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The number of inspections of food processing/production companies exporting to the US decreased from years 2001-2007, but is beginning to pick up. The number of countries that had food companies inspected by FDA during the same period dropped to 11 from 26. Graph based on GAO analysis of FDA data.

FDA not doing enough to keep bad food out of the US

Keeping unsafe food out of the US remains a challenge to FDA as it had significantly cut back inspections on foreign food facilities, reports a Government Accounting Office (GAO) study entitled, FDA Could Strengthen Oversight of Imported Food by Improving Enforcement and Seeking Additional Authorities. In addition, the study recommends that FDA coordinate efforts with the Department of Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection (CBP) so unsafe food does not enter US commerce.

While the number of FDA overseas inspections has fluctuated, FDA has opened up several overseas offices to tackle imported food safety issues at the point of origin. FDA is also testing a computer-based system to target high-risk imports for additional inspection when they arrive at US points of entry.

In 2008, FDA inspected 153 foreign food facilities out of an estimated 189,000 registered facilities. In 2007, the agency inspected just 95 facilities. FDA estimated it would conduct 200 inspections in 2009 and 600 in 2010. In addition, it opened offices in China, Costa Rica and India, and expects to open offices in Mexico and Chile and post staff at European Union agencies.

FDA’s testing of a new computer screening system-the Predictive Risk-Based Evaluation for Dynamic Import (PREDICT)-indicates the system could enhance FDA’s risk-based screening efforts at points of entry, but the system is not yet fully operational, says the GAO study. PREDICT will generate a numerical risk score for all FDA-regulated products by analyzing importers’ shipment information using sets of FDA-developed risk criteria and to target for inspection products that have a high-risk score.

GAO identified several gaps in enforcement that could allow food products violating safety laws to enter the US. For example, FDA has limited authority to assess penalties on importers who introduce unsafe food products. Also, since there is a lack of a unique identifier for food companies that export food to the US, contaminated products could evade FDA’s review.

Information flow is at issue, too. For example, the study says that FDA’s and CBP’s computer systems do not share information. FDA does not always share with state governments certain distribution-related information, such as recalling a company’s distribution lists, which impedes the states’ efforts to quickly remove contaminated products from grocery stores and warehouses.

For more information on GAO recommendations or to download the GAO study, visit GAO’s Web site.

Go ahead, have another morning java!

For those who run the risk of type 2 diabetes, another cup of coffee in the morning or at lunch might not be such a bad idea. So far, findings in animal studies have demonstrated a link between consuming coffee and helping to prevent the disease. That link may be caffeine, according to research published in the American Chemical Society’s Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

For a period of five weeks, the researchers fed either water or two-fold diluted coffee to a group of laboratory mice commonly used to study diabetes. Coffee consumption prevented the development of high-blood sugar and also improved insulin sensitivity in the mice, thus reducing the risk of diabetes.

Coffee also produced several other beneficial changes, related to a reduced diabetes risk, in the fatty liver and inflammatory adipocytokines. Additional studies showed that caffeine may be one of the most effective anti-diabetic compounds in coffee, the study says.

For more information or to read the study, visit the ACS Web site.

House passes food safety reform, but bill languishes in Senate

The House of Representatives passed food safety reform legislation last year, but a similar bill has languished in the Senate. Rep. John Dingell (D-MI), who authored the Food Safety Enhancement Act of 2009, has expressed impatience with his Senate colleagues and has urged them to act quickly on the bill.

“It is true that we have one of the safest food supplies in the world,” Dingell said.  “Unfortunately, this title does not suffice. The continuing stream of recalls and illness demonstrate that more can and must be done. We can no longer close our eyes and hope our food safety problems will go away. We can do better than that, and the American people deserve more than that.”
Progress on the Senate version of food safety reform appeared to slow last month after Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) introduced an amendment that would tightly restrict the use of Bisphenol A (BPA) in food and beverage containers. That move drew opposition from much of the food industry, which had been mostly supportive of the measure.

BPA is used in a wide variety of consumer products, including food containers, water bottles and baby bottles. FDA's official position on BPA is the amount of it found in food and beverage containers does not pose a threat to human health.

The rapid growth in childhood obesity in the 1980s and 1990s has slowed, with no significant increase in recent years. Source: CDC, National Center for Health Statistics, National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys.

Report cites 70 steps to reduce childhood obesity

The food industry has been generally supportive of a White House Task Force on Childhood Obesity Report that calls for making healthy food more accessible in schools and in low-income neighborhoods. In its early May report, the task force, headed by First Lady Michelle Obama, called for voluntary curbs on food marketing directed at children and said cartoon characters should only be used to promote healthy food. The International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) found a lot to like in the report.

“We are pleased to see the report acknowledge the tremendous nutrient richness of dairy products and reaffirm the important role that low-fat and fat-free milk and dairy products play in providing the nine essential nutrients kids need,” said Connie Tipton, president and CEO of the IDFA.

The report includes 70 steps or recommendations to reduce childhood obesity, which it calls an epidemic. Mrs. Obama said the campaign will rely on education and persuasion and not seek changes in law or regulations at this time.

Keystone Foods honored as 28th Plant of the Year

Keystone’s new Gadsden, AL poultry processing facility received FE’s 2010 Plant of the Year award. The facility has three isolated production lines.


The world's top 100 food & beverage companies

Leading players are streamlining their businesses and investing in projects abroad, while optimizing environmental and operational performance.

The QA and engineering partnership

Collegial relationships between engineering and quality professionals in planning and operating food plants are becoming a condition of doing business.  

Tech Update: Size reduction

While obtaining optimal yield is a priority in size reduction applications, other factors such as food safety, operator safety and equipment reliability are key concerns. 

Engineering R&D: Robotic chicken butcher

Researchers at Georgia Tech hope their intelligent deboning system will boost yields for poultry processors and reduce ergonomic stress on workers.

People, Plant and Industry News

Beginning production this year is a new $19 million bottling plant wholly owned by COFCO Coca-Cola Beverages Co. Ltd., located in Hohhot, the capital city of Inner Mongolia. Spanning an area of 140,000 sq.m. (1.5 million sq.ft.), the plant will produce 24 million unit cases (equivalent to 576 million standard unit bottles) annually in the first phase. The building is Coca-Cola’s 39th bottling plant in China.


Chandler Johnson joined World Water Works as chief technology officer.


Tom Swovick joined TGW, an integrated logistics solutions and material handling equipment provider, as systems sales manager for the food and beverage vertical market.


NutraCea appointed J. Dale Belt executive vice president, chief financial officer and chief accounting officer.


ACS Group promoted Jeff Jakubiak as material handling/electrical production supervisor for the material handling department.


BASF Pest Control Solutions appointed Travis Chambers as its new senior sales specialist covering Wisconsin, Illinois and Missouri.


Gareth Meese was named export sales manager for Magnet Applications Limited, a subsidiary of Bunting Magnetics Company.


Brookfield Engineering Laboratories appointed Joe Murray to the position of regional sales manager for process instrumentation.


Elanco Food Solutions appointed Jackson McReynolds as poultry technical consultant, Simon Hall as national accounts manager, poultry and Ginny Stephens as national accounts manager, poultry.


John Paul Cerroti joined Oxford Instruments Magnetic Resonance as its product marketing manager.


Tom Churchill joined ESE’s sales and engineering teams as an estimator/application engineer.


Wellington Foods Inc., a nutritional supplement manufacturer, received the Natural Products Association Good Manufacturing Practices (NPA GMP) certification for the dietary supplement industry.