First World Congress on Food Irradiation held

The First World Congress on Food Irradiation, “Meeting the Challenges of Food Safety and Trade,” kicked off its inaugural conference in Chicago May 5–7.

The goal of the congress was to examine and assess the global situation and outlook on the use of irradiation as a sanitary and phytosanitary treatment; major markets and major trends; technological developments—irradiation facilities, new products, value addition, and quality assurance; investment opportunities; and commercial food irradiators.

The event was sponsored by the National Food Safety & Toxicology Center at Michigan State University, Food Marketing Institute, Grocery Manufacturers of America, International Union of Food Science and Technology, and IFT.

U.S. Dept. of Agriculture Undersecretary for Food Safety Elsa Murano was the event’s keynote speaker. She discussed the role of food irradiation in food safety and stated that irradiation is one of the most effective tools in killing foodborne pathogens on meat and poultry products.

The conference also featured national and international experts who spoke about the latest information on food irradiation and how it can be implemented as a food safety measure and a quarantine measure to meet trade requirements. They also spoke on how to expand businesses and enter new markets.

Attendees were able to meet representatives from top companies in food irradiation, including irradiation service providers, irradiated-food producers, food processors, retailers, and companies which have already marketed irradiated food. Attendees were also able to tour a commercial food irradiator in operation. For more information on the congress, visit

FMI report identifies supermarket consumers’ concerns
With the recent war in Iraq, a struggling U.S. economy, and the threat of terrorism still in the air, American consumers continue to incorporate economizing behaviors in their weekly shopping routines. This is according to Trends in the United States: Consumer Attitudes and the Supermarket 2003, a report released by the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) at its annual conference in Chicago in May. The report also states that consumers’ interest in nutrition is increasing, as is their awareness of food safety issues. Consumers continue to demonstrate money-saving behaviors such as clipping coupons, reviewing advertising specials, comparing prices at different supermarkets, participating in frequent-shopper programs, and stocking up on sale items. Budget-conscious consumers also report more shopping visits to alternative formats, such as dollar stores and warehouse clubs, to maximize the value of their food dollars. As a result, the percentage of food dollars spent at their primary store declined from 89% to 82% last year.

The report found that consumers spent an average of $91 per week on groceries for their household, ranging from $52 for one person to $138 for households of five or more people, nearly unchanged from 2001 after adjusting for inflation. Overall, shoppers remain very satisfied with their primary supermarkets, giving their stores an average rating of 8.1 on a 10-point scale where 1 is poor and 10 is excellent. Two-thirds (66%) of shoppers said that they would definitely recommend their primary store to a newcomer in 2003.

The top two features consumers rank as very important in selecting a supermarket are a clean, neat store and high-quality produce. The importance of high-quality meats, normally one of the top three features, declined from 84% to 81% and fell to fourth place, replaced by low prices at 83%. Other features deemed very important by shoppers include use-before/sell-by dates, convenient location, courteous/friendly employees, accurate shelf tags, items on sale or money-saving specials, store layout that makes it easy to shop, personal safety outside the store, and fast checkout. The overall number of weekly shopping visits has remained virtually constant for the past 17 years. A typical shopper makes 2.2 visits to a supermarket each week, including an average of 1.7 visits to his or her primary supermarket. However,18% of shoppers identified an alternative format retailer as their primary source of food purchases, perhaps indicating a continuing decline in shopper loyalty to traditional supermarkets.

Smithsonian exhibit explores American food traditions
The food on the American table may not define what we are as a nation, but the diverse and evolving traditions surrounding our food speaks volumes about who we are.

Key Ingredients: America by Food, a new Smithsonian traveling exhibition, delves into the historical, regional, and social traditions that merge in everyday meals and celebrations of the American table. It is the newest exhibition from Museum on Main Street, a partnership of the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service and state humanities councils. The exhibit will be on view at the Museum of the San Rafael in Castle Dale, Utah, until June 27; a second show will be open at the West Chicago City Museum in West Chicago,Ill., until July 12.

Key Ingredients examines how culture, ethnicity, class, landscape, and tradition influence the foods and flavors we enjoy across the nation through a selection of artifacts, photographs, and illustrations. The exhibit also looks at the evolution of the American kitchen and how food industries have responded to the technological innovations that have enabled Americans to choose an ever-wider variety of frozen, prepared, and fresh foods. It also addresses the entrepreneurial spirit on which many food production companies are based, such as food pioneers Heinz, Campbell, and Borden.

An interactive Web site,, has been developed in conjunction with the exhibition. The site invites people across the country to share their family recipes and food stories, learn about other food traditions, and identify favorite small-town eateries.

Exhibition descriptions and tour schedules are available at

Archibald Candy Corp., a Chicago-based manufacturer and marketer of boxed chocolates and other confectionery items under the Fannie May, Fanny Farmer, and Laura Secord brand names, plans to sell its Laura Secord subsidiary. The company hired Paragon Capital Partners LLC in April as its advisor to explore strategic alternatives for Laura Secord, which was founded in 1913 and sold to Archibald from Nestlé Canada in1999. Laura Secord is a well-known Canadian chocolates, ice cream, and confectionery manufacturer and retailer with a reputation for high quality, taste, and innovative products.

Pasta manufacturer Barilla’s new tortellini line received the Research Chefs Association’s Culinology Innovation Award for Most Innovative Retail Product of the Year at the association’s annual conference in March. The award recognizes superior food products that have been developed through an exemplary combination of culinary and technological expertise. Barilla’s use of fine ingredients paired with its unique, proprietary manufacturing and drying technologies has allowed the company to offer consumers a convenient, dry tortellini product that is comparable in quality and taste with fresh tortellini. The 9-oz packages come in six flavor varieties: Three Cheese, Asparagus, Spinach, Porcini Mushroom, Garlic and Cheese, and Four Cheese. The Barilla Group is based in Bannockburn, Ill.

Japanese food manufacturer Kikkoman selected technology research consulting firm TIAX, based in Cambridge, Mass., in March to create a new line of beverages, nutrition bars, and breakfast cereals containing Kikkoman’s branded grape seed extract, Gravinol®. Grape seed extract has been identified as an antioxidant that can aid in the prevention of heart disease and cancer. As one of the largest producers of wine in Japan, Kikkoman began producing Gravinol to make use of the grape by-product which accumulates at its vineyards in Argentina. One of the major challenges the food and dietary supplement industries have faced in adding grape seed extract to products is masking its bitterness and rough mouthfeel. TIAX has been charged with masking the bitter flavor and grape aroma associated with the extract to incorporate it into several different food products that contain an adequate daily intake of Gravinol (50 mg/serving of the active material proanthocyanidins) that would appeal to food manufacturers and consumers.

MGP Ingredients Inc., based in Atchison, Kans., is planning a $3.8-million expansion project at its Kansas City, Kans., plant. Expected to be completed by March 2004, the expansion will involve the installation of additional equipment to extend the company’s line of Wheatex textured wheat proteins and other

Assistant Editor