Advancements in valve bags have provided European mills and flour manufacturers with a competitive advantage that many Australian dry bulk food manufacturers are yet to realise. Alan Arbotante explains.
In years past, manufacturers of dry bulk food products have shied away from valve bags, which were known for being messy and failing to provide reliable seals. As a result, open mouth bags gained popularity. But in recent years, many European mills and flour manufacturers have switched to valve bags. Despite the shift from open mouth bags to valve bags for packaging dry bulk food materials in Europe, few Australian mills and flour manufacturers have followed suit.
Here, we take a closer look at the latest valve bag packaging advancements and their applications in dry bulk food packaging to help manufacturers stay up to speed on the latest developments.
Dust prevention advancements
Even though there are numerous state-of-the-art dust collection systems on the market, the best way to keep dry food packaging facilities clean is to control dust at its source. Much of the dust created in facilities is created when bags are transported to a sealer after being filled. For packaging machines that have only one sealer downstream, such as a single sewing machine, the time between when a bag is filled and when it is sealed creates an opportunity for product to escape the package.
An improved dust-free way to package dry bulk food products is to keep the bag at the spout and seal it while at the spout. With the small opening of valve bags, sealing at the spout is possible. Using a filling spout with an inflatable sleeve that seals the area around the bag opening, advanced valve bag packaging machines are capable of producing a hermetically sealed closure with dust-free filling. However, be aware that some valve bag filling machines may appear to seal at the spout, but often the bag is removed from the spout and discharged, then it is sealed. This allows product to escape into the air before the bag is fully sealed.
Some of the earliest valve bags were self-sealing. Self-sealing bags are held closed by the force of the product in the bag, but they do not provide a food grade seal. Today, the most advanced sealing process for valve bags is ultrasonic sealing, which creates a hermetic seal that prevents the flow of air and moisture into a package.
Ultrasonic sealing uses high frequency sound waves that melt the plastic film bag material by vibrating the molecules to a point where heat is generated from the inside out. Even though ultrasonic sealing produces enough heat to seal a bag, it does not generate external heat like traditional heat sealers. In fact, the seal is cool to the touch immediately after sealing. Reducing the amount of external heat that is produced during sealing reduces facility cooling costs. Since the seal area is smaller than open mouth bags, an ultrasonic seal on a valve bag is also more consistent and secure than traditional seals used for open mouth bags, such as sewn seals. The process of sewing a bag creates holes in the packaging, which allows air and vermin to enter the bag. With ultrasonic sealing, no punctures have to be made in the bag to create a seal.
Palletising and storing advancements
Valve bag machines with pneumatic, vertical impeller, horizontal impeller and auger filling options provide more control over the densification and de-aeration of product, which ultimately impacts palletising and storage. Valve bag filling produces increased product compaction by filling bags to maximum capacity. This complete filling of a bag creates a block-shaped bag that is easier to stack and store. Block-shaped bags are also less likely to shift during transport and they are also easier to move with robotic grippers.
Valve bag filling has a reputation for being slower than open mouth bag filling, but advancements have made valve bag filling faster than traditional open mouth bag filling for packaging dry bulk food materials. High capacity multi-spout valve bag filling machines are capable of producing more than 1,600 50kg bags per hour and more than 2,000 25kg bags per hour.
In addition, valve bag packaging machines with sealers at each spout minimises downtime. If a sealer needs maintenance on a multi-spout machine with only one sealer, production stops completely. Sealers at each spout allow production to continue even if one sealer is offline due to maintenance. Today’s valve bag packaging machines are also capable of filling bags of a wide range of sizes between 10kg and 50kg, which reduces changeover times.
The bag packaging process is an essential part of the value-added chain in the dry bulk food industry, especially the flour industry. The use of valve bags as a replacement for the well-known open mouth bags is now a more feasible option than years prior. Only when the right packaging material is combined with optimum filling technology, can food manufacturers reach the best results in today’s competitive marketplace.
[Alan Arbotante is sales manager at Haver & Boecker Australia]
More about Alan Arbotante, Sales Manager, HAVER & BOECKER Australia
Alan Arbotante is a sales manager at HAVER & BOECKER Australia (www.haveraustralia.com.au), a wholly owned subsidiary of German-based HAVER & BOECKER (www.haverboecker.com), a leading developer and manufacturer of processing and packing technology for the minerals, chemicals and building materials industries. Alan has more than 20 years of sales experience with expertise in material handling, weighing, and filling and classification technology. Alan is committed to providing innovative solutions of diversified packing machines and bulk handling system to various industrial manufacturers throughout Australia, New Zealand, Oceania and Papua New Guinea.
Companies around the world are exploring blockchain, the technology underpinning digital currency bitcoin. In this Blockchain unleashed series, we investigate the many possible use cases for the blockchain, from the novel to the transformative.
If the food industry is not in crisis, it certainly contains an increasing level of complexity and associated risks. A recent analysis suggested 50% of US food production is wasted, with global estimates above 30%.
Retailers want perfect produce, leading to wastage occurring throughout the food supply chain. They also seek low prices, leading to industrialisation of processes.
Food scares such as mad cow disease (BSE) and cross contamination mean many consumers have less trust in their food, increasingly seeking information on authenticity and production practices.
Over 80% of antibiotics used in the US are used in food production. Farming practices lead to environmental issues and may exacerbate to climate change. Alternate “real world” models are being developed to address some of these issues. For instance, farmers’ markets can reduce food miles, and demonstrate localism. Gleaning, where people collect leftover crops from farmers’ fields after they have been commercially harvested, is becoming popular. There is ever increasing legislation and standards, though these tend to be national or regional, and often onerous to implement.
Recent developments in the digital economy could help. Among these are a growing use of sensors providing information to allow more intelligent practices to reduce costs and improve flexibility. Real time temperature monitoring and smart fridges in homes can help reduce waste. But a relatively new innovation, the blockchain, is seen by many as offering significant opportunities within agricultural supply chains.
Blockchains are the technology that underpin cryptocurrencies like bitcoin, but they have uses other than currencies. They record information in a distributed ledger in a way that is both secure and immutable; by being distributed among many users these ledgers are resilient with no single point of failure, and they can be (depending on design), transparent to all users.
Blockchains and trust
Described by the Economist as “the trust machine”, blockchains provide supply chain transparency and data integrity, allowing a visible assurance of authenticity.
A number of startups are exploring the potential for blockchains in agriculture. Most notable is Provenance.org, a small UK B2B software startup using the blockchain to establish the authenticity of high value goods, including food. They are experimenting with proving the supply chain of tuna caught in Indonesia being delivered to Japanese restaurants. They will use information on sensors or RFID tags and local certification, recorded in the blockchain, to track the fish along its journey from “hook to fork”; creating in the words of one of their founders, a “reputation system”.
Other software firms are developing similar off the shelf solutions for global tracking. Innovators are researching ways in which DNA can be recorded and tagged to an animal, and recorded in the blockchain. This information can easily be made available to end users and customers using mobile phones and apps.
BlockCrushr Labs is a Canadian startup addressing issues of local food poverty and is using the currency and transparency aspects of blockchain technology to increase donations to homeless people, and also to ensure these donations are responsibly spent.
Farmshare is using blockchain to evolve community-supported agriculture, where a local “currency” can be used to purchase locally produced food within a natural community.
A wireless sensor firm, Filament, is developing sensors to monitor crop health and recording results in a blockchain. Others are embedding sensors in the harvested crop to record temperature and humidity. These make it easier to trace damaged crops. Linking these sensor records to other connected equipment in the internet of things, such as transport and storage coolers ensures end to end monitoring and safe handling.
Skuchain is developing improved barcodes and RFID tags, and blockchain technology with the aim of protecting end to end global supply chains against counterfeiting.
Firms such as sandwich chain Subway have pledged to remove antibiotics and preservatives from their ingredients. If the wish to deliver these promises, a transparent blockchain where product origin and contents are visible to all would seem to be a suitable approach.
We may typify these proofs of concept and ideas as using the blockchain to provide a permanent audit trail, where visibility leads to accountability and trust, without the need to establish local reputation. This philosophy is obviously not restricted to agriculture.
However blockchain solutions have their own limitations. Principal among these are the need to ensure a tight coupling between the product and its digital representation, and the ongoing need for some form of reputable local certification system in the first mile to, for example, establish the fact of ethical practices.
The inevitable mixing of products and supply chains is another factor complicating easy adoption and implementation. For these reasons current proofs of concept tend to be high value and low volume, and often stimulated by strong social motivations of their founders. Blockchains can only be part of a wider solution, and may remain limited to niche markets where establishing provenance can command higher returns.
Top image sourced from shutterstock.com
Sealed Air Food Care is a leader in technologies that help food packaging companies keep foods fresher, better tasting and more accessible to people around the globe.
Food & Beverage Industry News recently caught up with the company’s President Karl Deily about the company’s products and priorities.
F&B: What are the main products that you make in Australia for the food industry?
KD: Sealed Air’s solutions are as wide and varied as the Australian food industry.
We offer barrier materials for packaging meat, cheese, fish and other products in multiple formats like bags, rollstock, and pouches. We also sell rigid materials for edible oils, yogurts and similar liquids. In addition, we provide pouches for milk powders, from large to small consumer size bags. And we offer advanced materials for soups, sauces, and condiments and other similar products.
Australia is one of the world’s largest producers of commercial livestock and a world leader in exporting meat. This is why servicing this market is an important focus for us at Sealed Air in Australia.
A solution that brings many benefits to the meat sector is Cryovac Darfresh on Tray (pictured), which supports the growing demand for more sustainable, case-ready packaging for fresh meat. This technology more than doubles the shelf life of red meat, for example, when compared to the standard Modified Atmosphere Packaging (MAP) process.
F&B: When it comes to packaging, what are the main KPIs your designs address? – is it functionality, price or waste reduction?
KD: Responding to our customers’ needs and challenges is our top priority and it shapes how we do business. Our customers’ needs may be dynamic and may vary, but our value proposition in Food Care remains the same.
We listen to our customers and drive to address their specific and unique KPIs. From operational efficiency, shelf life extension, food waste reduction, or specific food safety issues, we can provide solutions to meet their needs. Brand building is another key area and it encompasses package design and graphics, and protects their brand through distribution to the consumer.
Although aesthetics and functionality are integral during the research and development process, we are also keenly focused on delivering extended shelf life and increasing film optimisation. It is paramount that our packaging solutions are innovatively designed and produced to protect food safety and prevent food waste.
F&B: What are some of the latest technological advances Sealed Air is using in its packaging?
KD: Our Cryovac Flavour Mark provides an alternative to metal or glass containers used in the foodservice industry. The new pouches are resolving some of the storage challenges that foodservice kitchens can often have, as the product occupies up to 88 times less storage than standard cans.
This new aseptic solution utilises industry-leading technology to package high- and low-acid products such as condiments, fruits, vegetables, purees, beverages and dairy products, as well as products with particulates.
It’s the combination of Sealed Air’s total solution approach along with key technology such as low headspace process technologies that makes the Flavour Mark System a truly game-changing solution for the fresh product category.
We have also discussed Darfresh on Tray for multiple proteins and next generation extruded products that allow for increased performance at reduced thickness. In addition, we are focused on ovenable ready meals, convenience features like easy-open, easy-open reclose, oxygen and odour absorbing materials and aseptic solutions as mentioned above.
F&B: What about the Ready to Eat and Ready to cook markets? – are these a big focus for you?
KD: Yes, we have a variety of technologies to offer depending on the customer needs or product requirements. We have centre of the plate solutions for cooking and reheating as well as multiple components for cooking and reheating in ovens, hot water and microwaves.
Increased awareness around the benefits of healthy eating combined with time-poor consumers has led to more demand for sustainable and healthy solutions in the ready meals category. This has translated into a wave of innovation spreading through this sector. We’re seeing healthier options, cleaner labels, increased shelf life and modern packaging designs altering the look and feel of the Australian ready meal aisles.
Clever packaging can also bring convenience and improve consumer safety. For instance, solutions with easy-open product access can reduce the use of knives or scissors. This saves time and reduces potential for injury to the consumer or product damage. One such product is Sealed Air’s Cryovac Grip & Tear Small Tab easy-open vacuum bag, featuring a tab that opens packages in one quick motion when pulled. Designed for small portion deli items, including cheeses and processed meats, the Cryovac Grip & Tear Small Tab bag provides a new level of convenience for consumers.
F&B: How much does Sealed Air spend on R&D as a percentage of sales?
KD: At Sealed Air, we take innovation seriously. With more than 1,500 scientists, engineers, equipment and application experts in 56 labs and research facilities around the world, it comes as no surprise we hold over 3,600 patents. We recognise that we must invest in innovation to stay ahead of the game, and to do this globally, we spend approximately AUD$180-195 million each year on R&D.
F&B: What about food wastage – is this a concern for your company?
KD: Absolutely. At Sealed Air, sustainability is core to what we do and it is thoroughly integrated into our business.
The unfortunate truth is that over 40 per cent of the food produced globally is never consumed.
There is clear economic value in preventing food waste. Farmers, companies and retailers alike can save resources, reduce their environmental footprint and have a positive impact on the economy.
As the President of Food Care, Sealed Air’s food and beverage packaging and hygiene business, I take the mission to reduce food waste seriously. It is critical to improve food security and access, but we must not forget that preventing this type of waste also makes good business sense.
In Food Care, we are well-positioned to respond to the issue of food waste. Here are a few examples:
- Meat packaging systems that use vacuum technology to preserve freshness and extend the time that meat can be consumed. Shelf life can be increased from days to several weeks or more.
- Packaging systems that portion foods into amounts needed for meals, providing not only convenience, but the ability to avoid wasting excess portions.
From packaging with re-engineered and optimised materials, smaller portion solutions, to better operational efficiencies to reduce energy and water use, we are trying to address the issue at all levels.
F&B: How does Sealed Air’s latest packaging technology affect the energy usage of a food maker?
KD: Smart packaging solutions can have a tremendous impact on the bottom line. When it comes to processing and packaging fresh meat, for instance, even the slightest savings can quickly add up. The Cryovac Darfresh on Tray vacuum packaging system provides plenty of efficiencies that save time and resources, while reducing waste and overall costs.
Darfresh on Tray (DoT) machines run on average 35 percent faster than other skin pack and rollstock technologies, while producing zero film scrap. This drives:
- Increased productivity: More product can be produced in the same amount of time;
- Smaller utility costs: Less water and electricity are needed in the packaging process on a per kilogram basis;
- Smaller capital costs: Three DoT machines equal the work of four standard machines (other skin pack and rollstock technologies).
To give you an example from our hygiene range, Diversey Enduro Power can also aid food makers to save on energy. The product’s enhanced cling properties form an active, visible film that stays in contact up to four times longer than similar foam products.
All this promotes easier rinse off compared to standard foam cleaners, and ultimately means reduced down time, water consumption and operator hours.
F&B: What food sectors are your largest markets in Asia-Pac?
KD: Today, we focus on fresh meats, smoke and processed meats, beverages, dairy products, poultry and seafood. We also import materials from our global manufacturing base.
A recent report by Euromonitor International noted that the food and beverage industry in APAC is expected to reach a turnover of US$3.23 trillion this year – nearly equaling the rest of the world combined! With an increased awareness of the benefits that enhanced packaging solutions can bring to consumers, manufacturers and retailers, there are great opportunities for all food sectors in APAC.
Sealed Air already has a deep focus on fresh meat and dairy sectors in the APAC region. Additionally, the company has invested in new innovations in the bakery and ready meals sectors, just to name a few.
The headline image of the University of Melbourne’s Facebook link to its press release about recent research on Bisphenol A (BPA) is of a takeaway coffee cup. The kind that does not have any BPA in it at all . The headline “Obesity Link to BPA” directly below the image of the cup is guaranteed to cause unwarranted consternation in consumers of our favourite takeaway beverage which I’m sure the researchers did not intend.
Bisphenol A (BPA) is one of the most recognizable chemicals to the general public. A component of some kinds of hard plastics, plastic liners for tins (but not paper cups) and certain kinds of thermal paper, it has generated quite a lot of concern as BPA is a mimic of the hormone estrogen.
However, it is a very weak mimic of estrogen (and some other hormones). BPA is typically 10,000 to 100,000 times weaker than estrogen (see for example here). BPA may also act through some other pathways, but again it is not very strong. Studies of our exposure to BPA have consistently shown that we have a safety margin of about 100-1000 fold between the threshold for BPA to produce biological effects and the levels in our bodies.
Still, we are not cavalier about BPA’s presence in our environment and studies continuously reevaluate BPA’s potential for harm, which is where this latest study from the University of Melbourne comes in.
So what did the researchers do?
They took cow embryos and placed them in tissue culture conditions. They then exposed them for four days to either BPA at 1 or 10 nanogram per millilitre of tissue culture solution (1ng/mL) or estrogen at 1 or 10 ng/mL . To make sure that BPA was working through estrogen receptors they also exposed some of the embryos to a combination of BPA and a specific blocker of estrogen receptors.
What did they find?
Both 10 ng/mL BPA and estrogen reduced the number of 8 cell embryos that progressed to blastocysts by around 7% (1 ng/ml of BPA and estrogen had no significant effect). Roughly 10% fewer of the 10 ng/mL treated blastocysts were of implantation quality.
What about obesity where does that fit in?
In embryos treated 10 ng/mL of either BPA or estrogen, there was a roughly 50% increase in glucose uptake and lactate production. This increase was prevented by the selective estrogen receptor blocker (the 1 ng/mL concentration of BPA had no effect).
While there is no direct evidence that increased glucose uptake and utilisation in the embryo will cause obesity later in life, it is at least plausible that this could somehow predispose organisms to obesity later in life.
So should we be worried?
Not really, as well as the link being weak, there are two key issues which means that the relevance to humans is limited.
One is that the concentrations used in the study are very unlikely to be achieved in the human body under normal conditions. 10 ng/mL is a really tiny quantity, and it is hard to visualise this , but the quantities in the human body are even smaller, on the order of picograms/mL (that is a thousand times less).
Measuring the levels of BPA in blood and biological fluid accurately is very difficult. BPA is very rapidly metabolised, most of BPA in the circulation is inactive metabolites. Not only do the low levels stretch the limits of our measuring devices, but BPA present in the plastics that are used to draw and store blood and other biological fluids can contaminate these fluids, giving spuriously high readings.
Very careful measurements and studies using BPA where the hydrogen atoms have been replaced with a heavier isotope of hydrogen (deuterium) have shown that levels of BPA in blood (and hence other body fluids) are well below the 1ng/mL concentration that had no effect in this study (see also here). This is backed up by back calculation from measurement of urinary excretion of BPA and its metabolites.
Another check is calculation of intake from foods and the environment. These show that intake of BPA is 100 to 1000 times less than the new, temporary European Food Safety tolerably daily intake of 4 micrograms per kilogram body weight (which is 1,000 times lower than the lowest levels that show no effect in animal studies).
Recent studies of food exposure from Australian foods showed very low intake levels (with the new limits, you only need to consume 10 cans of soup a day of the soups with the highest BPA content to reach the tolerably daily intake).
So, altogether the evidence is that human levels of BPA are well below the levels that produce these metabolic effects in these cow embryos.
Another issue is the response to BPA. Remember how I said that BPA is 10,000-100,000 times weaker than estrogen? This has been shown in numerous receptor and functional studies, including studies on human estrogen receptors. In the current cow embryo studies BPA and estrogen were approximately equally effective, and the blocker study confirmed that the effect of BPA was through the estrogen receptor, not some novel mechanism (as in this study).
This implies that cow embryo estrogen receptors are different to human receptors and that any extrapolation to humans must be made very carefully.
The take home message?
Don’t panic over BPA and obesity. You are very unlikely to reach the bodily levels of BPA that will cause disruption of glucose metabolism in early embryos. Of course, as I have said before, the best way to reduce BPA intake is to eat fresh, rather than pre-prepared foods, especially fresh fruit and vegetables as Australians in general do not eat enough fresh fruit an vegetables (and eat too many calories, and don’t exercise enough).
Another take home message is to make sure the containers you use to illustrate your press release actually do have BPA in them. You may be consuming too many calories from the milk and sugar in your takeaway coffee, but BPA? No.
 I can’t link directly to the Facebook advertisement. The main illustration on the University of Melbourne press release webpage is cans of soft drink, these do not measurably contribute to BPA intake. It also has the takeaway coffee cup, which is lined with polyethylene, not BPA containing plastic.
 A milligram will cover the head of a pin, a microgram would be a single speck on the head of a pin, you would need a microscope to see a nanogram. In contrast, a teaspoon full of sugar is around 4 grams, one teaspoon in a 250 mL coffee will result in 20 milligrams per millilitre (mg/mL) coffee. Now dilute that a million times and you will get 20 ng/mL.
Higher safety demands faced by food, beverage and agribusiness processors and packagers are driving demand for advanced engineering plastics to withstand the demands of the latest cleaning and hygiene systems.
Clean in Place (CIP) systems, enzyme systems and aseptic packaging are important areas where such plastics can offer high performance in terms of resistance to temperatures, radiation, chemicals and water.
Efficient food packaging equipment no longer has to be disassembled for cleaning, being fitted instead with a built-in “flush” (or CIP Clean in Place) system, says Pat Flood, NSW Manager of the national and international engineered plastics specialist Cut To Size Plastics.
Acid-based cleaning solutions are automatically routed through CIP machines’ plumbing so the tear-down and set-up cycles that previously took many hours can be reduced to a matter of minutes.
Better hygiene and equipment utilisation outcomes are also produced by advanced agribusiness systems where enzymes are used for cleaning tanks and equipment such as ultrafiltration membranes or heat exchangers in the dairy industry, for example.
“Both CIP and enzyme systems make demands on the materials with which they come in contact. CIP systems are generally acid-based or, more commonly, chlorine-based. Depending upon the concentration, these cleaners can be moderately to extremely caustic. Plastics such as our Wearlyte PET (polyethylene terephthalate) are highly resistant to acid and chlorine. At the same time, its non-porous surface resists staining, clearly outperforming widely used alternatives,” said Flood.
Wearlyte PET’s dimensional stability, excellent wear resistance, high strength and its ability to be used continuously at higher temperatures also make it an ideal candidate for replacing stainless steel components. For example, coupled with its stiffness and ease of fabrication, Wearlyte is commonly used in food presses. Here too, the material resists the highly-chlorinated sanitising solutions.
For packaging food in plastic containers under sterile, or aseptic, conditions, a variety of engineering plastics can be selected to operate in the higher operating temperatures required to kill bacteria. Under these conditions, traditional materials like polyethylene may not provide adequate physical strength, says Flood. Cut to Size products such as PEEK (Polyether ether ketone) High Temperature, on the other hand, retains its high mechanical and impact strength, stiffness and dimensional stability at elevated temperatures. It is one of the few plastics compatible with ultra-high vacuum applications.
In addition, PEEK thermoplastics offer an excellent wear resistance over a wide range of working conditions. As a result, for example, distribution valves made of such materials are increasingly replacing stainless steel parts, which cause valve housings to wear easily and result in high maintenance costs.
Materials such as Wearlyte PET are also preferred over stainless steel in order to minimise wear of the expensive mating part in vacuum shoes on high-speed, high-volume food packaging lines.
Cut to Size’s general-purpose Wearace grade, meanwhile, is especially suited to create durable wear components because of its excellent versatility, dimensional stability and good wear properties. Easier to machine than stainless steel, Wearace is a superior material because of its limited expansion and low moisture absorption during process and cleaning applications.
Cut To Size Plastics manufactures components for applications across Australasia and the Asia-Pacific from its Head Office in Sydney, where facilities include CNC machining facilities coupled with GibbsCAM and Solidworks software.
The following three statements are all true: Eating cookie dough can be dangerous, even after we’ve dealt with any raw eggs. I am a public health faculty member and an expert in health risk communication. My family and I eat raw cookie dough regularly.
If it seems implausible that all three of those statements can be simultaneously true, let me explain.
To start, when most people think about health risks and cookie dough, they think about raw egg. Eggs can be contaminated with salmonella bacteria, and food safety recommendations encourage people to cook eggs until the white and yolk are firm in order to kill any bacteria.
Because of this concern, when my kids and I make cookie dough, we never use regular eggs. Instead, we use eggs that have been pasteurized to kill any harmful bacteria without actually cooking the egg itself. (A great public health innovation, if you ask me!) So, I wasn’t worried about the eggs in the cookie dough.
Now, there is another risk to consider in relation to raw cookie dough: the risk of the flour itself. Over the past two months, General Mills, Inc. first initiated and then expanded a voluntary recall of flour found to be contaminated with E. coli bacteria. While contamination of raw flour is rare, it can happen. Wheat grows in fields close to animals. When they “heed the call of nature,” as the FDA put it, wheat can become contaminated.
In this recent outbreak, 38 people have been sickened since December 2015 and some have been hospitalized because they ate the recalled flour raw, often in the form of cookie dough. One went into kidney failure.
An important safety message – or a half-baked idea?
Such recall notices are extremely important. When we know that a product is contaminated, we can and should make absolutely sure to get rid of it. As soon as I read the recall notice, I checked whether my extra flour was recalled. It wasn’t. If it had been, or even if I hadn’t been sure, I would have thrown it out, no questions.
However, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration later also published a notice for consumers warning the public about eating cookie dough. Specific statements included: “the bottom line for you and your kids is don’t eat raw dough,” “don’t give your kids raw dough or baking mixes that contain flour to play with” and “don’t make homemade cookie dough ice cream.”
Not surprisingly, this story got picked up by many news outlets. What was interesting about these stories, however, was not their content but their negative tone. For example, The New York Times stated “F.D.A. Ruins Raw Cookie Dough for Everybody.” Another example: InStyle’s article was titled, “Buzzkill Alert: Don’t Eat Raw Cookie Dough.“ The first line of the article reads, “Don’t shoot the messenger.”
Here’s the question: Is it appropriate for public health officials to imply that no one should eat cookie dough (something that I, and apparently many others, enjoy) because of this risk?
A right to choose?
I’m the last person to say that communications about public health risks are unimportant. Public health officials have a duty to warn people about the health risks associated with raw egg and even raw flour. When we have evidence that specific people are at risk, public health officials need to actively promote the actions that those people can take to minimize the identified risk. Doing so supports both public health objectives and individual decision-making.
By contrast, when a public health agency unequivocally states “don’t eat raw dough” (regardless of whether flour or other ingredients were affected by a recall or not), it is implying (falsely) that no one could rationally disagree.
Well, I’m a public health faculty member, and I disagree.
I know that some public health officials will be horrified by my statement. They will believe that I am undermining their message and giving people permission to put themselves at risk unnecessarily.
But the key word of the previous sentence is “unnecessarily.” Whether something is necessary or not is not a scientific judgment. It is a value judgment. An FDA official may personally believe that eating raw cookie dough isn’t important and choose to never eat it. That is their choice. At the same time, I can believe that eating cookie dough (made from flour known to be not part of the recall and pasteurized eggs) is something that I enjoy enough that I’m willing to put myself and my children at (a very small) risk to do.
Of life and risk
As public health experts, we don’t want people to treat food recalls like math problems and estimate their likelihood of getting sick. If you have affected food, you need to act. Period.
But if I know that my flour is not recalled, then there is no specific reason to believe that the flour is not OK to eat raw. The only risk is the very small, baseline risk – for example, that the flour has been contaminated by a different and as-of-yet unknown source.
We can’t pretend that we live our lives without risk. I put myself and my children at risk every time we get into our car. Every time we eat sushi or rare hamburgers. Every time one of us takes medications. Every time we ride a bike or play soccer.
Yet, many of us choose to do those things anyway, while minimizing risk when we can (for example, by wearing seat belts and bike helmets). We choose life and risk over safety and a life a little less enjoyable. It is not irrational to treat cookie dough the same way.
So, to my fellow public health practitioners: Let’s keep working on informing the public about health risks that they may not anticipate or appreciate. Motivating people to take immediate action about specific food recalls. Encouraging people to minimize risks.
At the same time, let’s all please remind ourselves that our goal is not to minimize all risk, no matter the cost. Our goal is to maximize life. Sometimes maximizing life means warning people that their flour is contaminated and making sure they throw it out. Sometimes maximizing life means letting them enjoy some (carefully prepared) cookie dough without shame.
Top image: www.shutterstock.com
In the final month of the countdown to the Olympic Games, our sports stars are probably not eating and drinking the Games sponsors’ foods. Again, as in previous Olympics, the Olympic Games sponsors are Coca-Cola, McDonald’s and Cadburys, whose foods and drinks are not good choices for athletes due to their lack of nutrition and high levels of salt, sugar and saturated fats.
Unhealthy sponsorship of sport filters all the way down through sport from the elite level to Saturday morning kids’ clubs.
New research released by Cancer Council NSW has revealed eight out of nine food and beverage sponsors of children’s sports development programs in Australia are classified as unhealthy. Brands including McDonald’s, Schweppes, Gatorade and Nutrigrain are all competing for brand exposure in kids’ sport.
Junior development programs are modified versions of popular adult sports, designed to increase children’s participation in sports and encourage more children to be active. Beyond just providing physical activity, these programs should promote healthy behaviours, instead of undermining the healthy lifestyle the programs aim to promote.
Besides logo placement on website homepages, we found sponsorship gave companies naming rights to the development program (such as Nippy’s Spikezone – Nippy’s is a brand of flavoured beverages and Spikezone is kids’ volleyball), branded participant packs (such as Milo in2cricket and McDonald’s for Platypus Lagoon swimming) and branded equipment (McDonald’s for junior cricket and basketball).
While the study was done in 2015, this year the sponsorship landscape for children’s sports looks just as unhealthy. At the time of the study McDonald’s was sponsoring three separate junior sports programs across the country.
In 2016, while no longer a sponsor of Little Athletics nationally, McDonald’s is still involved in Little Athletics across five states, provides branded sports equipment to junior basketball and cricket, provides participant packs and sponsors swimming in Queensland and is a naming rights partner for the South Australian National Football League junior development program.
Schweppes, Gatorade and a local confectionery company are among state Little Athletics sponsors. Surf-lifesaving sponsors include Schweppes and Nutrigrain.
Our study follows on from a 2015 study that looked at sponsors on websites of state and national adult sports and found 10% of sponsors on adult sports sites were unhealthy. The 2015 study found only 14 of 53 different sports organisations in Australia didn’t have “unhealthy” sponsors.
The influence of advertising on children
Children are a major target market for advertising, as they influence their parents’ spending, have their own independent spending habits and have the potential to become brand-loyal and life-long customers.
Sponsorship of development programs offers companies another avenue to expose children to their brand and foster a connection between children and their brand.
An Australian study of five- to 12-year-olds found they associated team sports with the products and messages promoted via the sports’ sponsors.
Sponsorship and branding within sports can influence product recall and enhance children’s attitudes towards that sponsor. Interviews of 10- to 14-year-olds found they think of food and drink companies that sponsor their club and favourite team as “cool”. They even said they’d like to return the favour to these sponsors by buying their products.
Reducing the impact of unhealthy food marketing on children
In recent years we have seen the closure of the National Preventive Health Agency. The agency was set up to drive preventive health policy and programs focusing on obesity, tobacco and harmful alcohol consumption.
One consequence has been the withdrawal of funding to sporting organisations that allowed them to have alcohol-free sponsorship. Some reports suggest these funding cuts have pushed sports to rely again on alcohol sponsorship in the absence of other public funding.
The good news is many sponsors of children’s sports development programs are not food or drink sponsors. It is encouraging that only 11 out of 246 sponsors were food, drink, alcohol or gambling companies. This indicates that many sports are able to seek alternative sponsors. Other major sponsors of kids’ sports development programs included airlines and banks.
The World Health Organisation has made recommendations to reduce children’s exposure to and the power of marketing of foods high in fat, added sugars or salt, including marketing in children’s settings.
Currently, there is no Australian regulation that limits or restricts the type of companies allowed to sponsor children’s sport. Sponsorship of children’s sport should be included in food marketing regulation to reduce the impact unhealthy food marketing has on children.
In the absence of regulation, these companies should exercise responsible marketing practices and withdraw from sports sponsorship so sports consistently promotes healthy messages to those participating and watching.
Wendy Watson, Senior Nutrition Project Officer, Cancer Council NSW, and Clare Hughes, Nutrition Program Manager, Cancer Council NSW, contributed to this article.
With Australia transitioning from a resources-based economy to high value manufactured products, growing opportunities are being identified within the food processing sector for the development of new innovative products and niche markets, writes Hartley Henderson.
In particular, Asian and South East Asian countries with their rising purchasing power are seen as potentially strong growth markets for health and medicinal food products.
Bega Bionutrients is a recently created division of Bega Cheese, offering innovative ingredients for the health and nutrition market.
Similar to Bega Cheese’s infant nutrition business, this investment follows the strategy of adding value and diversifying risk over commodity dairy products, while leveraging the capabilities of the broader Bega group.
Bega Cheese already has an established track record in the bionutrients area, producing a number of bioactive dairy fractions from cow’s milk, and is one of the world’s leading suppliers of lactoferrin.
The company’s Bionutrients Development Manager, Matthieu Arguillere, explains that lactoferrin is a protein that naturally occurs at high levels in human milk, and also in cow’s milk, albeit at much lower amounts.
“Lactoferrin has been extensively researched and is currently used in infant formula, health foods and supplements for its immune enhancing properties. Research has indicated that it has multiple functions in the human body and has great potential for further exploration and use,” he told Food & Beverage Industry News.
“The possibilities for further expansion in bionutrient products are very positive. There are minor elements in many foods that have bioactive properties that can be beneficial to the health of the consumer.
“However, these components may be sensitive and perishable in their normal food forms, not found at adequate levels to be beneficial, or they may also exist in their natural foods along with less desirable components.
“By extracting and enriching them as ingredients, we can preserve their activity better, they can be more easily consumed, and the health benefits can be enjoyed by a larger proportion of people.”
Matthieu said milk is a perfect example of this as there are a number of natural elements in milk, including lactoferrin, that have potential health benefits although these exist as very minor components.
“Our job is to extract and enrich these natural elements so that they can be more easily utilised as ingredients in different products. We have also set out to conduct scientific studies to understand how these bionutrients work, establish their safety and demonstrate their beneficial effect on health,” he said.
“Building on our current business, we are developing new technologies to manufacture these products, as well as novel bionutrient products, and we expect to see some of the first of these being launched in 2016.”
Matthieu pointed out that the health issues are global and that the company is seeing similar health trends facing its supplement, nutritional and health food customers in Australia, North America, Europe, and Asia. This indicates significant global market opportunities.
“To help protect the consumer, health authorities are introducing stronger regulations and tougher enforcement practices to govern advertising and health claims, and what products are considered safe and permitted,” he added.
“We are meeting this challenge by taking a scientific evidence-based approach to product development and providing customers with ingredients with proven health benefits. This is supported by our strong internal team of scientists and partnerships with top universities and research organisations in Australia and overseas.”
It has long been claimed that honey has the ability to cure many conditions from cuts and wounds to fungal infections and skin irritations, but it has only been in recent years that greater understanding has been gained of the activities within honey.
In particular, Manuka honey, which is derived from the Leptospermum tree (pictured top) that is native to New Zealand and Australia, has been found to have unique health and healing properties.
Sales Director at Capilano Honey, Peter McDonald said that today, following extensive clinical testing in Australia, New Zealand and other countries, the unique value of Manuka has been recognised worldwide.
“Manuka honey is now sought after around the world for use in hospitals, burns units, family health care, digestive health care, beauty and skin care, veterinary practice, and diabetes clinics, as well as other specialist clinics as a health food,” he told Food & Beverage Industry News.
“When bees are collecting nectar from flowers, they introduce an enzyme to convert the nectar into honey and this produces an antibacterial activity in the honey called Hydrogen Peroxide Activity (HPA). However, HPA is very unstable and is easily destroyed by heat and light, so honey in the jar may have very little or no HPA left by the time it gets to the consumer.
“But further research showed that when the HPA in Manuka honey was destroyed the honey continued to show strong activity, which became known as Non Peroxide Antibacterial Activity (NPA). It was found that this activity was very stable in the honey and could withstand both heat and light.”
McDonald pointed out that the antibacterial strength of Manuka honey can be tested and the result is often shown as a strength number on the labels (e.g. NPA 10+).
“Clinical trials and case studies have been undertaken on Manuka honey showing the honey’s ability to inhibit many strains of bacteria including Staphylococcus Aureus and the MRSA super bug (golden staph) in a wound care environment,” he said.
“We are looking at partnering with New Zealand honey producer Comvita to develop the supply of Manuka honey in Australia. Both companies bring expertise on Manuka honey, which together should see increased production eventuate.
“Manuka has strong potential both domestically and internationally. China is a significant market for Manuka honey, as is South East Asia, and increasing supply is important to meet the growing opportunity, particularly in China.
“Honey sales continue to grow on the back of consumers looking for healthier products, and we have a strong focus on expanding further into Asia where there is a great appreciation of food as medicine.”
When a food manufacturing firm in Sydney had a requirement to feed bulk crumbs mixed with oils out of pallecons and into a process line, it knew it had a challenge on its hands.
The product compacts under its own weight causing it to bridge and rat hole, making it hard to deliver into conveyors.
Fresco Systems was able to prove through a series of product trials they had ability to work with the product. Fresco then designed and quoted a system that would allow the client to reduce the physical handling of the product while maintaining a continuous throughput, thus both reducing costs and improving productivity. The system provided is completely unmanned except for the loading and unloading of the bulk materials.
Fresco Systems’ design philosophy makes it a natural choice for this type of application – where ergonomics, safety and productivity go hand in hand. For this application it was imperative that all contact materials were manufactured to the highest standard from 316 S/S and incorporating full safety guarding and interlocks to a category 3 level.
The custom designed solution incorporates a hydraulic bin tipper, with a graduated tipping angle to allow an even flow of product through a mesh into the charging hopper. The hopper was specifically designed with an agitator and fluidisers to negate any chance of bridging or flow issues. This then feeds a charging adaptor for the flexible conveyor, which is tuned via a VSD to match the downstream flow requirements.
This complete system had to fit within tight space requirements meeting site specific protocols around operator access to controls and forklift loading of bulk materials.
Fresco systems is the obvious choice when the requirements are for anything that requires thinking outside of the square, with their team of specialist engineers they are able to customise solutions to cost effectively meet or exceed clients’ expectations.
Whatever the system, having a thorough understanding of a products specifications before commissioning and being competent in the running of the system after implementation are vital.
As a supplier offering specialist knowledge and turnkey solutions, Fresco Systems believes a major problem with designing and maintaining efficient bulk materials handling system is the fact companies do not know enough about their products.
Turnkey solutions are highly specific and specialised to a company’s particular needs. Different types of sugar, for instance, require different hoppers depending on the flow rate.
“The ingredients size, shape, flowability and density will determine the solution put in placem,” said Fresco System’s Ken Hetherington.
“Many companies will just tell you that they are supplied sugar, but will not know whether it is icing or granulated.”
Once installed, operator competency is essential. Taking the time to read the system’s manual and develop a Standard Operation Procedure will help Turnkey solution providers like Fresco Systems benefit manufacturers as they not only custom design systems but provide valuable after sales support, maintenance and training of staff.
Most of us know eating fruit daily is a great way to try to stay healthy, with the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating encouraging us to eat two serves a day. This is because they are relatively low in energy content and rich in fibre, antioxidants and some phytochemicals that may have beneficial health effects.
Despite the benefits, less than half of Australians eat enough fruit. To try to make eating fruit easier, get the most nutritionally from what we eat and avoid wastage, it is important to consider the best stage to eat fruits from harvesting to over-ripening.
Fruits vary in nutritional quality
Fruits contain a range of nutrients essential for health, from energy-producing nutrients (mostly carbohydrates with some fat and protein) through to vitamins, minerals and fibre. The amounts of these nutrients vary, however, from one fruit to another.
Predominant sugars vary. In peaches, plums and apricots, there is more glucose than fructose. The opposite is the case in apples and pears. Fruits vary greatly in terms of their glycaemic index and the effect on our blood sugar (glucose).
If we look at vitamin C, relatively high amounts are found in strawberries and citrus fruits compared to bananas, apples, peaches or pears.
Passionfruit contains more phosphorus, an essential mineral used in releasing energy, than papaya. However, the opposite occurs in the case of calcium, the most common mineral in the human body.
According to a recent study, higher consumption of some whole fruits, especially blueberries, grapes and apples, significantly reduced the risk of developing type-2 diabetes. But eating oranges, peaches, plums and apricots had no significant effect. However, this does not mean the latter ones are bad fruits.
Sometimes, combinations of fruits work better than each individual fruit. Mixtures of orange and star fruit juices had higher antioxidant capacity than pure juices.
Even certain stages in fruit maturation showed better health effects. Bioactive compounds are chemicals that occur naturally in fruit and are not technically nutrients but appear to result in health benefits. These are found in higher levels in green (unripened) jujube fruit (red date) than in the ripe fruit.
Green or yellow bananas, does ripeness matter?
Fruit ripening involves a range of complex chemical processes. These cause changes in colour, taste, smell and texture. Generally fruits are more tasty when fully ripened, but this is not always the case. Guava, for example, tends to be more appealing when partially ripe.
Unripe fruits typically contain more complex carbohydrates, which can behave like dietary fibre and break down into sugars upon ripening. Unripe bananas contain higher levels of resistant starch (which we cannot digest, but can be a prebiotic acting as a food supply to the microbes in our gut), which is linked to lower risks of bowel cancer. This decreases during the ripening process.
With respect to vitamins and phytochemicals, researchers found the opposite is the case. The level of vitamin C decreases during the early stages of sweet cherry development but increases at the beginning of fruit darkening and accumulation of the pigment anthocyanin. Levels of glucose and fructose, the main sugars found in cherry fruit development, increase during ripening.
However, over-ripening leads to a loss of nutrients following harvest. It’s also linked to fruit darkening, softening and a general loss of sensory acceptability.
Impact of processing
Fruit can be processed by canning, freezing, drying, chopping, mashing, pureeing or juicing. Processing fruits can improve shelf life, but it can also lead to losses in nutrition due to physical damage, long storage, heating and chilling injury.
Usually, minimally processed fresh-cut fruits such as fresh fruit salad have the same nutritional qualities as the individual fruits. However, tinned fruit salad may contain added sugar as syrup and preservatives, which may be a less healthy option.
Eating whole fruit rather than drinking juice appears to be linked to better health. A study that gave participants whole fruit before a meal found it led to people eating less than if they drank juice. Additionally, those eating whole fruit appeared to have a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes, although other studies suggest juices with added sugar may be the real problem.
It is also likely some processing such as juicing may help increase availability and quicker absorption of the beneficial nutrients in fruit. The benefits of this need to be weighed against the sugar being more available too.
So which to eat?
Nutritional qualities of fruits vary and it is hard to predict which fruit might be best. Generally, the more different types of fruits you can include in your diet, the better. For many fruits, eating fresh at its correct ripening stage may be more beneficial, perhaps more for taste than nutrition.
Overripe fruits may be still good to eat or easily convert into smoothie, juice or used as an ingredient such as in banana bread. Eating an over-ripe fruit such as a banana does not mean that you are putting more sugars into your body as the total amount of carbohydrates in the fruit does not increase after harvesting.
While fruit products (juice, dried or tinned products) that are higher in sugars and also preservatives in some cases are not as good as whole fruit, consuming fruit in this form is better than consuming no fruit at all.
But fruits alone cannot do all the work. It is important to choose foods from all the core food groups within the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating to reap the maximum health benefits of fruits.
Senaka Ranadheera, Early Career Research Fellow, Advanced Food Systems Research Unit, College of Health and Biomedicine, Victoria University; Duane Mellor, Associate Professor in Nutrition and Dietetics, University of Canberra, and Nenad Naumovski, Asistant Professor in Food Science and Human Nutrition, University of Canberra
The existing GS1 Global Trade Item Number (GTIN) Allocation Rules have been replaced by a new, simplified GTIN Management Standard.
The change will make it easier companies in the retail industry to make decisions, manage GTINS, save time and money and set the foundation for omni-channel commerce.
For years, businesses across industry and around the world have applied standardised rules to make well-informed decisions about product identification, using GTINs. Over time, however, the GTIN Allocation Rules became difficult to work with, frustrating to use and full of ambiguity.
This resulted in a growing lack of industry compliance and
unnecessary added costs.
The new GS1 GTIN Management Standard helps address these issues. Organised around a set of clear business principles and presented in an easy-to-understand format, the standard is simpler for businesses to comply with, and easier to share and explain.
At the heart of the new standard are 10 GTIN rules, simplified from 46 former rules.
The J.M. Smucker Company, a leading global food manufacturer, recently applied the
new GTIN management rules when evaluating the identification changes needed for 125
of its products.
“It made it easier to make clear decisions and communicate these decisions across the
organisation—saving the company time and money,” says Lori Bigler, Director, Industry
Standards at The J.M. Smucker Company. “Using the new rules, we completed the
evaluation of all 125 products in minutes instead of days.”
The clarity and consistency of the new standard is particularly critical to companies
supporting omni-channel commerce.
Maria Palazzolo, GS1 Australia’s Chief Executive Officer said, “The GTIN rules have a new look and feel, but the direction that they give to trading partners on when a GTIN must change remain basically unchanged. The business-centric language, “guiding principles” and brand-compliant images resonate across retail sub-sectors and enable industry to make decisions on GTIN changes confidently, consistently and more quickly.”
Advanced technology and sustainability initiatives are key drivers in ensuring that poultry processing in Australia continues to be a significant growth industry into the future, writes Hartley Henderson.
Australian chicken meat production is forecast to increase by 3 per cent to 1.16 million tonnes by 2015-16 and is projected to reach 1.36 million tonnes by 2020-21.
According to Ingham’s Director of Operations Excellence, Quinton Hildebrand, the company has implemented a substantial capital investment program over the past 12 to 18 months aimed at greater efficiencies, increased food safety, and substantially increased processing capacity.
“This investment has focussed on our two largest primary processing plants in Murrarie, Queensland and Bolivar, South Australia,” he told Food & Beverage Industry News.
“Increased automation in the primary processing plant allows Ingham’s to increase its volume of production significantly with limited additional requirements of space on the shop floor and of skilled labour. The strong growth of our business allows the workforce to be redeployed within our operation.”
Hildebrand explained that the main strategy is to reduce the company’s dependency on manual deboning, the process where the various parts are removed from the carcase and bones and skin removed.
“Another aspect is computer controlled portion cutting which ensures not only exact portions but also optimises the use of the available product. Finally, improvements in the palletising and handling of the product streamline the process and increase efficiencies,” he said.
Ingham’s has also developed a comprehensive and integrated sustainability strategy centred around water stewardship, environmental management, energy and climate change, zero waste, and corporate citizenship.
According to Group Head of Business Sustainability Julia Seddon, sustainability is a focus for the organisation and a key business objective, which helps to identify business improvements and potential efficiencies.
“Recent sustainability initiatives include a climate resilience assessment which is being used by the NSW government as a template for other organisations to assess their climate change risks. In addition, we have ongoing participation in a collaborative supply chain Life Cycle Analysis program with a major customer, and have employed a full time energy manager,” she told Food & Beverage Industry News.
Seddon pointed out that the primary processing of poultry requires large volumes of water to ensure clean, safe food production.
“Increased consumer demand for poultry products, combined with one of the worst droughts ever experienced in south east Queensland, created a need for innovation at our Murarrie site in Brisbane,” she explained.
“The site had already reduced water use by around 20 per cent through improved measurement, monitoring, water saving projects, and increased employee awareness, but further reduction required a significant shift in thinking.
“Inghams recognised the need for action and invested in an advanced water treatment plant. The groundbreaking application of advanced water treatment technology has reduced reliance on mains water supply by 70 per cent and decoupled company growth from water scarcity.
“This significant reduction in water use represents world’s best practice in water use management and is the first time such technology has been used to treat wastewater from a poultry processing plant anywhere in the world to substitute for potable water.”
Commenting on key trends in the industry, Hazeldene’s General Manager Marketing, Michelle Daniel, points to a growing trend for the big supermarkets to tend towards private label brands instead of producer brands.
“With poultry becoming a vast commodity, driven largely by price, this presents an opportunity for smaller supermarkets and niche players to differentiate with brands. The price war on chicken that commenced in October 2015 has driven more volume into the big supermarkets, and from a production perspective, the supermarkets are looking for better buying at higher volumes,” she told Food & Beverage industry News.
“This works well for bigger players that can take advantage of pushing larger volumes through, but is more challenging for smaller players.
“In terms of range of products, there are really three levels of poultry differentiation in Australia: traditionally produced poultry, RSPCA Accredited, and Free Range Accredited.
“These flock types will continue but differentiation in the future may look to topics more broadly than welfare, like the exclusion of antibiotics, or antibiotic growth promotants, and the chemicals used in chicken production. Value added products will continue to develop as well as many flavours on trend being adopted in poultry products.”
Daniel said that from a primary production perspective, the newest technologies in the world include controlled atmospheric stunning, evisceration equipment, aeroscalding, and air chilling.
“Controlled atmospheric stunning is a method of slaughter that is one of the most humane in the world, and endorsed by the RSPCA. Birds are kept very calm and put to sleep using different levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide, and then slaughtered unconscious,” she explained.
“Evisceration equipment leads the way in effectiveness and safety. Machines are very well guarded, and inspection points are in different rooms to machinery, meaning the interactions between employees and machines are minimised.
“Traditionally, Australian producers use an ‘immersion scalding method’ prior to plucking, but newest technology adopts Aeroscalding which keeps birds on the chain, and they go through a room that is filled with clean, hot, steamy, mist that comes out of jets, hits the skin of the bird, and opens up the pores to allow easy plucking. Benefits include much lower microbiological load on the carcass through reduced cross contamination that immersion scalding causes, as well as using less water, and retaining all skin layers.
“Air chilling technology has been around for quite a long time but adoption in the Australian industry is low compared with water chilling. Air chilling reduces the water retention in birds which extends shelf life, and customers get more protein, less water and a better tasting meat.”
Daniel advised that Hazeldene’s is an early adopter of new technology and innovation. The company commissioned air chilling in 2006 and a new primary processing facility in 2012, which includes controlled atmospheric stunning, new evisceration technology, and aeroscalding.
“The new primary processing facility allowed us to reduce employee levels, while increasing production, and make the roles in that area safer and more sustainable. We will be looking for more productivity enhancements and efficiencies with further capital plans in the future that focus on the packaging end of our business,” she said.
“The biggest issue we face is competitive forces in the market driving the prices down to unsustainable levels for a quality focussed player. Chicken has become so commoditised that quality can lose its message and relevance when price is the key driver. It is up to us to find quality focussed markets, and continue to differentiate on quality.”
The dairy industry is on the cusp of a revolution powered by technology and data. Brett Wiskar explores the possibilities.
Throughout the food industry we are witnessing a range of new trends across automation, data, and intelligent systems. The dairy sector is not immune to these trends and the impacts will change how the industry operates. The current breed of semi-automated milking systems for example, has increased yields, reduced labour inputs and improved reliability. Though this has led some to believe that dairies are already highly automated, a new wave of efficiency is just around the corner.
Semi-automation makes way for autonomy
Dairy equipment manufacturers are bringing increasingly sophisticated, automated systems to market. This level of autonomy doesn’t just provide labour efficiencies. These systems will manage the feed and dietary requirements of livestock, monitor the yield of each animal and automatically adjust feed intakes to maximise the output of each animal in the herd. This will in turn empower famers to learn, respond and adjust their operations in real time to optimise their business.
This is all part of a global trend known as Industry 4.0 or the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Dairies that embrace higher levels of automation and data driven insights across their operation will have significant advantages over the semi-automated operations of today.
Data will be the difference
Dairy farms will have data across all aspects of their operation: cows, feed, milk, weather, grazing locations and conditions. Data will be centralised and the farmer will be empowered to refine the operation remotely. This might be used for simple tasks such as closing a gate, adding supplements to the feed of a particular animal, or to review the impact of yesterday’s decisions.
The analysis of operational data en masse will lead to incremental, but importantly, sustainable improvements. Those improvements are unlikely to come from broad sweeping changes. They will come from smaller, compounding improvements that complement each other. For example, finding a 1-2 per cent increase in yield might come from a combination of increases in milk yield through changes in a herd’s diet; waste savings through transparent tracking of volumes throughout the product journey; and traits that increase milk production being identified and bred into the herd.
All of this will be enabled through insights coming from data. The automated nature of the next generation of dairy infrastructure will empower the data side of the industry in the following two ways.
Leveraging data from individual operations
All aspects of dairy operations, from the grass and feed to the end product, will be tracked and measured. This will allow farmers to make the changes needed to drive their operations into the future.
In the coming era, machine learning and predictive analytics will optimise operations on a micro level by making automatic adjustments, that the farmer would never have found, across the business. Although the gains will be minute, they will have a significant cumulative impact.
The power of combined knowledge
The true power of data is derived from an organisation’s ability to interrogate multiple data sets. For example, Google Ventures recently invested US$15 million in a US based start-up, Farmers Business Network. This organisation allows famers to upload their operational data with anonymity. This is then pooled with data from farms with similar characteristics. Farmers can then access and benefit from that pooled data and the combined learning experiences.
Data pooling like this is expected to impact the dairy industry in the next few years and the data is likely to emerge from one of two sources. The first is large scale dairy operations looking to gain visibility into and empower their supply chains. The second is from the manufacturers of the autonomous systems.
The future will favour the brave
The transition for the dairy industry from the current semi-automated model to a more autonomous model will be a challenge, but not without its rewards. As new innovations are unlocked by data and automation, a wave will sweep through the industry and the early adopters of these technologies stand to gain the most.
Those who move decisively to adopt a technology and data driven approach to their operations will be the powerful players in the industry of the next generation.
[Brett Wiskar is Wiley’s Commercial Technology Director. He leads the company’s data and technology consulting initiatives and is focussed on driving innovation, operational and commercial outcomes in the food industry]
The use of advanced conveyor cooking systems has improved product quality and cooking efficiencies among food processors in Australia. Sam Murden writes.
In search of enhanced quality, safety and efficiencies food processors throughout the world are adopting more advanced, sophisticated cooking systems.
In Australia there is more incentive to upgrade these systems – government grants to incorporate added energy efficiencies into plants via the use of innovative technologies and equipment.
“Emphasis on the quality of the foods is one of the more noticeable trends in this market, particularly on the retail side,” Barry Hansell, sales manager at Sydney’s Reactive Engineering, a supplier of processing and packaging equipment for medium to large-size processors told Food & Beverage Industry News.
“Ready-to-eat meals sold by retailers are a good example. Ten years ago you’d be hard pressed to find really good quality in frozen meals. But now processors are focusing more on the fresh-prepared meals, which allow for a lot higher quality, and on much greater variety of dishes than we saw in the past.”
There is strong evidence that the move towards improved quality and greater variety is also being driven by the availability of more advanced and flexible cooking systems. Another influence is the Australian government’s grant programs that support the investigation and implementation of energy efficient projects.
Such grants to food processors can help to reduce the payback period of projects, and offset the financial risk of investing in innovative technologies.
“Yield improvement remains important to Australian processors,” Hansell said, “But with newer cooking system designs, they no longer have to sacrifice quality to get a bit of extra yield. Today the opportunity exists for them to gain or at least maintain yield while improving on quality and cooking efficiencies.”
Hansell explained that, increasingly, his customers are switching over from sometimes unsystematic and more labour-intensive batch cooking to high-efficiency inline or conveyor processing that improves on quality, consistency, yield improvement, and throughput. Extended shelf life plus improved taste and appearance are significant among quality improvements, he adds.
Invigorating meat fillings & toppings
Sydney-based Prontier produces ready-to-eat protein sandwich fillings as well as meats for pizzas and salad toppings, and covers all aspects of manufacturing, distribution and retail operations.
“The majority of our business comes from sandwich meats that we cook, slice, and marinate for the lunch trade in the foodservice category,” explained Saxon Joye, Prontier founder and managing director.
Joye adds that his philosophy doesn’t follow a rulebook. “I grew up in a restaurant kitchen –if you dream it, I’ll find a way to make it,” is his trademark position on sandwich fillings.
This philosophy has led Prontier to a stream of innovations, such as the recent acquisition of two conveyor cooking systems, a flame grill and a spiral oven. This equipment enables Prontier to achieve added flavour and a more authentic appearance for its products, plus the improved efficiencies of inline cooking.
The flame grill individually quick-flames products and maximises the effects of flame-searing while minimising yield losses. The multiple independently controlled burners and touch screen recipe selection make this unit flexible and efficient.
“We use this equipment to wrap the outside of ready-to-eat items in flames and seal the meat,” Joye explained. “It also browns meat products such as chicken with a char-grilled stripe, which creates a fabulous presentation. The natural-looking flamed colour and authentic grilled flavour are important advancements for us. They are dramatic improvements in the quality.”
Prontier’s meats are fully spiral oven, a highly flexible, small-footprint cooking system developed for processors who want the benefits of continuous conveyor-style cooking with reliable consistency and lower energy usage.
“Now, instead of batch processing we have a ‘production river,’ which provides huge labour saving advantages, and gives us real control over the way we finish every individual piece of food, making it a beautiful product,” said Joye.
Spiralling into control
The spiral oven is also a key cooking system at Sydney-based Primo Moraitis Fresh, which manufactures, processes and packages high quality ready-to-eat salads, soups and fresh cut processed vegetables. Primo Moraitis Fresh caters to retail, foodservice, industrial manufacturers and quick service restaurants.
“Before getting this equipment we used little combination ovens and other small cooking devices,” said Ben Watt, general manager. “When we first looked at the spiral oven, it seemed like a great piece of equipment that could have a lot of potential uses, which is exactly what it has. We’ve had ours for about 18 months, and we run a whole lot of items through it. We can steam, roast, bake, and super roast (roast and steam). The system is really versatile, so it’s in use almost all the time.”
Among Primo Moraitis Fresh’s principle products are wet salads, including items such as creamy pastas, potato salads and coleslaw.
“We use a lot of bacon, pancetta and meats like that,” Watt explained. “So we roast those items through the spiral oven. The continuous process gives us great volume with a very even cook and great consistency.”
Watt said that his spiral oven is also used for steaming potatoes, not only because of the systems versatility, but also because of its speed and the fact that the spiral oven does a better job than boiling the potatoes in water. Currently, Primo Moraitis Fresh produces approximately 400 kilos of steamed potatoes per hour using this conveyor cooking system.
Improving efficiency and output
Jewel of India is another Australian processor using a spiral oven in combination with a spiral chiller to meet its high quality standards while improving yields and other efficiencies.
Jewel of India is a ready-to-eat, chilled-meat manufacturer cooking a range of authentic Indian foods including chicken and meatballs dishes, ready-to-eat curries, simmer sauces, cocktail and finger foods and Naan breads.
Headquartered in Sydney, the company supplies to clubs, hospitals, airlines and stadiums as well as butchers and delis, supermarkets, and caterers that service the military and mining industries.
“A spiral oven is installed in our new high-risk production facility, which will provide us with food safety similar to the newest European and pharmaceutical standards,” said Jim Keating, Jewel of India general manager. “We will primarily cook chicken on this system. But the system will be able to cook other items that we may adopt in the future. We have done trials on meatballs, molded lamb balls, chicken balls and fish through the spiral system and it has proved to be very flexible. The system will allow us to adapt quickly to market changes, so we don’t run the risk of being left behind.”
Although the spiral oven is newly installed, Keating said he expects overall yield improvements to be between 15 and 20 percent. Other important efficiency features the new system is expected to provide include improved throughput, optimised consistency and reduced labour.
“Improved cooking quality and efficiencies are very important,” said Keating. “Today, it’s really about output; it’s longer all about input –the price of beef or lamb, the price of power etc. But if you can improve the quality and efficiency within your operation, that is where your competitive advantage and profits lie.”
Meeting consumer demands throughout seasonal variability with an advanced automation and process control solution from Rockwell Automation.
The Oxford Landing Estate Vineyard and Winery is named after a site where drovers once grazed and watered sheep. Today it’s home to a loyal flock of down-to-earth folk who take great pride in making quality wines, enjoyed the world over.
With 650 acres under vine, Oxford Landing Estate is not small but by micro-managing 130 five-acre blocks as separate ecosystems, the grapes are given exactly what they need to achieve optimum flavour.
Techniques such as detailed pruning, canopy management and crop thinning provide the winery with ultimate control in expressing the individuality of each block. Oxford Landing prides itself on being nimble enough to harvest small batches of the fruit as soon as it ripens, so not an ounce of freshness is lost.
Set on the northern edge of the Barossa Valley the key to the success of the Oxford Landing Estate Winery is their ability to achieve a continuous production flow via a sophisticated automation and control system. In winemaking, this timing is particularly crucial since the grapes need to be processed within a critical window of time where the acid and sugar content are at a premium.
To achieve this, together with keeping up with increasing consumer demands, winemakers are turning to technology to streamline the process.
Over a decade of service and support
Yalumba is Australia’s oldest family-owned winery, and one of the country’s largest wine exporters. Its Angaston winery was founded in 1849 in South Australia’s famous Barossa Valley. Over time however, the demand for Yalumba wines has grown to exceed the processing capacity of the heritage-listed Angaston facility. This led to the establishment of the Oxford Landing Estate Winery, which is now the primary producer of Oxford Landing Estate wines and Yalumba’s popular two litre cask wine varieties.
One of the main challenges with winemaking is that customers expect consistency, they get used to a particular label and expect it to taste the same, but every year the acid level is different, the sugar content is different as are the aromas and colour of the berries.
According to John Ide, winery operations manager, at Yalumba, “The aim for the Oxford Landing winery was an environmentally friendly plant incorporating the latest in winemaking technology, plus a new and unique process stream methodology. The objective was to achieve greater management of the process and the product.”
The agility needed to meet the demands of frequently changing production demands was uniquely met by the process automation solutions from Rockwell Automation. This on top of the end to end efficiencies of the plant wide control inherent in Integrated Architecture truly made this a solution real win for Yalumba.
The Oxford Landing Estate Winery was commissioned in 2005 and has been able to meet market requirements and improve product quality for more than a decade now. The secret, says Ide, is the automated process streams that ensure the grapes are fermented under optimum conditions, given the high volume throughput. It is particularly critical at all times to control fermentation rate and minimise oxidation, both of which are highly dependent on temperature.
From the moment the skin is broken during harvesting, it’s important to move the product quickly through the crushing stage, chilled and into the controlled environments of the fermentation tanks.
Each process stream begins at one of three receive hopper/crusher bays, where loads of grapes are converted into ‘must’, a mix of juice, skin and seeds. The must is then pumped through one of three ‘must chillers’ to reduce the temperature to around 12 degrees Celsius for white and heat or cool to 25 degrees for red. To produce white wine, the juice is extracted from the skin and seeds and clarified prior to fermentation; conversely, red wine is fermented with the skins included in the fermentation vessel. For both styles of wine, the premium juice/wine or ‘free run’ is drained and kept separate from the second stream or ‘pressings’ of extracted product through subsequent processing and storage. After wines are fermented they are clarified and blended into the final product before filtration and bottling.
Virtualisation and visibility
The control and automation system plays an important role at Oxford Landing, the system performs sophisticated control of the numerous process streams, while at the same allowing the winemakers to exert their influence and apply their experience to achieve the desired result.
The primary user interface for the system is a virtualised server supported by two virtualised clients and six onsite clients, each running FactoryTalk View SE. Winemakers and operators use this supervisory-level HMI to specify process streams, crushing speeds and fermentation schedules; plus monitor the operational status of the entire plant.
The Angaston site allows maintenance operators to keep a close watch on trends using remote access via FactoryTalk ViewPoint or the virtual clients without having to come to site. This system is integrated with Yalumba’s proprietary ‘wine management system’ which is a non-commercial database of all vintages for the purpose batch tracking for label integrity.
FactoryTalk View SE is a key component of Oxford Landing’s automation system, providing a clear view across entire lines and production processes. This unified site-wide monitoring and control via the terminals and numerous plant-floor PanelView Plus human-machine interfaces (HMI). “Having everything on a common visualization platform was an attractive part of the package,” said Ide.
From a programming point of view, Integrated Architecture provides a common development environment for all applications utilising the mobility and virtualisation of the FactoryTalk system. FactoryTalk allows data tags created in one application to be immediately available to all applications across the integrated architecture system.
The ability to share data tags considerably reduces the software development time. The whole network was connected in the workshop and programmed at the same time. There was one tag database available to both the SCADA and the PLC programmers. Any tag created was immediately available to everybody so there was no importing, exporting, connecting or waiting. From the onset, the system could be programmed concurrently so there was no time delay.
At the heart of the system, more than 10 Allen-Bradley ControlLogix programmable automation controllers (PAC) perform the hybrid functionality required of sequential, process and drives control. This includes overseeing a myriad of Allen-Bradley PowerFlex drives that control screw feeders, crushers, pumps, presses, agitators, and so on; and also encompass enhanced PID control of temperature. “We have introduced a system for automatic dosing of yeasts for ferments which is also controlled by this system,” said Ide.
ControlLogix also controls the advanced refrigeration plant – perhaps the most critical function of all. “The refrigeration plant is our main tool for controlling temperature at all stages of the process,” said Ide, explaining that three ammonia compressors and a pumping system circulate liquid ammonia through the must chillers, ‘rack and return tanks’, and fermentation vessels as required.
The control system works out the required load and directs which should be the lead compressor and what the optimum settings are, based on how much cooling is needed for the required fermentation rates. “We have also just installed a PowerFlex 755 variable speed drive on the 450kW motor of our lead compressor increasing efficiency, flexibility and saving energy over the vintage period,” added Ide.
To link the automation system all together, the Oxford Landing plant utilises a site-wide Ethernet/IP network that connects the SCADA server and clients with each other and the ControlLogix PACs for a seamless flow of information through the plant. A ControlNet communications network provides high speed peer-to-peer communications, while device-level communications are provided by DeviceNet.
In addition, CompactLogix is used as the control system for equipment such as press and cross flow filters, which are networked back to the ControlLogix via Ethernet. FactoryTalk ViewPoint provides visibility remotely via a tablet, which delivers real time and historical trending. “As a result of the success of we’ve had with FactoryTalk View SE integrating all areas of our plant in one platform, we’ve now rolled it out at our Yalumba site in Angaston,” said Ide.
Two shades of green
The Oxford Landing site is ‘green’ in more than one sense, with a number of strategies in place to ensure environmentally friendly practices. The refrigeration system is highly efficient, with the option of off-peak loading to reduce both electricity costs and power consumption through maximised compressor efficiency. In addition, the hot return ammonia gas heats the water used for washing tanks throughout the plant, plus Oxford Landing has its own complete wastewater recycling plant which is also interfaced with the FactoryTalk View SE system for visualisation and control.
The plant and wastewater facility is running at best practice and recently won an Environmental award from the South Australian Wine Industry Association for implementing an innovative cross flow filtration system that minimises waste going to the plant while increasing yield.
At Oxford Landing, the ultimate goal has always been to achieve a continuous production flow through the plant. Ide believes that the Integrated Architecture from Rockwell Automation is key to ensuring that this objective is met and maintained. “FactoryTalk View allows us to see trends in real time, and we can backtrack to specific batches as required,” he says. “Troubleshooting is also easy. For example, we can delve right down into the drives remotely, changing programming and configuration and perform pretty much anything. That’s the advantage of a fully integrated system which has a consistent look and feel across the board.”
“In addition, we are currently utilising our newly installed FactoryTalk EnergyMetrix system to control the maximum kVA demand and email alarms when we are nearing the limit. We are in the stages of using the integrated system to automatically shut down other non critical motors to reduce demand when we are approaching the limit,” explained Ide.
Yalumba has shown that efficiency leads to quality and by using automation, efficiency can be increased and quality improved. It is the juxtaposition of high-volume processing technology and winemaking art that is making Yalumba successful, granting it the ability to deliver bottles of red and white that are finding favour, and flavour, the world over.
Monitoring 5,000 sites around the world, Danfoss, which specialises in producing refrigeration monitoring equipment, compressors, and controllers for grocery stores, required a solution that would help its customers view their operations at a presentation level, create reports on alarms and performance, and reduce energy costs.
Backgrounds and challenges
Refrigeration consumes a major portion of a large grocery store’s electricity (up to 30 per cent in some cases), with the remainder consumed by HVAC equipment, lighting, and other utilities. The risk of asset failure – which can result in food loss, unplanned asset down time and maintenance call outs – needs to be added to this.
Retailers now operate in a market where the demand for frozen foods is increasing As such, they need to invest in large-scale refrigeration equipment. This has led to tight margins in an increasingly competitive market where assets are expected to perform constantly. Historically, supermarkets have accepted that the cost for high customer volume, regulatory compliance, and increasing energy costs are part of the business model.
Danfoss addressed these business challenges with an operational analytic solution provided by Bentley‘s Amulet that saves money, categorises and filters alarms, improves energy efficiency, and provides customers with peace of mind.
There were many key solutions that enabled Danfoss customers to manage their supermarkets more efficiently and to aid decision making. Central to these is the alarm management system that is in place to monitor food quality and energy efficiency along with a visualisation component to bring all of the information together in one platform.
Visualisation and reporting
The collection, organisation, and visualisation of operational information were important factors for Danfoss customers, as they allowed them to present a real-time visualisation of performance and current conditions, particularly focusing on generated alarms. Using the operational analytics solution, customers are able to view alarm counts and status; view and email performance reports on a daily, weekly, monthly, or annual basis; and create ad-hoc reports as required.
Alarm Management System
An underlying alarm management system means alarms based on a potential failure or a threat to an asset are automatically raised when a threshold has been reached. The difficulty here is identifying which alarms needed attention and which could be dismissed as a result of defrost cycles, or refrigerator doors being accidentally left open. Danfoss uses Bentley’s Amulet software to count repeated similar alarms and identify which are real and which are false, then notify the relevant people. Eliminating false alarms from the system significantly cuts costs by reducing needless callouts of maintenance engineers. Alarm histories can also be used against the asset, the fault, or the site to highlight patterns, such as a particular alarm occurring against the same asset consistently across multiple stores.
Danfoss addresses regulatory food compliance with Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) reports, a monitoring and reporting system that ensures food production and storage facilities are safe. Using Amulet for data collection and visualisation, HACCP reports show the average temperature during an hour (from typically four 15-minute intervals) of any asset containing food. These reports are displayed within Amulet’s dashboards and allow Danfoss and its customers to spot at a glance any differences in behavior in an asset’s temperature by using colour coded boxes to indicate whether an asset is operating above or below its normal level. These reports can display historical data to prove that measures are taken to ensure food safety.
Coupled with the Temperature Quality Index report, which displays the overall performance of an asset (within its set points), the reports bring a complete picture of asset performance in near to real-time.
Load shedding and set point management
Other functionality within Amulet include the addition of automated load shedding and set point management. Load shedding (or demand response) involves Amulet to help facilitate the automatic switching on/off of certain assets by interfacing directly with the hardware. This is to reduce energy consumption and receive financial incentives from power companies which need to reduce peak demand. This could include HVAC systems, store, and car park lighting.
From the Amulet dashboard, levels can be set that will send a signal to certain controllers, such as lighting zones, turning them off over a set period of time. Each level of load shedding can include any number of assets, from a few to all. These measures help reduce energy consumption while the initiative also encourages financial incentives from the energy provider.
Set point management automates corrections in hardware value points to ensure error control regulation of asset temperatures, switch status, and alarm values. This means that Amulet constantly checks values to specific hardware, like a switch or a set point, making sure they are correct. If a change occurs, or is made accidently by a third party, it can be entered into an audit trail and automatically corrected to the original value. This ensures continuity to the operational performance of the store and peace of mind, further reducing callouts and loss of stock. Set points and schedules can also be changed for an entire estate through one job.
Through the use of operational analytics, Danfoss has achieved complete visibility of its whole operation, including energy usage against external parameters like outside/inside temperatures and other factors. By monitoring these patterns for customers, Danfoss can regulate the environment in which its assets work. For example, refrigerators won’t need to work as hard if the temperature or humidity in the store is maintained at an optimum level.
Through Amulet, Danfoss is able to determine that substantial energy savings can be achieved and affect its customers’ bottom line. Key operational benefits included ensuring food safety and minimising food loss; reducing energy consumption; anticipating failure of refrigeration equipment; filtering, identifying, and notifying alerts and real service maintenance needs; prescriptive loadshedding for optimal power reduction; and prescriptive set point remapping when overriding settings.
The Amulet alarm management system allows Danfoss customers to monitor and track their assets and intervene when necessary if one triggers an alarm. With Amulet’s variety of specialised alarms such as threshold, percentage, or hold down, raised alarms have been filtered to only notify users of critical alarms, thus reducing false alarms and maintenance call outs.
Using Bentley’s Amulet operational analytics software enables Danfoss to increase its customers’ ROI by eliminating false alarms, effectively monitoring energy usage, and provides them with levels of visibility that help them monitor performance more accurately and in a more timely fashion.