Report from Pack/Process Expo 2007

Food safety and sustainability were the hot topics at this annual exhibition.

By Food Processing Staff

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Coming on the heels of several food safety crises, two of the three keynote speeches at co-located Pack Expo and Process Expo in mid-October were on food safety, not on efforts at being green or sustainable or on other packaging issues.

However, much of the talk on the show floor was about those issues as well as energy savings, as the combined shows set new records for attendance (visitors were up 10 percent over the 2006 show to 23,960), exhibiting companies (1,776) and exhibit space (701,326 sq. ft.)

"We're not really facing a crisis, but we are facing a challenge." That was how Cal Dooley, president/CEO of the Grocery Manufacturers Assn., summed up the recent food safety problems posed by ground beef, frozen pot pies, chili sauce, pet food and spinach.

Dooley, formerly both a farmer and a U.S. representative, delivered the keynote address on the opening day (Oct. 15) of the Pack Expo/Process Expo twin shows in Las Vegas. With the Topps ground beef and ConAgra pot pie recalls just about a week old, his speech, "Consumer confidence: A shared objective of the consumer packaged goods industry and policy makers," was very timely.

Recalls are costly, he noted, and that makes them a big motivation for processors to practice food safety. Recent recalls he noted and their costs:

  • ConAgra peanut butter: $66 million
  • Spinach: $25-50 million
  • Pet food: $40+ million
  • Chili sauce: $35 million
  • Topps ground beef: $31 million

With increased concern about imported goods, GMA has proposed to Congress "The four pillars of food safety":

  • A mandatory foreign supplier quality-assurance program
  • A voluntary qualified importer food safety program
  • Capacity-building with a foreign focus (expand the capacity of foreign governments and their food safety agencies to prevent and detect food problems)
  • Capacity-building with U.S. border focus (to increase import inspection or control)

"But you can't inspect your way out of this problem," Dooley concluded. "The focus must be on prevention."

John Luke, chairman/CEO of MeadWestvaco Corp., delivered the second day's keynote on brand sustainability. He discussed his company's sustainability efforts and challenged others to take a holistic look at sustainability to ensure that industry moves beyond the simple construct of "reuse, reduce and recycle."

The final keynoter was David Acheson, FDA's asst. commissioner of food protection. Speaking just days before the agency unveiled its Food Protection Plan, he could offer no great insights or specifics – except to say FDA recognizes, "It's time for a new approach. We must move from being reactive to proactive."

Among new products introduced at the show:

Silverson Machines Inc. (www.silverson.com) showed the ultrasanitary version of its in-line mixer. The company claims it's the only mixer to carry the new EHEDG (European Hygienic Engineering and Design Group) certification, a European stamp of approval.

Yaskawa Electric (www.yaskawa.com) demonstrated its compatibility with the IEC61131-3 international standard for communication among programmable controls with its MotionWorks IEC software and MP2300Siec controller – which features EtherNet/IP, Modbus TCP/IP and Mechatrolink network connectivity. Also new was the Sigma 5 servomotors and amplifiers, with improved positioning accuracy.

Piab (www.piab.com) showed its C-Series of hygienic vacuum conveyors for powder and bulk applications. Also, its VGS series of products is comprised of three vacuum gripper system sizes, which allow users to increase productivity and lower operating costs with varying levels of vacuum flow for palletizing and pick-and-place.

FluoRaptor is the new fluorescence-sensing laser sorter from Key Technology (www.key.net). It detects and removes defects, extraneous vegetable matter and foreign material based on differing levels of chlorophyll as well as color, size and shape. It uses a powerful laser as well as Key's proprietary color cameras, especially for fresh and frozen cut vegetables.

Pekka Ronka, new president of Thermo Fisher Scientific (www.thermo.com), was on hand to explain Fisher Scientific's recent acquisition by Thermo Electron's year-old acquisition. On display were the PoweRx X-ray inspection system, VersaWeigh checkweigher and Apex 500 metal detector.

Small batch chocolate-making is a little easier with ChocoEasy, Netzsch's (www.netzschusa.com) compact system that combines fine grinding, dry conching and liquid conching. Savings come in energy, floor space and labor.

Flexicon (www.flexicon.com) showed a manual dumping station for pneumatic conveyors. It collects dust created during manual dumping of powder and bulk solid materials.

Lantech (www.lantech.com) displayed what it called the world's fastest stretch-wrapper. The RS6000 Ring Straddle machine can wrap a pallet in 20 seconds with no break of even a thin film – Lantech claims that last point is a first.

FreeWeigh.net version 5 SQC suite is software from Mettler Toledo, which can monitor security, compliance and quality for things such as audit trail requirements. It can be integrated with the company's Hi-Speed X series of checkweighers.

Eriez Magnetics (www.eriez.com) introduced the EZTecXR inspection system, a cabinet X-ray system that uses advanced linear array technology for greater sensitivity, speed and sophistication.

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