Food safety is 'top of mind' for retailers

CIES, an international forum for major food-industry executives throughout the world, conducted its 7th annual "Top of Mind" survey of retailers and manufacturers. The results showed that each segment has slightly different priorities.

Retailers ranked their top-10 "top of mind" issues as follows:
1. Food safety/security
2. Customer loyalty and retention
3. The "food offer" (formats, services, assortment)
4. The global recession
5. The internationalization of food retailing
6. The retailer as a brand
7. Technical standards/supply chain-efficiency
8. Employee recruitment and retention
9. Environment/sustainable development
10. Business-to-business global Internet exchanges

Manufacturers ranked their top-10 "top of mind" issues as follows:
1. The internationalization of food retailing
2. Customer loyalty/ retention
3. Food safety/ security
4. Technical standards/ supply chain efficiency
5. The "food offer" (formats, services, assortment)
6. The retailer as a brand
7. Business-to-business global Internet exchanges
8. The global recession
9. Employee recruitment and retention
10. Environment/ sustainable development

Decontamination foam may help food safety battle (Food Safety)

A new foam product that has been found to kill anthrax spores also is being tested to kill such foodborne pathogens as E. coli O157:H7, Salmonella, Listeria, Staphylococcus and Pseudomonas (a spoilage organism) that may persist on equipment used to process food.

Kansas State University researchers are testing the foam, developed by Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, N.M. The product is nontoxic and noncorrosive and looks like shaving cream. It may also be used to sanitize meatcutters' protective equipment or possibly animal-production units.

Sandia Labs developed the foam to decontaminate tanks and other military equipment that might be exposed to biological-warfare agents. Jill Bieker, a Kansas State graduate student who is conducting the testing of the product, said early work reveals a "100-percent reduction" of unattached cells of common foodborne pathogens. But, she notes the product's real test will come when it's evaluated against cells that have attached themselves to hard surfaces in an environment in what is called a biofilm.

"Once microorganisms form biofilms, they may become up to 500 times more resistant to commonly used sanitizers," Bieker says.

The initial stage of Kansas State's study will take nine to 12 months. The foam product needs regulatory approval before it can expand its use. Sandia Labs has licensed the product through a private company, which is promoting its use against anthrax.

'Quick Chick' satisfies on-the-go consumers (Retail)

A new chicken product called Quick Chick is designed specifically for today's on-the-go consumer shopping at America's supermarkets. The fresh, raw whole chicken is packaged in a plastic bag and can be cooked in a microwave in 25 minutes or prepared in a conventional oven in an hour.

In the microwave, the Quick Chick bag expands like a bag of popcorn. The temperature inside the bag gets up to 450° in about 18 minutes. Then the polyester sack begins to vent heat and steam to prevent overcooking.

Quick Chick isn't a new product as much as it is a new packaging and delivery system for an existing product - Smart Chicken. MBA Brand Poultry based in Tecumseh, Neb., already introduced Smart Chicken, the country's first air-chilled chicken, to the retail market. The process of cooling chickens is usually done in a water bath.

Nutraceuticals present opportunity to sell milk (Nutrition)

Initial findings from a checkoff-funded study reveal consumers are interested in milk-based nutraceuticals foods that provide health benefits beyond basic nutrition. Ingredients topping their wish list to add to milk include: caffeine, glucosamine, and vitamins C and E. Increasing consumer interest in nutraceuticals opens new doors to increase the sale of milk-based products. Industry response needs to be quick, much quicker than the time it took to develop single-serve round plastic containers for on-the-go consumers.

Activated lactoferrin approved for fresh beef (Food Safety)

In an effort to protect fresh beef against E. coli O157:H7 and other foodborne bacteria, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has approved the use of activated lactoferrin on fresh beef. Lactoferrin is a protein found naturally within biological fluids, such as milk and saliva, at mucosal surfaces and within white blood cells. The technology is unique in that it prevents pathogenic bacteria from attaching to meat surfaces, in addition to preventing growth.

A joint venture between Farmland National Beef and DMV International, aLF Ventures, holds the worldwide exclusive rights to activated lactoferrin for use in food safety. Farmland National Beef expects to be the first company to offer fresh beef protected by activated lactoferrin, once final application systems development and testing is completed.

Berkshire breeders, Pork board develop certification guide (Production)

Pork producers across the United States can look forward to a handbook designed to guide them through the process of developing certifiable standards for their hogs. The National Pork Board and the American Berkshire Association are working together to develop the handbook titled "A Pork Producer's Guide to AMS Certification."

The U.S. Department of Agriculture-Agriculture Marketing Service provides third-party verification of processing standards for pork producers. This handbook, expected to be released in early 2003, will walk producers through the process. By getting third-party process verification, it will be easier for producers to market their products.

Trends for 2002 (Trends)

The Chicago Tribune developed a list of trends to look for in the year to come. The following are some excerpts from the list:
1. Americans will continue to purchase organic foods but not always at their local grocery store. Organic product sales totaled $7.8 billion in 2000, according to the Food Marketing Institute. Sixty-nine percent said they purchased their products at their primary supermarket. However, the Organic Trade Association reports that mass-market supermarkets only account for 45 percent of organic sales.

2.With the recession underway, more meals are expected to be prepared at home. In an ongoing effort to save time, consumers will turn to fix-it-fast meal kits. These shelf-stable foods (which don't require refrigeration) will fill the supermarket aisles. Side dishes are also on their way out; instead, consumers will prepare stir-frys, stews and casseroles.

3.Home cooks will continue to yearn for the foods of yesteryear. Things Grandma used to make will top the lists: stews, meat loaf, roast chicken, mashed potatoes and layer cakes. Along with this trend, cooking schools will continue to be popular as more consumers are fulfilling the desire to learn how to cook.

4.Self-serve supermarkets will become more common. In an effort to satisfy the customer's hurried lifestyle, supermarkets will install self-checkout stations to help get them in and out of the stores.

5.On restaurant menus, look for some high-ticket ingredients replaced by less costly alternatives. For example, lamb shank instead of rack of lamb or chicken instead of duck. Look, too, for more daily special items such as filled omelets and hearty soups that allow chefs to recycle ingredients.