued a decision in response to a complaint regarding fortification of infant formula with DHA, ARA and other substances that are not on the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances. Established under the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990, the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances identifies synthetic substances that may be used-and non-synthetic substances that cannot be used-in organic production and handling operations. NOP’s understanding at the time of the decision was that the substances were allowed as “accessory nutrients” under the National List §205.605(b) Nutrient Vitamins and Minerals, in accordance with 21 CFR 104.20, Nutritional Guidelines for Foods and the National Organic Standards Board Recommendations.

After recent consultation with FDA, it was determined that this is an incorrect interpretation of 21 CFR 104.20, Nutritional Guidelines for Foods. NOP plans to publish draft guidance later this year that will align with FDA interpretation of the Nutritional Guidelines for Foods. The draft guidance will provide a transition time for businesses to reformulate products to comply with the regulations per FDA guidelines. There will be a 60-day comment period for the draft guidance. Final guidance will be published after all comments have been reviewed.

NOP is also requesting that the National Organic Standards Board reevaluate its recommendation for nutrient vitamins and minerals during the 2012 sunset process, and provide specific recommendations regarding the scope of permitted vitamins, minerals and nutrients in organic food products.

Any company or interested group may petition to add substances to the National List during this transition period.

For more information, visit the USDA Web site.

Automation News

ERP connects the "global village"

McCain Foods Limited, Canadian manufacturer of frozen food products including French fries, appetizers, pizzas, vegetables, desserts, juices, entrées and oven meals, needed an ERP solution to gain seamless, end-to-end integration for all its systems-from supply chain management to financial management to driving new product innovation.

Established in 1957, McCain’s growth has accelerated in the past decade and the company now has a strong presence in the emerging economies of China, India, South Africa and South America, in addition to its established operations in Canada, US, UK, Europe and Australia. The need to replace its legacy systems with comprehensive and flexible business management software reflects McCain’s increasingly global footprint.   

“We are a large company with globally dispersed operations,” says David Sanchez, chief financial officer, McCain Foods Limited. McCain has more than 20,000 employees working in 53 factories and offices on six continents around the world.

To continue to meet customer expectations around the world, McCain needed an industry-specific software solution to perform and meet the requirements of its corporate and local offices as well as plants worldwide. McCain selected SAP for Consumer Products, a comprehensive suite of applications from SAP integrated with business support and analytical software that enables manufacturers to optimize end-to-end business processes and achieve key business goals, including financial performance management, product innovation and supply chain management.

“With SAP we expect to easily operate in a global capacity. SAP will help us streamline our processes so we can focus on delivering value to our customers and growing our business, says Sanchez.”

Visit sap.com for more information on SAP for Consumer Products. For more information on McCain Foods Limited, visit www.mccain.com.

In addition to HarvestMark’s specific requirements, Creative Labels recently ordered a new, 100% inspection unit for its press that will inspect and verify the integrity of the printed product and read the variable barcodes. Source: Creative Labels.

Produce supply chain solutions require networks of traceability providers, growers and label converters

The Produce Traceability Initiative (PTI), sponsored by the Canadian Produce Marketing Association, Produce Marketing Association and United Fresh Produce Association, will help the industry maximize the effectiveness of current trace-back procedures on case-level lots, while developing a standardized industry approach to enhance the speed and efficiency of traceability systems for the future.

Whether it’s a single watermelon or a clamshell of strawberries, traceability solutions in the produce industry are all built on a simple foundation: a carefully designed label that gives each item, or each package, a unique identification number or code.

Armed with this ID, growers and packers can track an individual item back to its source in the event of food safety issues or recall. In addition, consumers will also be able to trace the source and distribution of their produce purchase on their iPhone or the Web. One private, industry-traceability solution provider is HarvestMark. But for it to be effective, it must rely on a network of partnerships with both growers and label converters.

Label converters such as Creative Labels Inc., which has partnered with HarvestMark, must invest in the latest variable data printing and quality assurance (QA) technologies to print the billions of labels, in sequential order, that will be required in the next several years.

“The label converters really make traceability possible. They are the key to the whole thing,” says Elliott Grant, chief marketing officer and the founder of HarvestMark. According to Grant, a traceability solution like HarvestMark now requires labels that include not only the traditional printed company artwork and product information, but also a sophisticated 2D barcode. A 2D barcode can store up to 7,089 characters within a graphical image, significantly greater than the 20-character capacity of a traditional barcode. 

Variable data printing, a form of on-demand printing in which elements such as text, graphics and images may be changed from one printed item to the next, is well understood to be the future of label printing. However, for many label converters, variable data printing requires a 6-figure investment in the appropriate equipment along with extensive training.

“It’s a combination of having the right equipment and the right set of technical skills so they can not only print a high-quality label, but also print the unique 2D barcode on each label at line speed,” explains Grant.

With the importance of the label in the process, HarvestMark relies on certified partners to print and/or integrate HarvestMark codes into their packaging materials and products.

Oxnard, CA-based Cool Pak works directly with growers and shippers throughout the US-and in particular California. “We consider traceability to be a strategic area of growth for Cool Pak, and we are working to be at the forefront of the issue within the produce industry,” says Daisy Contreras, inventory production controller at Cool Pak.

To date, Cool Pak has utilized HarvestMark for both strawberries and grapes. The company uses Gilroy, CA-based Creative Labels, also a certified HarvestMark partner, for its labels. Creative Labels specializes in printing high-quality and pressure-sensitive labels, tags and coupons for many industries, and has worked with many produce growers and shippers in Northern California

The HarvestMark codes are more than simple serial numbers, says Grant. They also have security encryption built into them so the codes can be used for things like customer loyalty programs.

Graph shows process power and power consumption of a machine. Source: ISW.

Decreasing energy usage with SERCOS

The SERCOS vendor organizations announced the development of an energy conservation profile for the SERCOS III Real-time Ethernet Communications System specification for controls, drives and decentralized peripherals. SERCOS is an acronym for SErial Real-time COmmunications System, a digital motion control bus that interconnects motion controls, drives, I/Os, sensors and actuators for numerically controlled machines and systems.

The SERCOS Energy profile reduces energy consumption in three areas. First, the permanent load at motor/machine standstill is reduced; second, energy consumption depending on the process is dynamically adjusted, considering the target completion times/dates (partial load operation); and third, energy is saved during processing by switching off components that are not required at a particular time or point in the process (partial machine operation).

SERCOS Energy is an application layer profile that defines parameters for the reduction of energy consumption in a uniform and vendor-independent manner. The control reads out standard parameters of each SERCOS Energy component via the SERCOS III network, receiving status information and detailed consumption values. Depending on the situation (e.g., scheduled or unscheduled breaks or machine components not needed in the current production process), the control can switch connected components (drives, I/O, sensors) into energy-saving conditions-up to complete shut-down in a targeted manner-considerably reducing energy consumption. 

A working group consisting of several member companies of SERCOS International has worked out a concept and a first draft of the energy profile specification. The final released specification will be available in June 2010.

For additional information, contact Ronald Larsen, managing director, SERCOS North America, 800-573-7267. Visit SERCOS or download the whitepaper entitled, SERCOS Energy.

Food Safety News

Food safety demands integrated data collection/sharing throughout supply chain

The Produce Safety Project (PSP) released a report that examines the steps taken by certain European Union (EU) countries to reform their food safety data collection and analysis systems since the 1990s. Authored by Michael Batz, head of food safety programs, Emerging Pathogens Institute at the University of Florida, and J. Glenn Morris, Jr., director at the Institute, the report, Building the Science Foundation of a Modern Food Safety System, surveys European countries with strong food safety systems and makes a number of recommendations on how to improve food safety in the US.

“We also believe there is an advantage to be gained by creation of an independent federal institute for food safety risk analysis,” says Morris. “It would be comprised of the majority of scientists and analysts currently within FDA, CDC and USDA food safety groups and tasked with supporting a risk-based food system through integrated research, data collection and analysis. That is the model from European countries with strong food safety systems.”

A key recommendation of the report is the annual publication of a unified cross-agency report on tracking foodborne pathogens in humans, animals, food and feed. To be produced by the CDC, FDA and the USDA, the annual analyses would summarize surveillance data on human foodborne illnesses-including outbreaks and sporadic cases-and on pathogen contamination in domestic and imported animals, food and feed.

The analyses would also present trends and provide the evidence basis for measuring food safety progress and include routinely updated national estimates of the incidence of foodborne illness due to major pathogens. The authors called for these reports to be written in a readable and consumer-friendly manner.

The report is based on extensive research and interviews with food safety authorities in member countries of the EU, particularly Denmark, The Netherlands and the United Kingdom where reforms have focused on improving the science base and risk assessment of food safety efforts.

Within the existing systems in the US, the report outlines a number of specific steps to improve data collection and research, some of which include:

  • Revamping farm-to-table surveillance of domestic and imported food by developing a national surveillance plan and expanding data collection on food contamination;
  • Increasing capacity for integrated food safety analysis by developing cross-agency strategies for priority setting and attributing the burden of specific foods to overall foodborne illness;
  • Better coordination of food safety research by publishing annually updated lists of prioritized research needs and increasing the role of regulators in research program priorities;
  • Ensuring transparency and public participation;
  • Improving effectiveness of trace-back and trace-forward data for outbreak response by expanding traceability requirements along food chain. Standardizing record-keeping and creating incentives or requirements for electronic information tracking will further help gather this data.
For more information, download the report, Building the Science Foundation of a Modern Food Safety System.

FDA takes steps to increase safety of foods during transport

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is asking commercial food transporters to follow new guidance the agency has issued to reduce the chances of physical, chemical, biological and other risks during transportation of foods while the agency reviews current food safety transportation regulations.

In an advance notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPRM), FDA has requested input on writing the new rules from all interested parties, including the food and transportation industries and consumer interest organizations. The ANPRM is the first step in creating new regulations to govern sanitary practices by shippers, carriers by motor vehicle or rail, receivers and others engaged in the transportation of food products for people and animals.

The new industry guidance covers safety measures that should be employed while the regulations are being written and finalized. They include ensuring that food in transit is maintained at appropriate temperatures; that such food is closely monitored for pests; that the vehicles used to transport foods are sanitary and in proper working condition; that pallets used are of good quality; and that sanitary measures are followed in the loading and unloading of foods.

“Our aim is to look at every component of the system to assess hazards, and to take science-based action where appropriate to maximize the safety of our food from farms all the way to consumers’ tables,” says FDA Associate Commissioner for Food Protection Jeff Farrar. “Although contamination of food product during commercial transport is relatively infrequent, the potential harm can be widespread and serious.”

After evaluating comments received in response to the ANPRM, FDA will propose specific regulations. FDA will coordinate with the US Departments of Agriculture and Transportation in the rulemaking process.

To read the Sanitary Food Transportation Act, to access the ANPRM or to make comments, go to: http://www.fda.gov/Food/FoodSafety/ucm203420.htm.