Astronomer Unveils Meteorite Wine

The Huffington Post is reporting that British winemaker and astronomer Ian Hutcheon has aged a red wine with a 4.5 billion-year-old meteorite. The grapes, picked from Hutcheon’s Chilean vineyard, were fermented for 25 days before the meteorite was marinated in the wine. The wine is currently only available at Hutcheon’s observatory in Chile, but he says he plans to export it.


FSMA: One Year Later

Lindsey Coblentz, Associate Editor

Last January, President Obama signed the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), the largest overhaul of the U.S. food safety system in decades. Since then, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has begun implementing various guidelines for the food industry.

As the FDA moves forward, it is important for the food industry to be aware of the agency’s progress, assistance that will be provided to companies and the challenges that face both the regulators and the companies affected by the new law.

According to the FDA, some of the major accomplishments of the agency since the passage of the FSMA include:

  • Issuing rules on criteria for administrative detention and rules on the prior notice of imported food
  • Issuing guidance to the seafood industry on food safety hazards
  • Inspecting the FSMA-required number of foreign food processors

Aiding With Compliance

One of the most important FDA developments since the passage of the FSMA has been the creation of The Food Safety Preventive Controls Alliance (FSPCA). The alliance was designed to help facilities maintain compliance under the new law, with a focus on developing effective food safety plans and identifying preventive controls to protect against potential hazards.

The FSPCA performs in conjunction with the Illinois Institute of Technology’s Institute for Food Safety and Health (IFSH). The alliance comprises of FDA members, local and state food protection agencies, the food industry and academia.

Some functions of the FSPCA include:

  • Designing a distance learning training portal at the IFSH campus in Bedford Park, Ill.
  • Creating a technical assistance network for small- and medium-sized companies
  • Assessing knowledge gaps and needs for further enhancement of preventive control measures

The Rulemaking Process

As the FDA continues to make progress towards implementing the required rules of the FSMA, it is important for food manufacturers to be aware of the agency’s rulemaking process. The FDA is currently utilizing a three-step process for FSMA implementation:

  • Rules are proposed and comments requested. The agency will issue a proposed rule, known as a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM). Comments are then requested from the public, with a time span anywhere from 30-90 days.
  • Comments are considered and the final rule is issued. Once the period for comments has ended, the FDA reviews them before issuing a final rule.
  • An effective date is determined. Once the final rule has been published, the agency establishes an effective date. The date on which companies must comply with the new regulation may be anywhere from six months to a year away from the final rule’s publication. In addition, small businesses may be granted exemptions or other accommodations.

Addressing Challenges

The enactment of the FSMA offers its own set of challenges for both regulators and the food industry. At the same time the bill was signed, the federal government came face-to-face with a budget crisis, and agencies like the FDA and the USDA were confronted with the possibilities of budget cuts. In fact, the USDA recently closed 259 offices as a cost-saving measure. Such cutbacks are cause for concern for food industry experts, who are wary of the impact this could have on food safety.

Though the FSMA calls for increased FDA inspections of food processing facilities, shrinking budgets may make it difficult for the agency to do so. The agency is currently only able to inspect about 1 percent of food manufacturers each year, with third party audits remaining as the top inspection method used by companies.

However, a recent congressional report calls the effectiveness of such audits into question. Some manufacturers involved in large food recalls, including Jensen Farms — the cantaloupe farm involved in a deadly Listeria outbreak last year — have been given “superior” ratings by their third party auditors prior to their recalls. As a result, Congress is calling on the FDA to closely monitor auditors, which are not currently monitored by the agency.

Food safety is of the utmost importance to food manufacturers, and third party audits can be a good investment. However, the release of this report presents a challenge for companies. Perhaps in the future, the FDA will be tasked with regulating third party audits; until then, processors should conduct thorough research regarding current and potential auditors to help guarantee their effectiveness.

It will be interesting to see what, if any, ancillary actions are taken by Congress and the FDA as FMSA regulations continue to be implemented. In the meantime, food processors should closely monitor regulatory news to ensure they are on top of the latest requirements.
What actions has your facility taken so far to comply with the FSMA? Let me know at

Texas Oysters Doomed By Disasters

A USA Today article covered the ever struggling Texas oyster industry, which has been decimated by one disaster after another, including Hurricane Ike in 2008, last year’s BP oil spill and the recent bloom of toxic algae.

A monster drought in the state has caused the algae to spread through the bays and islands along the Texas coast, prompting state health officials to close the entire coast for oyster harvesting before the season was set to open Nov. 1. So far the bloom has killed 4.5 million fish.

Prestige Oysters in San Leon, featured in Food Manufacturing‘s March 2011 issue, is feeling the effects of the algae. The plant usually sends 10 trailer trucks of oysters out a day, and now it’s down to four or five, with the majority of product coming from Louisiana.

Vice President Lisa Halili said in the USA Today article: “Between hurricanes, oil spills and now the red tide, the oysters have been beaten up pretty bad. There’s not going to be anything left alive out there.”

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Freaky Friday- October 2011

Krystal Gabert, Editor

After a summer hiatus, Freaky Friday has returned. On the last Friday of each month, Food Manufacturing looks back at the most surprising or unusual food-related stories of the month. Here are our top picks for October:

  1. The Associated Press strings together several studies and industry reports to reach a single conclusion: Americans eat bad-for-you food, even though they say they want healthy dining options.
  2. Denmark’s new “Hamburger Law” will impose taxes similar to U.S. “sin taxes” on cigarettes, but this time on products with saturated fat.
  3. We’re flush with stories on food recalls. Salmonella, Listeria, undeclared allergens. But here’s one you don’t read about too often: Kraft recalled Velveeta products after wire bristles were found in the “cheese.”
  4. Four Loko is in hot water again. This time the company has agreed to stop claiming that it’s product is akin to drinking “one or two” beers, when it’s actually closer to “four or five.” Truth in labeling is always a good thing, but Four Loko aficionados are likely well aware of the product’s effects.
  5. Ohio prison officials have removed pork from the menu in response to pressure from a Muslim inmates’ lawsuit demanding that all non-pork items be slaughtered according to Islamic law. Meanwhile, many Texas prisoners are being denied lunches altogether.
  6. Parents are freaking out over marijuana-leaf-shaped lollipops. “Legalize” is printed on the front of Pothead Lollipops packaging, but the treat’s most potent ingredient is sugar (or, more likely, high fructose corn syrup).
  7. Apparently diet soda isn’t dudely enough to capture the coveted man market, so Dr Pepper is going the 14-year old boy route and declaring, “no girls allowed!
  8. There are wire bristles in our Velveeta cups and, now, needles in our Whoppers. A Hawaii man claims to have come away from his Burger King Triple Stacker value meal with a bloody mouth and a needle in his small intestine. Remember when the value meal toy surprise used to be a cheap, plastic action figure?
  9. The long sad saga of Gregory Podlucky, former CEO of Le-Nature’s Inc. beverage company, has been capped off by the “longest prison sentence ever for a financial fraud.” He told the judge, “I am nothing but a filthy rag.”

Olive Garden Scare: Hundreds May Have Been Exposed To Hep A

An employee at a Fayetteville, North Carolina Olive Garden tested positive for Hepatitis A, possibly contaminating hundreds of customers with the illness. The Fayetteville Observer reported that hundreds of customers descended on the local health care clinic to receive a vaccination. The employee who started the scare has been sent home until a doctor deems it safe to return.

Photo by Flickr user williamhartz

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