Reversals on recalls dominate the news
Child-friendly graphics mask not-so-nice foods
Biofuels bite bigger than previously thought
Rigid plastic food packaging forecasted to increase
Swedish meatballs in pop-open pack
Rigid tray holds cheese slices


Reversals on recalls dominate the news

by Pan Demetrakakes
Executive Editor


July has seen two significant developments in food recalls.

Federal authorities have changed targets on the salmonella Saintpaul outbreak, now fingering jalapeño peppers as the culprit. Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will include retailers in announcements of foodborne illnesses caused by meat, reversing a long-standing policy.

Since the outbreak in April of a strain of salmonella called Saintpaul that sickened more than 1,200 people in 42 states, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had maintained that tomatoes were the cause. But the agency more or less absolved tomatoes this week, announcing that a genetic “fingerprint” linked the outbreak to a jalapeño pepper. The pepper came from a Mexican farm and was packed by a Texas company. The investigation into the exact source of the contamination is continuing.

The incident has left the U.S. tomato packing industry reeling, with lost sales estimated at more than $100 million for the season. At the height of the scare, the FDA warned against consumption of specific varieties of fresh tomatoes, many of which were pulled by grocers and restaurants.

“The damage has been done. I don't think we'll ever get over it,” Batista Madonia III, sales manager for East Coast Brokers & Packers, told USA Today.

The USDA has reversed a long-standing policy on meat recalls, announcing that it will now include the names of major food retailers where tainted goods are suspected to have been sold. The change will take effect next month after publication in the Federal Register.

Up to now, the USDA had identified recalled product only by lot numbers, which critics said were useless to consumers. Consumer groups applauded the move: “We're pleased that USDA will no longer keep consumers in the dark about recalled meat,” said a statement from the Consumers Union, which publishes Consumer Reports magazine.

Criticism came from industry groups, including the American Meat Institute, which said it “has the potential to mislead and confuse consumers.”

TOP DEVELOPMENTS

Child-friendly graphics mask not-so-nice foods
Foods marketed toward children are proving that looks can be deceiving, according to a study from the Canadian Council of Food and Nutrition. The study, which surveyed Canadian food packaging (excluding packaging for confections, soft drinks and bakery products) that had games or cartoon characters on them, showed that nine out of 10 were of poor nutritional quality. This was true even for products that had positive label claims such as “no artificial flavors” or “made with real fruit juice.”

Biofuels bite bigger than previously thought
Biofuels may be raising prices at the grocery store more than we’ve been told, according to former USDA chief economist Keith Collins in a report commissioned by Kraft Foods. While the Bush administration claimed that the increase in global food prices due to biofuels is 2% to 3%, Collins maintains that the actual number is between 23% and 35%. He argues that the Bush administration’s analysis only accounted for the impact of biofuels on corn, excluding other crops.

Rigid plastic food packaging forecasted to increase
North America’s rigid plastic food packaging market will exceed 17.2 billion pounds by 2013, due to a projected annual growth rate of 4.7%, according to a report by BCC Research. Polyethylene terephthalate is the dominant resin on the market, reaching 7 billion pounds in 2007, and expected to reach 9.5 billion pounds by 2013. As for expected volume by 2013, high-density polyethylene came in second at 3.2 billion pounds, followed by polystyrene at 2.4 billion pounds, and polypropylene at 1.6 billion pounds.

NEW PACKAGES

Swedish meatballs in pop-open pack
A Swedish food processor is packing its ready-to-eat meatballs in flexible packaging that is easy to open and reseal. HK Scan markets Delikatessköttbullar (“delicatessen meatballs”) in a flexible packaging system from Amcor Flexibles, trade-named “PushPop.” Consumers can push in the perforated top panel to open the package, then reclose it with a label that peels from the bottom of the package. With its flat top and bottom panels, the package can also be easily stacked.








Rigid tray holds cheese slices
Cheese slices in rigid trays are now being marketed by Tillamook Cheese, Tillamook, Ore. The company offers seven varieties of shingled cheese in the 8-ounce, gas-flushed packages, which comprise a polypropylene tray and a polystyrene lid. The packaging snaps shut to assure consumers of a secure seal, while maintaining an attractive display and offering retailers several merchandising options.