The Weekly: May 4, 2011

May 4, 2011

Top Stories

 

 

New initiative launched to transform food, ag policy

On May 3, eight of the world’s leading foundations launched AGree, a new initiative that will tackle long-term food and agriculture policy issues confronting the United States and the world as the population continues to grow and resources become ever more constrained.

Over the next four decades, there will be an additional 2.6 billion people on earth to feed—a 38% population increase from today—in addition to the 925 million people who currently suffer under-nutrition or hunger. Simultaneously, the world faces a limited amount of easily accessible arable land, increasing pressures on freshwater quality and availability, and accelerating environmental degradation. Solutions to these challenges will require best-in-class research, comprehensive analysis, and cross-sector dialogue—resources productively brought together for the first time under the AGree initiative. AGree will fill a crucial void in current agriculture research and discussions that frequently do not consider solutions across multiple sectors such as environment, energy, rural economies, and health.

AGree’s mission to nurture dialogue among diverse opinions on agriculture issues is embodied by the leaders of the initiative: Dan Glickman, former Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture under President Bill Clinton and a former Congressman from Kansas for 18 years; Gary Hirshberg, Chairman, President, and CEO of Stonyfield Farm; Jim Moseley, former Deputy Secretary at the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture under President George W. Bush and Indiana farmer for more than 40 years; and, Emmy Simmons, former Assistant Administrator for Economic Growth, Agriculture, and Trade at the U.S. Agency for International Development and a board member for several organizations engaged in international agriculture and global development.

“AGree will elevate the agriculture and food policy conversation. We will make it clear to leaders and policymakers that, while difficult, solving food and agriculture issues is of utmost importance and can help solve other pressing problems including public health and the need for economic growth,” said Glickman.

AGree will provide the first steps of genuine dialogue and insightful data that will enable effective and meaningful decisions about food and agriculture policy. The group will lay a path forward through sound solutions generated by careful research and analysis that can guide policymakers and stakeholders as they undertake this critical endeavor.

AGree is funded by Ford Foundation, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, The William & Flora Hewlett Foundation, The David and Lucile Packard Foundation, W.K. Kellogg Foundation, The McKnight Foundation, Rockefeller Foundation, and The Walton Family Foundation.

Press release

ConAgra Foods proposes $4.9 B combination with Ralcorp Holdings

ConAgra Foods Inc. has made a proposal to the Ralcorp Holdings Inc. Board of Directors to acquire Ralcorp for $86 per share in cash, or approximately $4.9 billion, plus the assumption of $2.5 billion in debt. The proposed transaction would expand ConAgra Foods’ presence in the fast-growing private label segment and create the No. 3 U.S. packaged food company, focused on delivering value to customers across both branded and private label.

Ralcorp is a successful manufacturer of both private label and branded consumer foods. The company, which owns the Post cereal brand, is also a leader in a number of private label categories, including cereal, pasta, crackers, jellies/jams, syrups, frozen waffles, and other products.

“We believe this all-cash proposal is highly attractive to Ralcorp’s shareholders and a transformational growth opportunity for both companies,” said Gary Rodkin, CEO of ConAgra Foods. “Ralcorp has made significant progress with its businesses, and we are excited about the prospect of building on its number one position in private label and enhancing its iconic brands, like Post, in very important categories … We believe a collaborative process is a way to deliver great value to both our companies’ stakeholders, and we look forward to discussing our proposal with Ralcorp.”

The proposed combination would add to the overall strength of ConAgra Foods by establishing a strong, leading presence in U.S. private label foods and enhancing its branded portfolio, which it remains committed to growing. The combination of ConAgra Foods’ approximately $850 million private label business with Ralcorp would result in approximately $4 billion in combined annual private label sales. The combined entity would be well-positioned to capitalize on the attractive private label sector in the United States that, over the last 5 years, has grown from 16.4% of sales in the supermarket channel to 18.9%. Pro forma, the combined company would have a sales mix of approximately 50% retail branded, 25% commercial/foodservice, and 25% private label.

An initial letter of interest was sent to the Ralcorp Holdings Inc. Board of Directors on March 22, 2011, which proposed $82 per Ralcorp share, in a combination of cash and ConAgra Foods stock. This letter was sent one day after Ralcorp’s stock closed at $65.31 per share. On May 4, ConAgra Foods delivered to Ralcorp’s Board of Directors a revised proposal at $86 per share, all-cash, reiterating ConAgra Foods’ desire to initiate a dialogue with the goal of consummating a transaction.

Press release

Top 10 pathogen-food combinations that cause illness

Researchers at the University of Florida Emerging Pathogens Institute have identified the Top 10 riskiest combinations of foods and disease-causing microorganisms, providing an important tool for food safety officials charged with protecting consumers from these costly and potentially life-threatening bugs.

The report, “Ranking the Risks: The 10 Pathogen-Food Combinations with the Greatest Burden on Public Health,” lists the number of illnesses, costs, and overall public health burden of specific microbes in particular types of food—such as Salmonella in poultry and Listeria in deli meat. This is the first comprehensive ranking of pathogen-food combinations that has been computed for the United States.

“The number of hazards and scale of the food system make for a critical challenge for consumers and government alike,” said Michael Batz, lead author of the report and Head of Food Safety Programs at the Emerging Pathogens Institute. “Government agencies must work together to effectively target their efforts. If we don’t identify which pairs of foods and microbes present the greatest burden, we’ll waste time and resources and put even more people at risk.”

Of these, the new report concludes that five leading bugs—Campylobacter, Salmonella, Listeria monocytogenes, Toxoplasma gondii, and norovirus—result in $12.7 billion in annual economic loss, with the Top 10 pathogen-food combinations responsible for more than $8 billion. That burden includes the cost of medical care and lost productivity from employee sick days, as well as the expense of serious complications or chronic disabilities that result from the acute illness or sometimes strike after acute illness goes away.

The report, which was supported by a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, includes the following key findings and recommendations for food safety officials:

  • Poultry contaminated with Campylobacter bacteria topped the list, sickening more than 600,000 Americans at a cost of $1.3 billion per year. Salmonella in poultry also ranks in the Top 10, with $700 million due to costs of illness. The report questions whether new safety standards announced by the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) for young chickens and turkeys are sufficient, and recommends evaluating and tightening these standards over time.
  • Salmonella is the leading disease-causing bug overall, causing more than $3 billion in disease burden annually. In addition to poultry, Salmonella-contaminated produce, eggs, and multi-ingredient foods all rank in the Top 10. The report recommends that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and USDA develop a joint Salmonella initiative that coordinates efforts in a number of foods.
  • Four combinations in the Top 10—Listeria in deli meats and soft cheeses, and Toxoplasma in pork and beef—pose serious risks to pregnant women and developing fetuses, causing stillbirth or infants born with irreversible mental and physical disabilities. The report recommends that agencies strengthen prevention programs for these pathogens and improve education efforts aimed at pregnant women.
  • Norovirus is the most common foodborne pathogen and is largely associated with multi-ingredient items that can become contaminated, often by service-industry workers who handle food. The researchers recommend strengthening state and local food safety programs through increased funding, training and adoption by states of the most recent FDA Food Code.
  • The report lists E. coli O157:H7 as the sixth pathogen in overall burden, with the majority due to contaminated beef and produce. The report recommends federal agencies continue to target E. coli O157:H7, due to the particularly devastating injuries it causes in small children, including kidney failure, lifetime health complications, and death.

Report

Research Briefs

 

 

Study: Reduced sodium may be linked to deaths

A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association shows that even modest reductions in salt intake may be associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and death.

The researchers used data from two different studies, incorporating a total of 3,681 Europeans who had their salt consumption measured through urine samples at the start of the studies. They broke the participants up into three groups: those with highest and lowest salt intakes, and those with average intake. None of the participants had heart disease at the outset, and two thirds had normal blood pressure. They were followed for an average of eight years, during which researchers determined how many of them were diagnosed with heart disease, and in a smaller group, how many got high blood pressure.

The researchers report that people with the lowest levels of sodium in their urine (a marker of salt intake) at the start of the study had a 56% higher risk of dying from cardiovascular disease than people with the highest levels. In addition, among the 2,096 participants who had normal blood pressure at the start of the study, urinary sodium appeared to have no effect on the development of high blood pressure over six and a half years.

“Taken together, our current findings refute the estimates of computer models of lives saved and health care costs reduced with lower salt intake. They do also not support the current recommendations of a generalized and indiscriminate reduction of salt intake at the population level,” wrote the authors.

However, a release issued by the Harvard School of Public Health warns the public to take this new study “with a grain of salt,” stating that the study has several weaknesses—one of which is its relatively small size. “Furthermore, the study’s findings are inconsistent with a multitude of other studies conducted over the past 25 years that show a clear and direct relationship between high salt intakes and high blood pressure, and in turn, cardiovascular disease risk.”

JAMA abstract

Harvard School of Public Health release

U.S. restaurant industry outlook gained strength in March

Bolstered by solid improvements in same-store sales and customer traffic levels, the outlook for the U.S. restaurant industry continued to strengthen in March. The National Restaurant Association’s Restaurant Performance Index(RPI)—a monthly composite index that tracks the health of and outlook for the U.S. restaurant industry—stood at 101.0 in March, up 0.3% from February and the third gain in the last four months. In addition, March represented the sixth time in the last seven months that the RPI stood above 100, which signifies expansion in the index of key industry indicators.

“Although restaurant operators remain bullish about their business’ sales growth in the months ahead, their optimism about the direction of the overall economy has faded somewhat,” Riehle added. “Just 32% of restaurant operators expect economic conditions to improve in the next six months, the lowest level since September 2010.”

Restaurant operators reported a net increase in customer traffic levels in March. Forty-five percent of restaurant operators reported an increase in customer traffic between March 2010 and March 2011, up from 41% of operators who reported higher traffic in February. In comparison, 32% of operators reported a traffic decline in March, down from 39% in February.

Restaurant operators remain optimistic that their sales levels will grow in the coming months. Fifty percent of restaurant operators expect to have higher sales in six months (compared to the same period in the previous year), up slightly from 48% who reported similarly last month. In comparison, just 13% of restaurant operators expect their sales volume in six months to be lower than it was during the same period in the previous year, compared with 12% who reported similarly last month.

Press release

Top 10 EU health trends

The fourth batch of generic European Union (EU) health claim opinions delivered by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) in April saw the previous trend of negative opinions continue: 20% successful, 80% unsuccessful. According to Innova Market Insights, companies that have managed to uphold health claims so far have been quick to promote this through marketing use of words like “proven” and “scientific support.” This trend comes as manufacturers opt for softer or passive claims (e.g., “low” and “light”) and the uncertainty around health claims continues.

Innova Market Insights has reported a 4% decline in the number of “active health” launches tracked in Western Europe in 2010 (e.g., “functional” and “fortified” products), compared to 2009, despite 25% growth in the number of “passive health” (i.e., “food minus”) launches tracked. The market researcher also noted 36% growth in the number of products with a health positioning tracked in Western Europe over this period that featured the word “proven.”

Ten emerging trends that will impact new product activity in the nutritionals and functional foods space have been identified by Innova Market Insights from its ongoing analysis of key trends and developments. The top five are:

  • “Proven” is the New Buzzword: The few European companies that have successfully navigated the EFSA health claims maze will be keen to highlight their ingredients from this perspective, to encourage a previously skeptical consumer to try out a new functional food product.
  • Return to Softer Claims: A cloud of uncertainty hovering over health claims has resulted in a fall in numbers of food and drinks products launched on an “active health” (food plus) platform, despite growth in “passive health” (food minus) launches.
  • New Relaxation Paradigm: While the energy trend has not apparently halted in any way, a counter trend is also emerging, focusing particularly on creative relaxation beverages.
  • Fruit & Veg Revival: A revival in fruits and vegetables is apparent as manufacturers go back to basics and focus more on the inherent health benefits available. Packaged fruit snacks, fruit smoothies, and juice and water blends are all enjoying considerable activity.
  • Joint Health Boosters: There are millions of aging but active people throughout the world who are looking for ways to enhance their quality of life and retain their lifestyle without joint discomfort. Several dietary ingredients have the potential to benefit joint health.

Innova Market Insights

Immigrant groups eat high-calorie American meals to fit in

Immigrants to the United States and their U.S.-born children gain more than a new life and new citizenship. They gain weight. The wide availability of cheap, convenient, fatty American foods and large meal portions have been blamed for immigrants packing on pounds, approaching U.S. levels of obesity within 15 years of their move.

Psychologists show that it’s not simply the abundance of high-calorie American junk food that causes weight gain. Instead, members of U.S. immigrant groups choose typical American dishes as a way to show that they belong and to prove their “American-ness.” Public health studies show that diets of immigrants, including those from Asia, Africa, and Central and South America, worsen the longer they stay in the United States.

The researchers surveyed Asian-American and white college students to learn about embarrassing childhood food memories. Sixty-eight percent of the Asian-American respondents recalled food-related insecurities around white peers while growing up, like awkwardness about using chopsticks and the custom of eating all parts of the animal—chicken feet, fish eyes, and pork head. Only 27% of white respondents remembered embarrassing food practices from childhood.

Then, the researchers measured whether the threat of not being identified as American had an influence on food preferences. To trigger this threat, a white experimenter asked half of the participants, “Do you speak English?” before beginning the experiment. Then the 53 participants—all English-speakers and a mix of whites and Asian-Americans—wrote down their favorite foods.

Inquiring about English skills prompted 75% of Asian-Americans to mention a typical American food as their favorite compared with 25% of Asian-Americans who had not been asked if they spoke English. White participants’ lists of favorite foods did not differ whether the experimenter asked if they spoke English or not.

According to Sapna Cheryan, corresponding author and an Assistant Professor of Psychology at the University of Washington, the root of the problem is social pressures, not that immigrants lack self-control when eating. “In American society today, being American is associated with being white. Americans who don’t fit this image—even if they were born here and speak English—feel that pressure to prove that they’re American.”

Press release

Red pepper may help burn calories

A study published in Physiology & Behavior shows that red pepper not only adds heat to food, it may also enhance the body’s heat by burning additional calories following a meal. The Purdue University researchers suggest that the active compound in red pepper, capsaicin, may be responsible for the benefits, and they conclude that eating foods prepared with red pepper may optimize this effect and aid weight management.

The study explored the effects of red pepper in 25 healthy, lean adult men and women—half of the participants were hot spice “users,” and the others did not regularly use such spices. When the adults ingested 1 g of red pepper (equivalent to about 1/2 teaspoon) in a test meal, internal body temperature and postprandial energy expenditure (heat released as the body digests food) increased after the meal—small changes that the researchers suggest could contribute to weight loss or maintenance over time. The researchers noted that the dose used was “modest” and “plausible”—an amount that could reasonably be incorporated in a typical diet.

The changes were more pronounced for adults who didn’t typically eat spicy foods, suggesting that people accustomed to hot spice may become desensitized to the full benefits. In addition to changes in body temperature and energy expenditure, when red pepper was mixed into a meal rather than ingested in capsules, the proportion of energy burned from carbohydrate compared to fat (the Respiratory Quotient or RQ) was significantly lower, indicating more fat was burned and suggesting that oral exposures are necessary to achieve red pepper’s maximum benefits. Also, energy intakes were lower in a subsequent meal, and appetite effects, including preoccupation with food, tended to decrease compared to when they ate meals without red pepper.

Abstract

Omega-3 fatty acids may reduce risk of childhood obesity

Researchers at the Harvard Medical School examined the relationship between the type of fat a mother consumed at mid-pregnancy and whether her child was obese at age 3. To determine whether a child was obese, they used the child’s body mass index and by taking two skinfold measurements.

More than one-third of the mothers were overweight or obese before pregnancy. A fifth of them ate more than two fish meals per week at mid-pregnancy, but only about half of the women achieved the recommend intake of DHA, a long-chain omega-3 important for fetal and infant development. The recommended intake of DHA in pregnancy and lactation is 200 mg per day. This observation suggests that even though the women ate fish, they did not consume enough of the fatty species, such as salmon, tuna, mackerel, rainbow trout, sardines, and herring, to meet the recommended DHA intake. Only 3% of the women consumed 200 mg/day of DHA in the last month of pregnancy. This is the time when large amounts of DHA are transferred from the mother to the infant to support its brain growth spurt.

The researchers calculated the odds for obesity in the offspring at age 3 according to the mother’s omega-3 fatty acid intake and the level of omega-6s and omega-3s in cord blood at delivery. The odds of obesity in the 3-year-old offspring were 2–4 times higher when the amount of omega-6s relative to the amount of omega-3s in cord blood was high. A similar pattern was seen for dietary fatty acid intake and mid-pregnancy blood fatty acid values.

In contrast, the odds of obesity were 32% lower when the mother’s consumption of omega-3s was higher or she had higher cord blood omega-3 fatty acids. The child’s intake of fish was not related to the development of obesity. This study is the first indication in humans that low intakes of omega-3s in the presence of large amounts of omega-6s during pregnancy might affect the chance of obesity in the offspring.

The researchers warned that more studies need to be conducted to confirm these results.

Press release

Company News

 

 

Tate & Lyle partners with monk fruit supplier BioVittoria

Tate & Lyle has entered into a five-year strategic partnership agreement with BioVittoria Ltd. for the exclusive global marketing and distribution rights for BioVittoria’s monk fruit. Tate & Lyle will be marketing the products in the United States under the PUREFRUIT brand name. A fruit-based calorie-free sweetening ingredient, natural monk fruit extract is a way to reduce sugar and calories in foods and beverages. This agreement expands Tate & Lyle’s broad portfolio of wellness ingredients and advances the company’s strategy of extending its leadership position as a global provider of specialty food ingredient solutions.

According to terms of the agreement, New Zealand-based BioVittoria will award exclusive global sales and distribution rights to Tate & Lyle for its monk fruit extract. Tate & Lyle will support the development of the line of PUREFRUIT products with sales, research, marketing, and product development. Using proprietary, natural methods, the Tate & Lyle research team has further refined and improved the taste of its PUREFRUIT products for a wide array of commercial uses. BioVittoria will continue management of the monk fruit extract supply chain, including seedling cultivation, the grower network, and natural processing.

“BioVittoria is a leader in the innovation and development of this great tasting natural fruit-based product, and has made significant investment in the monk fruit supply chain and processing to enable us to bring it to the market,” said Karl Kramer, President, Innovation & Commercial Development, Tate & Lyle. “In addition to its great taste, PUREFRUIT enables a ‘sweetened with fruit extract’ label claim, which our research shows is extremely appealing to consumers.”

Monk fruit is also known as luo han guo and is native to SouthEast Asia where it has been in use for hundreds of years. Its pulp is steeped in hot water to release a natural, calorie-free sweetening ingredient that’s around 200 times sweeter than sugar. Monk fruit extract received a letter in January 2010 stating that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had no questions after receipt of BioVittoria’s GRAS (Generally Recognized As Safe) notification. PUREFRUIT is an extract made from monk fruit that can be formulated into a variety of foods including beverages, dairy, cereal, confectionery, and bakery products.

Press release

Kraft Foods invests $200M in Brazil expansion

Kraft has opened a new $80 million manufacturing facility in Pernambuco, Brazil. The plant will initially produce chocolate and powdered beverages. A biscuit line will be added in 2012. The facility is Kraft Foods’ latest investment in Brazil and positions the company for future growth in the fastest-growing part of the country: the northern part of Northeast Brazil. Combining the new plant and other planned manufacturing expansions, the company will invest approximately $200 million in Brazil over a two-year period.

“Brazil is one of 10 priority developing markets where we’re making big bets,” said Sanjay Khosla, President, Kraft Foods Developing Markets. “Today, we’re among the fastest-growing consumer goods companies in markets like Brazil, India, and China. We’re excited to build on what’s working by making our biggest investment in Brazil in more than 10 years!”

The 270,000-sq-ft facility in Pernambuco will employ more than 600 employees to start, adding 200 more when the new biscuit line opens in 2012. More than 18,000 applicants competed for positions. The employees will oversee the production of some of the company’s fastest-growing brands and categories including Bis and Lacta chocolates, as well as Tang and Fresh powdered beverages.

The company is also seeking for the plant to be recognized by LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design). The facility boasts prismatic skylights, solar lighting and water heating, a wastewater treatment plant, low-emission equipment, and eco-paved parking lots.

Press release

Lawson named IFST Fellow

The distinction of Fellow has been bestowed upon Margaret Lawson, D.D. Williamson Vice President of Science and Innovation, from the Institute of Food Science & Technology (IFST), an independent qualifying body for food professionals in Europe. Fellowship is the senior category of membership of the IFST. It is awarded only to those who have demonstrated a sustained level of exceptional professionalism and who have made important achievements in relation to food.

Among her many accomplishments are the distinction of Fellow, and past President, of the Institute of Food Technologists. A member of the Research Chefs Association, Lawson also serves on the University Industrial Advisory Board for University of California at Davis, and Board of Advisors for Xengaru Fun Foods.

Press release

Pilgrim’s Pride to raise prices due to storms, feed costs

According to Reuters, chicken producer Pilgrim’s Pride Corp. said it is likely to raise chicken prices as it works to pass on this year’s higher feed costs. On April 29, the company reported a larger-than-expected quarterly loss to send its shares down more than 6%, as the higher feed costs, winter storms, and an inventory reduction effort hurt margins.

Damage from last week’s storms and tornadoes in the Southeast will temporarily reduce U.S. chicken production, the company said in an investor conference call. About 100 of its chicken houses, out of about 16,400, were damaged or destroyed and power was knocked out to two processing plants.

Pilgrim’s Pride, like other meat companies, has been trying to raise prices to cover higher costs for feed and fuel. In addition, the No. 2 U.S. chicken producer has been on a cost-cutting effort targeted to trim $400 million. It also projected feed prices to be up $500 million for the year.

Feed costs were up $188 million for the quarter from a year earlier, the company said. Strong demand by ethanol processors and grain exporters has pushed up the price of feed corn. The company said it had purchased its corn needs for the balance of the year and 50% of soybean meal.

Reuters article

SunOpta sells frozen fruit processing assets to Fruvemex

SunOpta Inc., a global company focused on natural, organic ,and specialty foods, has announced the sale of its frozen fruit processing assets in Rosarito, Mexico and Irapuato, Mexico to Fruvemex Mexicali, S.A. de C.V. As part of this transaction, SunOpta also entered into a strategic raw material supply agreement with Fruvemex, plus a market value lease for Fruvemex’s use of the land and buildings in Irapuato, which remain the property of SunOpta. The purchase price was $3.15 million.

Fruvemex is a privately owned Mexican entity headquartered in Mexicali, Mexico. The business has roots in frozen, refrigerated, and dehydrated fruit and vegetable products including strawberries, mango, melons, hot peppers, bell peppers, tomatoes, onions, and salsas and has been a supplier to SunOpta for several years.

The processing assets included in this transaction form part of the SunOpta Fruit Group, and more specifically, the SunOpta Fruit Specialties frozen fruit operations, which supply frozen strawberries and other fruit products in IQF and other packaging formats to retail, foodservice, and industrial customers in the United States and certain international markets. As part of this transaction, SunOpta has entered into a supply agreement with Fruvemex who will supply strawberry and other fruit products to SunOpta from these facilities as well as other operations under their control.

“This divestiture is the latest step in our strategy to improve the profitability of our frozen fruit operations and continue to simplify our business model with a focus on our core areas of expertise, plus expand strategic relationships to secure long-term supply. We believe that Fruvemex will be an excellent long-term partner and provide SunOpta with cost competitive fruit products,” said Steve Bromley, President and CEO of SunOpta.

Press release

Cargill, United Supermarkets introduce line of beef products in Texas

Cargill, the second-largest beef producer in the United States, and Texas-based grocery retailer United Supermarkets, worked together to determine that while there are many other Texas-produced and branded products sold in grocery stores in the state, this is not the situation in the meat case. It is this homegrown pride and meat case opportunity that provides the foundation for the new Genuine Texas Beef brand, which, effective May 1, is available only in Texas at United Supermarkets and its Market Street and Amigos stores.

“Texans eat more beef per capita than people in any other state, and their preference is to purchase beef produced in Texas,” said Stephanie Daas, Genuine Texas Beef Associate Brand Manager. “Cargill has had a presence in the beef business in Texas for many years, and we’re proud to tap into that strong affinity Texans hold for their state and partner with United Supermarkets to provide consumers a brand of high-quality beef all their own.”

Genuine Texas Beef is produced by Texans for Texans, with cattle raised a minimum of 100 days in the state. The Cargill beef processing facility in Plainview, Texas—one of its two in the state—is where the full line of beef products, including steaks, roasts, stew meat, fajita meat, and ground beef, are produced.

Genuine Texas Beef is available at 37 United Supermarkets stores in Abilene, Wichita Falls, and across west Texas; 10 Market Street United stores in West Texas and the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex; and three Amigos United stores in Amarillo, Lubbock, and Plainview.

Press release

Extra Credit Reading

Dunkin’ Donuts, Mountain Dew make a ‘cool’ duo
Dunkin’ Donuts and PepsiCo have partnered to introduce the new Mountain Dew Coolatta at Dunkin’ Donuts restaurants. A frozen slush beverage that combines the popular lemon and lime citrus flavors of Mountain Dew and the cool refreshment of a Dunkin’ Donuts Coolatta, Mountain Dew Coolattas are now available for a limited time.

Detroit autoworker-caterer wins ‘America's Next Great Restaurant’
In the finale, Detroit’s Jamawn (Jay) Woods’ Soul Daddy restaurant concept beat out two other competitors to win NBC’s “America’s Next Great Restaurant” reality series, and he became the owner of three working eateries that opened May 2 in New York, Minneapolis, Minn., and Hollywood, Calif.

Lemon meringue to be next Twinkie flavor
The flavor polls have closed, the votes have been counted, and Hostess fans have chosen Lemon Meringue as the next great Hostess Twinkie flavor filling during the sweetest election in snack cake history. With close to 100,000 votes counted, Lemon Meringue won the opportunity to share the shelves with the iconic vanilla creme-filled Twinkie, edging out the Raspberry Tart flavor in the Hostess Twinkie Mania Sweepstakes.

Campaign launched to combat top meat myths
The American Meat Science Association (AMSA), in conjunction with American Meat Institute (AMI), has announced the launch of the “Meat MythCrushers” campaign, an effort to reconnect Americans to modern food production and to “crush” some of today’s more popular myths associated with meat and poultry.

Regulatory News

 

 

USDA launches online tools for anti-hunger efforts

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has issued a call to action to end hunger in America. Secretary Vilsack announced a series of new online tools and volunteer initiatives to increase the number of individuals, organizations, and governments actively working to end hunger across the country.

“If our nation is to win the future, we must make sure that all Americans have access to the nutrition they need,” said Vilsack. “The federal government cannot end hunger alone so we are calling on the American public, corporations, schools, and community and faith-based organizations to get involved and make a commitment to end hunger.”

Today, more than 50 million Americans are at risk of hunger, including 17 million children. Although the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture’s (USDA) nutrition programs provide assistance to 1 in 4 Americans and have kept the levels of food insecurity at bay during the recession, many eligible children and families do not participate. Working together, government, nonprofit and faith-based organizations, and the public can make sure that no one in the country goes hungry.

Here are some of the new initiatives found at www.fns.usda.gov/ech:

  • Stakeholder Guide to Ending Childhood Hunger: A guide to assist individuals and organizations in choosing value-added activities and finding resources to help end childhood hunger;
  • Become a Champion to End Hunger: An online commitment drive that encourages organizations and the public to select actions they will take to reduce childhood hunger;
  • End Hunger Volunteerism Portal (www.serve.gov/endhunger): A website developed by the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) where organizations can post volunteer opportunities and individuals can search for volunteer opportunities in their communities.

Press release

USDA $4.5M grant to establish child obesity prevention program

A five-year $4.5 million U.S. Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) grant to University of Illinois researchers will establish the Illinois Transdisciplinary Obesity Prevention Program (I-TOPP), an innovative research-based program that will combine a Ph.D. with a master’s in public health (MPH) degree focused on child obesity prevention.

“This exciting new program allows us to develop novel hypotheses and approaches as researchers come together from their individual areas of expertise to solve the problem of child obesity,” said Sharon Donovan, the Melissa M. Noel Professor in the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition and I-TOPP Director.

Students in the new program will be taught to think broadly about child obesity because research has shown that no single approach adequately addresses the problem. I-TOPP scholars who receive this new degree will benefit from a blend of transdisciplinary and translational research, Donovan said.

The new degree will integrate innovative research in nutrition, child development and family studies, physical activity, public health science and practice, economics, practices in childcare centers, and the effects of media. Students will develop and test transdisciplinary interventions to prevent childhood obesity, Donovan said.

 “At the end of the students’ graduate program, we will be assessing these students, comparing them to students who have received just the MPH and Ph.D. degrees to see how successful we’ve been in helping our I-TOPP scholars to achieve this broader, more transdisciplinary view,” Donovan said.

The program will have an ongoing seminar series, develop two new courses, promote broad cross-disciplinary interactions between U of I faculty and international leaders through its visiting faculty and lecture series, and host an annual conference that Donovan believes will attract the participation of influential scholars.

Press release

Six L’s recalls grape tomatoes due to risk of Salmonella

Six L’s, Immokalee, Fla., is voluntarily recalling a single lot of grape tomatoes, because they have the potential to be contaminated with Salmonella. The strain of Salmonella has not been determined, and no illnesses have been reported.

The specific lot was packed on April 11 and was comprised of grape tomatoes that can be identified by Cherry Berry lot code DW-H either in clamshells or 20-lb cardboard containers. The product was distributed to North Carolina, South Carolina, Alabama, Florida, New Jersey, New York, Michigan, Pennsylvania, California, Georgia, and Canada, and reached consumers through retail stores and restaurant distribution.

The contamination was detected through a random sample obtained by the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) at a distributor in New York. The product is from a farm in Estero, Fla., which has since ceased production of that commodity.

The recall does not include any other tomatoes or produce distributed by Six L’s.

Press release

DuPont E. coli O157:H7 assay system approved by Health Canada

Beef processors in Canada can now use a real-time BAX System assay from DuPont Qualicon to test ground beef and beef trim for E. coli O157:H7. Health Canada, the federal department responsible for helping Canadians maintain their health, is publishing the approved method in volume three of the Compendium of Analytical Methods.

This real-time assay has already been certified by the AOAC Research Institute as a performance-tested method for detecting E. coli O157:H7 on real-world sample sizes with shortened enrichment times. Developed in collaboration with the Agricultural Research Services of the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture (USDA), the assay quickly detects all known E. coli O157:H7, even atypical strains.

“This latest government approval allows meat producers in Canada to better compete in world markets by using technology that reduces total test time while maintaining the highest levels of food safety,” said Shannon McCoy, Canada Business Manager for DuPont Qualicon.

Press release

Illinois may ban trans fat

According to the Chicago Sun-Times, in a bid to improve the health of Illinois residents, some lawmakers in Springfield are pushing a bill that would ban artificial trans fat from restaurants, bakeries, movie theater popcorn, and snacks sold in school vending machines. Illinois would be the second state after California to pass a trans fat ban, but opponents say the food industry already is eliminating trans fat on its own and that the government has no business getting involved. Proponents counter that until the very last establishment does away with the ingredient, the health risk demands legislation.

Sheila O’Grady, president of the Illinois Restaurant Association, said the government should butt out. Most in the industry voluntarily switched to more expensive alternatives a few years ago in response to consumer demand for healthier choices, she said. “In fact, in polling our members, we could not find a single operator still using trans fat oils today,” O’Grady said.

Artificial trans fats have no health benefits and the evidence linking them with heart disease is compelling, said Rep. La Shawn Ford, a Chicago Democrat who is a sponsor of the bill. His West Side district includes so-called “food deserts,” neighborhoods where it’s difficult to buy fresh fruits and vegetables or find restaurants with low-fat menu items.

New York City and King County in Washington state are among the jurisdictions with trans fat bans. Those laws, California’s ban, lawsuits, and the required labeling on packaged foods have led to an overall decline in trans fat in U.S. foods. Even fast-food chains, including McDonald’s, have reduced or eliminated them.

The bill has passed in the Illinois House and awaits consideration in the Senate.

Chicago Sun-Times article

Meeting News

 

 

IFT New York subsection holds golf outing in conjunction with Suppliers’ Day

Grab your clubs and join your fellow colleagues for NY and CNJIFT Third Annual Golf Outing on Tuesday, May 10 at Bunker Hill Golf Club in Princeton, NJ. Registration will begin at 11:30 a.m. with a shotgun start at 1:00 p.m. A Buffet Dinner will follow the fun on the links at approximately 6:00 p.m. in the clubhouse. The event is being held in conjunction with NYIFT Suppliers’ Day on Wednesday, May 11. More information and registration about both of these events can be found at www.nyiftsuppliersday.com or contact Gerri Cristantiello, NYIFT Office at 201-905-0090 or email her at nyiftoffice@optonline.net.

Dynamic or Static Isotherms—Why Not Both?

Join us for this IFT webcast for an evaluation of the Dynamic Vapor Sorption (DVS) and the Dynamic Dewpoint Isotherm (DDI) methods of testing product quality and stability. We’ll share real-world examples of why a moisture sorption instrument should be capable of using both methods.

In “Dynamic Isotherms vs. Static Isotherms: Which Is Better?,” participants will learn the advantages of having access to both static and dynamic methods within a single isotherm analysis, and examine actual data sets conducted using both methods on one sample.  Find out more about this webcast, free to IFT members.

IFT Annual Meeting & Food Expo: Advance Registration Deadline is this Friday, May 6

Don’t miss the best opportunity you’ll have all year to connect directly with your colleagues, explore new products from more than 900 suppliers, and interact with experts from around the world.

Here are five ways to maximize the value you’ll gain by attending…

  • Save money: Register by May 6 and save up to $100 on your registration.
  • Tailor your experience: Plan your Scientific Program session schedule in advance. Choose from more than 100 education sessions within 11 tracks that span the full spectrum of food science and technology.
  • Round out your education: If you’re a full paid Annual Meeting attendee, take advantage of complimentary access to two IFT webcasts presented in conjunction with the Scientific Program.
  • Add a Pre-Annual Meeting Short Course: Participate in one of IFT’s nine focused, interactive Pre-Annual Meeting Short Courses held the Friday and Saturday prior to the Annual Meeting.
  • Stay current on new products and trends: Explore the latest products from exhibitors in the Food Expo. Trend & Solution Tours and the What’s New! program can help you find what you’re looking for.

Register today!

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