Traceability to enhance egg safety
Eggs are one of the five most likely targets for agro-terrorism, according to the U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security. Radio Foods LLC, Watertown, Mass., has enacted a new Egg Safety Action Plan including Consumer Group and Homeland Security-recommended technology with its Born Free® Eggs.

There are five main elements in the plan: traceability and freshness etching; young hen vaccinations; flock testing; lower settings for crack tolerance; and see-through packaging with a tamper-evident option.

The company has partnered with EggFusion Inc., which provides USDA-authorized procedures for applying permanent, tamper-evident, laser-etched freshness and traceability codes on the surface of eggshells.

These codes are said to help consumers determine the freshness of each egg by allowing consumers and government officials to trace an egg to its source. A light beam etches the code onto the shell of each egg during the packing process, removing less than 10% of the layer of the egg shell at the site of the mark. The process does not affect the content of the egg or the strength of the shell.

Additional parts of the plan include vaccinating young hens against Salmonella Enteriditis (SE) to reduce the incidence of this from occurring in the eggs from these hens. The flocks are also continuously tested for SE. The plan requires lower settings on crack-checking equipment to reduce the number of cracked eggs that reach retail locations. A clear egg carton provides protection of the egg shell, a full view of the eggs, and an option for a tamper-evident seal.

House passes ‘Cheeseburger Bill’
The U.S. House of Representatives on October 19 passed a bill that would ban lawsuits against the food industry brought by people who claim that the food or beverages made them obese, caused them to gain weight, or contributed to obesity- and weight-related diseases or illnesses

While the Personal Responsibility in Food Consumption Act (H.R. 554), commonly known as the "Cheeseburger Bill," prohibits these types of lawsuits against food manufacturers, marketers, distributors, advertisers, sellers, and trade associations, it does not prevent people from bringing lawsuits against the food industry if they suffer an injury as the result of tainted food, deceptive advertising practices, or misleading or incorrect labeling. The bill passed with a vote of 306 to 120. A companion bill is still pending in the Senate.

EU adopts rules to reduce bird flu risk
The European Union member states have unanimously endorsed measures proposed by the European Commission to reduce the risk of avian influenza into EU poultry farms. Action is needed to strengthen biosecurity measures on farms and introduce early detection systems in high-risk areas such as wetlands or farms along migratory flyways.

Member states will be required to take appropriate steps to reduce the risk of avian influenza being spread from wild birds to domestic birds, including keeping poultry indoors in high-risk areas. Owners or keepers will be required to immediately report any sign of avian influenza in poultry or other captive birds to the national veterinary authorities. Some of the signs are a drop in egg production or increased mortality rates.

Additionally, member states will be responsible for identifying the high-risk area in their territory and ensuring that the appropriate measures to separate wild birds from domesticated birds are implemented as soon as possible.

Spray may boost vitamin levels
Scientists at the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service are studying the effects of a potassium spray on the levels of beta-carotene and vitamin C levels in melons.

Gene Lester, a postharvest plant physiologist in the ARS Crop Quality and Fruit Insects Research Unit at Weslaco, Texas, has studied the effects of spraying potassium on melons during fruit growth. He has found in greenhouse and field studies on popular commercial melon varieties that applying potassium during fruit development greatly increased the fruit’s level of beta-carotene. Foliar application of potassium also aided the plant’s photosynthesis, which increased the fruit’s sugar content. This raised levels of vitamin C in the melons.

Lester and Mike Grusak, a plant physiologist at the USDA-ARS Children’s Nutrition Research Center in Houston, Texas, collaborated on research of calcium applications for honeydews and cantaloupes on the vine as a supplement or alternative to postharvest treatments to improve disease resistance, preserve quality, and increase shelf life.

Their research has shown that potassium and calcium can be applied together to make a firmer, more nutritious melon that can tolerate longer storage.

Updated Food Code includes allergens
The 2005 edition of the Food Code is now available from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. It contains the latest science-based information on food safety for food service and retail industries and is used voluntarily as a reference by nearly 3,000 regulatory agencies that oversee food safety in restaurants, grocery stores, nursing homes, and other institutional and retail settings.

The most significant changes to the code are a definition for major food allergen that is consistent with the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004; an amended definition of potentially hazardous food to reflect those that could allow pathogenic microorganism growth or toxin formation; added new controls and operations for reduced oxygen packaging; refocused date-marking provisions on foods that present a higher risk of contamination; and updated employee health provisions to include better ways to protect public health.

Copies of the 2005 Food Code are available at

Listeria presents a persistent problem
Which foodborne pathogen presents the most pressing problem for the food industry? It’s Listeria, according to a recent poll of IFT members and Food Technology readers. Nearly 29% of respondents ranked Listeria as the top foodborne pathogen problem, followed by Salmonella (18.3%), E. coli 0157:H7 (16.3%), Clostridium botulinum (9.2%), Campylobacter (9.2%), and Staphylococcus aureus (6.5%).

For more information on Listeria, see article "Controlling Listeria in the Food Processing Environment" on pp. 36–42. 

MyPyramid for Kids debuts
U.S. Dept. of Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns recently unveiled a version of the new MyPyramid Food Guidance System called MyPyramid for Kids.

The new version provides age-appropriate information about the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the MyPyramid Food Guidance System released earlier this year. The MyPyramid for Kids symbol represents the recommended proportion of food from each food group, and the promotion of daily physical activity is prominent. The guidance system geared toward children includes the new symbol, an interactive game, lesson plans, posters and flyers, worksheets, and valuable tips for parents and educators.

The interactive computer game, MyPyramid Blast Off, was designed to help reinforce the key concepts of MyPyramid for Kids by challenging students to select a healthy variety of foods and physical activities to fuel their rockets. The lesson plans provide nutrition and physical activity information that can be included in math, science, health, language arts, and physical education curricula for elementary school students. Included in the lesson plans are learning assignments and handouts that instruct students to choose healthier foods from each group on the pyramid, eat foods from every food group every day, and exercise every day.

Visit for information about the program and the resources that accompany it.

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by Karen Banasiak,
Assistant Editor 
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