New food safety laws effective July 3

FDA institutes two new regulations under FSMA

The US Food and Drug Administration announced two new regulations that will help ensure the safety and security of foods in the US. The rules are the first to be issued by FDA under the new authorities granted by the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), signed into law by President Obama in January. Both rules will take effect July 3, 2011.  

The first rule strengthens FDA’s ability to prevent potentially unsafe food from entering commerce.  It gives the FDA administrative power to detain food the agency believes has been produced under unsanitary or unsafe conditions. Previously, FDA’s ability to detain food products applied only when it had credible evidence a food product was contaminated or mislabeled in a way that presented a threat of serious adverse health consequences or death to humans or animals.

Beginning in July, FDA will be able to detain food products it has reason to believe are adulterated or misbranded for up to 30 days, if needed, to ensure they are kept out of the marketplace. The products will be quarantined while the agency determines whether an enforcement action such as seizure or federal injunction against distribution of the product in commerce is necessary.

Before this new rule, FDA would often work with state agencies to embargo a food product under the state’s legal authority until enforcement action could be initiated in federal court. In keeping with other provisions in FSMA, FDA will continue to work with state agencies on food safety and build stronger ties with those agencies.

The second rule requires anyone importing food into the US to inform the FDA if any country has refused entry to the same product, including food for animals.

This new requirement will provide the agency with more information about foods that are being imported, which improves FDA’s ability to target foods that may pose a significant risk to public health.

This new reporting requirement will be administered through FDA’s prior notice system for incoming shipments of imported food established under the Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act of 2002.

With prior notice, in the event of a credible threat for a specific product or a specific manufacturer or processor, FDA is able to mobilize and assist in the detention and removal of products that may pose a serious health threat to humans or animals.

The FSSA was originally included in FSMA but was removed.

New food safety bill adopted by Senate

The US Senate unanimously adopted legislation authored by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) that strengthens criminal penalties for companies that knowingly violate food safety standards and place tainted foods on the market.

“Food safety received considerable attention last year, and I was pleased that Congress finally passed comprehensive food safety reforms,” says Leahy. “But our work is not done. On behalf of the hundreds of individuals sickened by recent salmonella outbreaks, I urge the House to quickly pass the Food Safety Accountability Act (FSSA) and join the Senate in continuing to improve our food safety system.”

FSSA will increase penalties for any individual or corporation that knowingly endangers American lives by distributing misbranded or tainted food products. The legislation will increase the offense from a misdemeanor to a felony, establishing fines and giving law enforcement the ability to seek prison sentences of up to 10 years for such offenses. The bill has been sent to the House of Representatives for consideration.

Leahy had sought to include the criminal penalties bill in the broader FDA Food Safety Modernization Act, which was passed earlier this year.

Higher gas prices sensitize consumers to food prices

Consumers are feeling pinched on the road and off. As if $4 per gallon gas prices weren’t enough to empty a consumer’s wallet, food prices seem higher as well. According to a recent consumer sentiment and behavior survey conducted by Technomic, 84 percent of consumers believe grocery prices have risen in the past three months, and 62 percent think restaurant prices have risen.

During the same time period, 50 percent of consumers believe packaged foods have gotten smaller, and 32 percent believe the same thing has happened with restaurant portions. The two main reasons why consumers think package and/or portion sizes have decreased are the desires of food and restaurant companies to enhance profitability and to keep retail prices the same when costs rise. Only 10 percent attribute the downsizing to improving the products’ healthfulness.

Bob Goldin, Technomic executive vice president, believes the rapid rise in gas prices has raised consumer sensitivity to price increases in grocery stores and restaurants. “Consumers are deeply concerned about the price of gas, which they expect to continue to rise. As a result, they are very likely to reduce their spending on groceries and restaurant meals and increase their reliance on coupons and deals.”

Goldin also notes that consumers have become more aware of total value, of which package/proportion size is a key component, and urges food and restaurant companies to be sensitive to the risks of downsizing.

For more information on the consumer sentiment survey, contact Bob Goldin, 312-506-3936, or visit the Technomic website.

Sustainability in the dairy industry

The Innovation Center for US Dairy will kick off the IDFA Dairy Sustainability Symposium on Wednesday, May 25 with an update on the US dairy sustainability commitment and progress made on key initiatives to reduce the dairy industry’s carbon footprint and build business value.

The symposium is designed to help members of the dairy industry and related businesses to better understand sustainability and target ways to decrease their carbon footprint and increase efficiency.

The Innovation Center’s presentation will highlight the industry’s scientific research efforts including lifecycle assessments for fluid milk and cheese and how these findings will benefit the entire dairy industry. Speakers from the Innovation Center include Ying Wang, Ph.D., director of research, and Gail Barnes, Ph.D., vice president of technology and packaging. Dr. Barnes will be joined by industry experts who will discuss energy-efficiency best practices.

For more information or to register for the Dairy Sustainability Symposium, please visit the IDFA website.

Snack food processor accepts Plant of the Year Award

Melissa Shearer, Shearer’s Foods vice president of communications, accepted the Plant of the Year Award at FE’s Food Automation and Manufacturing Conference 2011.


Sanitary plant design: The new meaning of clean

With industry attention riveted on improved food safety, sanitary design of plants is front and center.   

Tech Update: Motors & drives

Power transmission technology is in flux, and that adds up to a wealth of options for food and beverage manufacturers.

Green manufacturing: software tracks sustainability

Take action now to reduce consumption by monitoring energy usage in real time.

Conveying systems

Every process needs connectivity-the right “circulation system” to provide optimum hygiene, flexibility, fast changeovers and ease of maintenance at the lowest possible cost.

Engineering R&D: Gen II for biofuels

Commodity prices and a credit crunch sidelined the first wave of biofuel plants, but process inefficiencies also played a role. The next generation of ethanol producers won’t make the same mistake.

People, Plant and Industry News

Mettler-Toledo acquired Smiths Detection product inspection division and will adopt the Eagle brand of food X-ray inspection systems.


Wisdom Natural Brands, manufacturer of SweetLeaf Stevia Sweetener, appointed Laura Setzfand as vice president of sales.


Margaret Lawson, D.D. Williamson vice president of science and innovation, received the distinction of Fellow from the Institute of Food Science & Technology.


Organic Valley, an American cooperative of organic farmers, announced plans for a $6.1 million addition to its headquarters in La Farge, WI.


Unitherm opened a fully equipped test kitchen near London in Ashford, UK. The 500-sq.-meter facility will serve most of Western Europe.


In 2011, the Bosch Group celebrates its 125th anniversary and the 150th birthday of its founder, Robert Bosch.


Industrial Magnetics, Inc. received a tribute from Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, State Senator Howard Walker and State Representative Greg MacMaster commemorating its 50 years as a Michigan manufacturer of magnetic components and assemblies.


George Schreiber will fill the role of general manager, moving from his previous position as food industry market manager of Paratherm Corporation.


Intelligrated, an American-owned automated material handling solutions provider, opened its new Alvey Robotics Lab at its St. Louis, MO engineering and manufacturing facility.


United States Cold Storage promoted Stephen Cunningham to area manager, Pennsylvania.