Prevent mandatory recalls
Study: BPA never leaves the human body
Quebec cake maker fined for targeting children
Tuna downsizing is fishy for cooks
Kellogg tests square cereal boxes
Mars targets women with new candy


Prevent mandatory recalls

By Lisa McTigue Pierce
Editor-in-Chief


Everyone seems to be seeking that nebulous goal of extending shelf life-even for foods and beverages that enjoy quick turns or have limited distribution. The cost/benefit balances out when you’re able to deliver the freshest, tastiest product to consumers and they have such a positive experience that they immediately become a loyal and repeat customer.

Assuming your barrier packaging costs are in line, what could possibly be wrong with that? Well, the Center for Science in the Public Interest sees possible danger in the long shelf life of a product. I see a point, too, but not necessarily the one they make.

In a statement, Caroline Smith DeWaal, CSPI’s food safety director, says of the recent salmonella outbreak in peanut products, “Given the long shelf life of these peanut products, this outbreak may sicken and kill many more if the Food and Drug Administration does not act to effectively remove contaminated products from stores and facilities that may have them. Yet, without mandates for recall and few inspectors, the agency’s ability to protect the public is minimal.”

Our Regulatory Analysis columnist George Misko says that the new Obama administration might propose legislation that would give the Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture authority for mandatory recalls. That might help, but George reminds me that “it is the very rare case that a company refuses to cooperate with the FDA on a recall when a serious situation is afoot.”

So, sure, regulations may change how recalls are done in the future. That’s one of the points that Smith DeWaal proposes in her statement.

Here’s my point:

Once initial warnings of a contamination die down in the media, most people forget about the risk. But what if an older package of peanut butter crackers gets covered up in the pantry and doesn’t get eaten until weeks or months later?

Yes, the food industry needs to do recalls faster, easier and more completely-and track-and-trace packaging technologies can help. But packaging researchers and developers should also work harder to advance affordable anti-microbial solutions and active or intelligent packaging that can show or tell consumers when a product is contaminated and unsafe to eat.

Then food companies should use these products to help prevent costly recalls-mandatory or not.

TOP DEVELOPMENTS

Study: BPA never leaves the human body
Bisphenol A (BPA), an additive used extensively in metal can linings and other packaging, stays in the body significantly longer than previously thought, according to a new study.

Researchers from the University of Rochester (N.Y.) had 1,469 test subjects undergo a fast and then tested their urine for BPA residue. Scientists had previously thought that BPA disappeared from the body 24 hours after ingestion, but the Rochester study, published in Environmental Health Perspectives, reported that levels dropped over eight hours but then leveled off-and never disappeared. The Food and Drug Administration ruled last year that BPA is safe for all use, but the agency has been criticized for allegedly relying on studies founded by the chemical industry.

Quebec cake maker fined for targeting children
A consumer-protection agency in Canada’s Quebec province has won a judgment against a snack-cake processor for packaging, advertising and marketing that targets children. Saputo Inc., based in Montreal, was fined $36,000 (U.S.) for aggressively marketing its Igor snack cakes to children through ads and packaging that featured a cartoon gorilla. A court agreed with Quebec’s Office of Consumer Protection that Saputo violated a provincial law prohibiting advertising that targets children under 13. The Office of Consumer Protection has announced plans for similar charges against Burger King, McDonald’s and General Mills (for its Lucky Charms cereal).

Tuna downsizing is fishy for cooks
Downsized packaging has been an ongoing trend, but one of the latest examples has the potential to cause problems for home cooks. Major tuna fish brands like Bumble Bee and Chicken of the Sea have reduced standard can sizes from 6 to 5 ounces. The problem is that many recipes for tuna casserole and other dishes specify “one can of tuna” based on the 6-ounce size. Chefs are recommending that home cooks cut back on wet ingredients like mayonnaise and consider adding chopped vegetables or other solid ingredients to make up the difference.

NEW PACKAGES

Kellogg tests square cereal boxes
The Kellogg Co. is testing new boxes for its iconic corn flakes. The six-month test market in Detroit will gauge acceptance of the boxes, which hold the same amount of Kellogg’s Corn Flakes as existing cartons but come in a nearly square shape. The new boxes use space more efficiently both on store shelves and in consumers’ pantries, while reducing material use by about 8%. This marks the most significant innovation in Kellogg’s mainstream cereal boxes since the 1950s, according to a company statement.


Mars targets women with new candy
A new candy bar from Mars Snackfood U.S., available only in California this year, is using a feminine packaging design to emphasize its appeal to women. Fling candy fingers comprise a truffle-like filling on a layer of meringue, enrobed in chocolate. At 85 calories a finger, Fling is being positioned as a reasonable indulgence with the tagline, “Naughty but not that naughty.” Graphics on the flexible packaging reinforce the feminine orientation, with a cursive product name, pink-on-white color scheme and a delicate swirl-type design.