USDA takes new steps to fight E. coli

Overall US beer consumption falls

The beer industry has continued its declines for the fourth year in a row and lost 1.9 percent or a total 2.8 billion cases. According to the Beverage Information Group’s recently released 2011 Beer Handbook, continued declines in the light beer segment contribute to the overall losses in the industry. This segment has seen declines among its core brands and is only seeing pockets of growth from newly introduced line extensions.

Despite the struggling economy, growth was seen among the craft segment as well as imports. The higher-priced craft segment continued to post solid gains due to consumers’ attraction to the interesting flavors craft brewers offer. Imports, which previously have been experiencing declines, gained 0.9 percent to 362.8 million cases last year, but that is still 11.1 percent lower than its pre-recessionary levels.

“The super premium, craft/specialty, and flavored malt beverage category has benefited from the craft sector’s growth,” says Eric Schmidt, manager of information services for the Beverage Information Group based in Norwalk, CT. “Consumers are gravitating toward premium products with exciting and new flavors-something the craft segment has done well in providing.”

According to research in the handbook, the future of the beer industry does not look promising. Rising fuel costs and high unemployment rates among its core consumers are two factors in its downfall. The growth in super premium, craft/specialty and flavored malt beverage segment is predicted to show positive growth in the next five years; unfortunately, these gains can’t offset the losses in the remaining domestic segments. Premium, light, popular, ice and malt liquor segments are expected to decline in the short term.

For more information on the handbook and companion CD, visit or call Cynthia Porter at 630-762-8709.

Barley-based pasta: A good source of fiber

Tired of the same old boring pasta that’s a bunch of empty carbs? Though there are whole-wheat-based pastas available, consumers may soon be able to purchase barley-based pastas that will sport the labels, “good source of dietary fiber” and “may reduce the risk of heart disease,” according to a report that appears in the American Chemical Society’s Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

A new genre of pasta made from barley-a grain famous for giving beer its characteristic strength and flavor-is gaining interest as an ingredient in functional foods, a group of foods that are supplemented with healthful additives, according to the report’s authors, Vito Verardo and Ana Maria Gómez-Caravaca. The functional foods market is expected to reach beyond $176 billion in 2013. Barley is already added to some bakery products.

To determine whether barley could be used to make functional spaghetti by providing fiber and antioxidants, the researchers developed barley flour that contains the most nutritious part of the grain and used it to make pasta. This flour contains barley byproducts, and was produced by a healthy separation method known as air classification.

Recently, air classification has been used as an effective way to separate materials into fractions with different sizes, properties and chemical components contents. Because of the high content of β-glucans and flavan-3-ols (aka flavanols) of the barley coarse fraction, the objective of this work was to use it as an ingredient for the formulation of functional spaghetti. The influence of the addition of barley coarse fraction, used in several percentages, on the quality of spaghetti was checked. Finally, the contents of β-glucans and phenolic compounds were evaluated, and the results were compared to those of commercial samples.

The researchers found barley spaghetti had more fiber and more antioxidant activity than traditional semolina-based spaghettis. Adding gluten to barley flour improved the cooking quality of the pasta, but lowered its antioxidant activity.

For more information on the report, “Development of Functional Spaghetti Enriched in Bioactive Compounds Using Barley Coarse Fraction Obtained by Air Classification,” visit the Journal’s website.

Eldon Roth, BPI.

BPI's Eldon Roth to be inducted into the Meat Industry Hall of Fame

Eldon Roth, Beef Products Inc. inventor and innovator, will be inducted into the Meat Industry Hall of Fame. Roth started BPI in 1981 to commercialize a pioneering method he developed for producing 95 percent lean ground beef from fatty beef trimmings that would otherwise have little value.

Roth’s process is estimated to have added 10 cents a pound to the value of beef trimmings, adding $10 in value to every market steer and heifer produced in the US, or an additional $250 million-plus to the value of US market cattle each year, according to the American Meat Institute.

Roth discovered that his process for separating meat from fat had the unintended effect of making lean beef more alkaline and thus less conducive to bacterial growth. This prompted a search for a more effective way to rid meat of microbial pathogens, including the use of ammonium hydroxide.

Never one to wait for the industry to catch up, he recently made the decision to test all his products for the six non-O157 STECs before the USDA made its recent decision (see Food Safety News below) to consider banning from commerce all beef found to contaminated with any of them.

Automation News

Goya has instituted a new supply chain system that also has a window into demand, allowing intelligent forecasting, ordering and distribution of products like the six shown in their 47-oz. size. Source: Goya.

Goya Foods upgrades its supply chain software performance

Goya Foods, Inc. was founded 75 years ago by Prudencio Unanue, a Spanish immigrant to New York City who was missing the flavors of his homeland, and was unable to find familiar products at local grocery stores. Today, Goya has more than $1 billion in annual sales, 3,000 employees, 1,600 distinct products, six manufacturing facilities and 14 distribution centers in the US, the Caribbean and Spain.

While Goya has emerged as a global business and a category leader, in 2009, executives recognized the company was still holding onto a small business mind set-and associated supply chain processes-that would limit its growth. Many processes remained manual when they could be automated. In addition, Goya’s supply chain model and associated systems were based on a transactional approach that focused on inventory purchases instead of consumer demand and an integrated forecasting process.

Goya turned to JDA Software for support in adding new, technology-driven supply chain capabilities to its proven business model. Goya chose JDA’s solutions for demand management, fulfillment and order optimization to modernize its global supply chain.

“We’ve built our company on maximizing our sales by neighborhood, and that approach has worked very well since 1936,” says Peter Unanue, Goya executive vice president of operations and logistics. “But as Goya has expanded, [our] targeted sales strategy has added incredible diversity to our product line. In just the last five years, the number of SKUs that we carry has grown by 60 percent. That diversity gives us a significant competitive advantage, but it also has added a lot of supply chain complexity.”

JDA’s solutions for demand management and classification helped Goya focus on anticipating consumer needs across its hundreds of SKUs and local markets, allowing inventory decisions to be targeted to actual shopper demand. Because of its enormous product diversity and lack of an integrated demand planning process, the processor was enduring 5 to 6 percent out-of-stock levels, when executives expected 2 percent.

JDA and Goya partnered to create an integrated forecasting and planning process that consolidates demand across all locations and business segments to arrive at a one-number forecast that drives every inventory and replenishment decision, and is based on seasonal volatility, promotions and other factors.

“Twice a year, we use JDA Demand Classification to develop highly targeted forecasts that recognize the unique demand factors underlying different SKUs. The solution defines the best-fitting demand algorithms for each product. That enables us to have a much more accurate view of future demand, taking into account both promotions and product seasonality,” says Unanue.

As a result, Goya has reduced its out-of-stock rates to 2 percent without increasing inventory levels. “I think the results we have achieved have differentiated us from our competition in that we are able to provide much better service. If a customer needs certain products, we’re able to deliver more than 98 percent of the time.”

Goya has achieved a range of other business benefits. “Because we are consolidating demand, today, we can leverage bulk-buying strategies that keep costs down on the supply side,” says Unanue. “And, because we have consolidated our view of our inventory, whether it is in a warehouse in Florida or Texas, we can automatically generate an optimal inventory plan that defines requirements for raw materials, based on what is on hand today.”

For products Goya sources directly from worldwide vendors, the JDA Order Optimization module generates orders automatically based on the demand forecast and current inventory levels. It also cuts the time of creating a new individual purchase order from 20-30 minutes to one to three minutes. By automating the process, buyer planning productivity has improved by 700 percent.

Unanue reports other benefits:

  • For Goya’s buyers, generating an order has become more of a review and approval process, as opposed to creating each individual purchase order from scratch.
  • Goya has realized significant transportation savings. The right products are at the right place at the right time. Orders are sized to use the entire capability of trucks.
  • The JDA solutions are highly configurable, both in their functionality and user interfaces.
  • Goya expects to plan the entire supply chain on a single-number forecast.
Currently, Goya is using JDA solutions to pilot a vendor-managed inventory program at its manufacturing facility in Puerto Rico. “Our next goal is to shift ordering responsibility from our warehouses and distribution centers directly to our production facilities.” According to Unanue, the pilot project is already realizing impressive fill rates of 99.96 percent.

Getting data on a specific battery is as easy as reading a bar code. Source: EBatt Systems Div.

Boost productivity and profit by using a battery management system

An advanced battery management system can immediately reduce the required number of forklift, pallet truck or AGV batteries by up to 50 percent. This decrease in the number of batteries minimizes the overall cost of charging and maintaining batteries by 25 percent or more, according to Terry Orf, administrative vice president at Temple, TX-based Materials Transportation Company (MTC).

A battery management system can also boost staff productivity. Changing batteries at the proper time rather than during peak periods, like shift changes, can add an extra 30 minutes or more of productive work per forklift each day. The money saved by increasing the efficiency of the floor operations and the reduction in maintenance and charging costs can result in an ROI (on the purchase of the management system) in as little as nine months, adds Orf.

According to Orf, battery management systems should track at least seven basic data points:

  1. An asset ID for the lift vehicle
  2. An asset ID for each incoming battery
  3. An asset ID for each outgoing battery
  4. An ID for each individual operator
  5. A time stamp for the moment each battery transaction begins and ends
  6. How long each truck ran on each battery, obtained from the hour meter (run-time)
  7. The charging location for the outgoing battery.

While collecting the above data, battery management systems should also time-stamp every change of state as a battery is charged, cooled, installed and used. This provides the key metric of run-time, adds Orf.

“Knowing run-time, or how long a forklift actually moves or lifts product, is critical since it tells you how much actual work you got out of your battery,” says Orf. “Clock-time, or how long a battery has been sitting in a forklift, is relatively meaningless unless you have run-time as well.”

What’s needed is to turn data into useful information. The ability to slice, dice and interpret data gives managers the visibility into the operations they need to create savings and encourage higher productivity. While some battery asset management systems are limited to as few as a dozen reports, others offer more than 50 standard reports, plus the ability to customize and interpret information with optional executive summaries, operations reviews and business consulting, says Orf.

Evaluating battery performance on run-time, for instance, does more than allow organizations to quickly zero in on which batteries may be worn out or simply need to be watered. It’s a great overall indicator of how an entire operation is running, especially when coupled with metrics like operator performance.

To get the most out of a battery management system, there should be user-defined reports exportable to spreadsheets and other programs. Also necessary is the ability to sort data within reports without having to export it. This flexibility is required to manipulate the data as needed and provide a manager with information that is unique to their particular operation, adds Orf.

“One Fortune 500 distribution warehouse that ran three batteries per forklift cut their battery use in half based on analysis of their operations, runtimes and other factors,” says April Jones, vice president of MTC’s EBatt Systems Division. “They were able to reduce their inventory by 60 batteries for $250,000 in savings.”

For more information, visit EBatt Systems , 866-953-2288.

Food Safety News

Six E. coli serogroups besides O157 will be considered adulterants by the USDA FSIS.

USDA takes new steps to fight E. coli

The US Department of Agriculture is taking new steps to fight E. coli and protect the safety of the American food supply. Six additional serogroups of pathogenic E. coli will be declared adulterants in non-intact raw beef. Raw ground beef, its components and tenderized steaks found to contain these bacteria will be prohibited from sale to consumers. USDA’s FSIS will launch a testing program to detect these dangerous pathogens and prevent them from reaching consumers.

As a result of USDA’s new ruling, if the E. coli serogroups O26, O103, O45, O111, O121 and O145 are found in raw ground beef or its precursors, those products will be prohibited from entering commerce. Like E.coli O157:H7, these serogroups can cause severe illness and even death; young children and the elderly are at highest risk. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention identifies these particular serogroups of non-O157:H7 Shiga-toxin producing E.coli, or non-O157 STEC, as those responsible for the greatest numbers of non-O157 STEC illnesses, hospitalizations and deaths in the United States.

“The Food and Drug Administration applauds USDA for taking this action to better protect consumers,” says FDA Deputy Commissioner for Foods Mike Taylor. “We are committed to working with FSIS to prevent disease-causing, non-O157 STEC bacteria in all foods. Through implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act, FDA will continue to place prevention at the core of the efforts to improve the food safety system.”

“STOP Foodborne Illness [STOP, formerly Safe Tables Our Priority] applauds USDA’s announcement declaring six highly virulent, pathogenic strains of E. coli as adulterants in beef products,” says Nancy Donley, president, STOP Foodborne Illness. “These additional six strains have been identified by CDC for more than a decade as being harmful to consumers, causing illness and death,” adds Donley. “We’re pleased to see the USDA act proactively rather than in reaction to another major outbreak case in declaring E. coli O157:H7 an adulterant in 1994.”

FSIS will begin testing for these six serogroups of STEC and enforcing the new policy on March 5, 2012. The Agency invites interested persons to submit comments within 60 days of publication in the Federal Register. FSIS would like to hear from the public on a number of issues highlighted in the Federal Register notice, including the implementation of the policy and additional outreach the Agency will conduct, such as public meetings.

A final note: According to CDC, on July 5, 2011, the European Food Safety Authority issued a report identifying a single lot of fenugreek seeds, from an exporter in Egypt, as the most likely source of the sprouts linked with E. coli O104:H4 outbreaks in Germany and France.

In previous issues of Tech Flash:

“Beef processor steps up E. coli testing to serotypes” (Vol. 7, No. 14)

“US needs to get proactive on E. coli O104:H4” (Vol. 7, No. 12)

“Class I ground beef recall for E. coli O26” (Vol. 6, No. 17)

“The ‘other’ E. coli” (Vol. 3, 10)

Additional FSIS Information: “Shiga Toxin-Producing Escherichia coli in Certain Raw Beef Products (Sep 13, 2011)”

Docket No. FSIS-2010-0023 (PDF Only) Note: This is an advance copy of document submitted to Office Federal Register and may be subject to minor changes.

Draft Risk Profile for Pathogenic Non-O157 Shiga Toxin-Producing Escherichia coli (non-O157 STEC) (PDF Only)

FSIS Guidance for Test Kit Manufacturers, Laboratories: Evaluating the Performance of Pathogen Test Kit Methods (PDF Only)

Food safety training lab opens in College Park, MD

The US Food and Drug Administration, University of Maryland, their Joint Institute for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (JIFSAN) and Waters Corporation opened the International Food Safety Training Laboratory (IFSTL), a public-private partnership that applies government, university and private industry expertise and resources to the global food safety challenge.

IFSTL ( is a permanent food safety lab that provides hands-on lab training on detection methods and classroom lessons on regulatory standards, educating governments and food exporters so they can ensure food is safe before it reaches the table. This will enable food safety standards to rise globally.

FDA has publicly identified the need for government and private industry to work together. IFSTL will provide critical support to helping FDA and foreign food producers meet requirements, such as the US Food Safety Modernization Act signed into law earlier this year.

“FDA looks forward to this opportunity to build global laboratory capacity. The International Food Safety Training laboratory will help to address food safety challenges worldwide through training and technical assistance,” says Michael Landa, director, Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, FDA.

US government scientists from FDA and USDA, along with university experts, will lead intensive training focused on detecting both chemical and microbiological contaminants, preparing and testing samples according fit-for-purpose methods that allow scientists to validate and use results to make the right decisions about whether food is safe and meets regulations. Trainees can sign up for courses that address a specific issue of concern to the US and global communities. IFSTL will have the ability to teach 200 professionals per year and will be operated by JIFSAN.

Waters served as the driving force behind the creation of IFSTL through a multi-year commitment to fund the laboratory’s construction, provide analytical systems and assist JIFSAN and FDA in designing training programs.

Food defense needs shoring up

According to GAO testimony from Lisa Shames, director of Natural Resources and Environment, before the US Senate subcommittee on oversight of government management, protecting food and agriculture needs a lot of work from the respective agencies involved: Department of Agriculture, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security and the Environmental Protection Agency.

Shames reported that:

  • No centralized coordination exists to oversee Federal agencies’ overall progress in implementing the nation’s food and agricultural defense policy.
  • USDA does not have a department-wide strategy for implementing its response and recovery responsibilities.
  • USDA faces challenges coordinating the Federal food and agriculture responses for natural disasters.
Shames’s group is making nine recommendations to help ensure the Federal government is effectively implementing the nation’s food and agriculture defense policy and ensure that the nation is adequately prepared to respond to and recover from emergencies affecting food and agriculture.

Many adults unaware of key food safety practices

A new poll commissioned by the American Meat Institute (AMI) and conducted by Harris Interactive found that while almost nine out of 10 US adults (88 percent) cook hamburgers or poultry (chicken or turkey) burgers, only 19 percent of them use an instant-read thermometer to determine the burgers are safely cooked and ready to eat (i.e., “doneness”). Approximately 73 percent of adults who cook hamburgers or poultry burgers incorrectly rely on sight to determine doneness, and 57 percent incorrectly rely on cooking time.

Only 13 percent of adults aged 18-34 who cook hamburgers or poultry burgers, many of whom may prepare food for small children at home, use an instant-read thermometer to determine doneness when cooking hamburgers or poultry burgers. Seventy-eight percent of this age group rely on sight, which is not an accurate indicator of doneness, to determine if the burger is cooked properly. 

In terms of proper cooking temperatures, only one in five US adults (20 percent) knows  a hamburger should be cooked to 160°F to ensure it is safe to consume, while 41 percent mistakenly believe hamburgers should be cooked to a temperature less than 160°F, according to the poll.

Nearly half of US adults (47 percent) believe poultry burgers should be cooked to a temperature less than 165°F. Only 13 percent know a poultry burger should be cooked to 165°F to ensure it is safe to consume.

“Meat and poultry companies use many food-safety strategies to make our products as safe as we can, and it is our responsibility to empower our customers with the information that they need to ensure that the products are safe when served,” says AMI senior vice president of public affairs Janet Riley. “Our poll reveals that a significant knowledge gap still exists about proper cooking temperatures and thermometer use.”   

For complete survey methodology, including weighting variables, contact Tom Super at AMI.