Senate, House both seek food safety fixes
100-calorie packs cut snack consumption in study
Kraft to play conservative on innovation
Pallet fire safety regs under attack
‘Crush cup’ for yogurt obviates spoon
Shrink label provides full coverage


Senate, House both seek food safety fixes

by Pan Demetrakakes
Executive Editor

As America struggles to cope with the peanut salmonella outbreak, the government’s approach to food safety is coming in for more scrutiny.

Eight U.S. senators, four Democrats and four Republicans, have introduced legislation to expand the powers of government regulators to inspect food plants and access safety test results. The bill’s sponsors include Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, the state where tainted peanut products were produced and shipped by Peanut Corp. of America. The Senate legislation calls for increased inspection of food plants and would require all plants to have a food-hazard prevention plan, similar to the plans currently required at meat processing plants.

Meanwhile, a bill has been introduced in the House to split the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) into two agencies, one to conduct food safety inspections and one to regulate drugs and medical devices.

“As a result of the failure of giving Food and Drug the resources it needs, people are dying,” U.S. Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.) told The New York Times.

The Obama administration recently nominated Margaret Hamburg as FDA commissioner. Hamburg has held a variety of public-health posts, including chief health officer of New York City and assistant secretary for planning and evaluation at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. In addition, Joshua Sharfstein, health commissioner for Baltimore, has been nominated as the FDA’s principal deputy commissioner.

TOP DEVELOPMENTS

100-calorie packs cut snack consumption in study
Reducing the size of packaging for snacks leads consumers to decrease consumption, according to a new study.

University of Colorado researchers studied the consumption habits of 59 participants who spent two weeks eating snacks from either standard-size packages or 100-calorie packs. They were randomly chosen to spend the first week on one type of package, then switch to the other. Over the course of the study, the group that began with 100-calorie packs consumed an average of 13 ounces less than the other group. Writing in the research journal Appetite, researchers suggested that the 100-calorie packs conferred awareness of proper portion sizes, which carried over when the subjects switched to standard-size packages.

Kraft to play conservative on innovation
Despite previously stated goals of innovation, Kraft Foods will slow down on introducing new products as a response to the tough economy, CEO Irene Rosenfeld said in a recent interview.

Innovation with products like Oscar Mayer microwavable sandwiches had fueled sales growth of 26% from 2006 to 2008. However, Rosenfeld told Crain’s Chicago Business that for the immediate future, the company will concentrate on line and brand extensions in established products like cookies, salad dressings and coffee. Kraft reported a sales decline of 5.2% in the fourth quarter of 2008.

Pallet fire safety regs under attack
Manufacturers and users of wooden pallets are pushing back against a proposal to require more stringent fire safeguards for pallet storage. The National Association of State Fire Marshals is considering increasing the level of sprinkler protection needed in areas of plants where pallets are stored. The NASFM’s reasoning is that pallet wood is increasingly made from sawdust and wood chips held together with adhesive, which is more combustible than hardwood.

The National Wooden Pallet and Container Association counters that evidence of any increased danger is lacking, and that upgrading sprinkler systems would be prohibitively expensive in many cases.

NEW PACKAGES

‘Crush cup’ for yogurt obviates spoon
A new cup design allows children and others to eat Dannon yogurt without a spoon. Danimals Crush Cup, rolled out nationwide in mid-January, features a pleat in the middle that allows consumers to expel the product by squeezing the cup. The 4-ounce polystyrene cups are thermoformed on-site and filled on an established line, with a new mold being the only major modification, according to a Dannon spokesperson.

Shrink label provides full coverage
Harvest Time Foods has redesigned its Annie’s organic/natural soup base products with full-coverage shrink sleeve labels. The labels, from the Seal-It division of Printpack, are five- and six-color flexo-printed vinyl. They provide tamper evidence by extending over the top of the container, with a perforation that allows the cap to be removed while the label stays in place. The new labels replace a paper label and inner seal.