NZ rendering plant gutted by fire

Fire gutted a large animal by-products plant in South Taranaki on New Zealand‘s North Island yesterday.

The Taranaki Daily News reports that 45 firefighters and 12 fire engines from Okaiawa, Hawera, Eltham, Stratford, Manaia, Kaponga and New Plymouth were called to the fire. It took them about 90 minutes to put out the blaze.

Nobody was in the factory at the time and there were no reports of injuries.

The plant's co-owner Amanda Smith told the Taranaki Daily News that the company is a family business which was started by her great-grandfather.

She added that it was too early to say in what way the fire will affect the business.

Taranaki fire safety officer Matt Crabtree said the fire had spread to the roof between the plant's boiler room and dryer area. He added that the cause of the fire was still being investigated.

According to NewstalkZB, there were also fires at the plant in late 2012 and early 2013. These were caused by commercial dryers.

 

Inghams employee wins compensation suit for unfair dismissal

A Waikato (New Zealand) Inghams Chicken employee has been awarded $4000 in compensation for unfair dismissal.

Amarjit Singh, who was employed as an egg collector for the company was allegedly accused of lying about a back injury that he injured on 21 October 2011, and was subsequently dismissed on 28 February 2012 as Inghams claimed that he could no longer carry out his duties, stuff.co.nz reports.

Sheree Mansell, Inghams’ case manager declined Singh’s claim for compensation stating that the incident could not be corroborated by other staff.

Singh provided Inghams’ farm manager Muhannad Juma with a medical certificate on 14 November 2011, followed by several other medical certificates over the following months stating that Singh was only fit for light duties.

Singh told the Employment Relations Authority that the company accused him of lying about the injury, and informed him that it was not possible to allocate light duties to him.

Singh’s dismissal was found unjustified by the Employment Relations Authority with member K J Anderson stating that “the key requirements of the incapacity clause of the employment agreement were not observed."

 

NZ meatworks guilty of safety neglect

Riverlands Eltham, a Taranaki meatworks, has been found guilty of failing to take the necessary steps to ensure the safety of its staff members, after an employee had the tip of his finger severed in late 2011.

The company was yesterday (5/12/13) found guilty in the New Plymouth District Court after being charged by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.

The charge follows a December 2011 incident where an employee, Erick Jimmy, had part of his finger severed while working on the blood collection chain conveyor, stuff.co.nz reports.

He subsequently developed an infection and had the finger removed down to the first joint.

When the incident occurred, there were no safety guards in place and no warning system to alert staff when the chain conveyor would start moving. Stuff.co.nz reports that safety guards were installed just hours after Jimmy’s injury occurred. A warning has also been added to the premises, alerting staff when the chain will move.

Judge Courtney said Riverlands’ immediate installation of the guards demonstrated the company was aware of the potential for injuries.

"They were available, as I say, they were produced in a matter of hours and for this company produced at minimal cost," he said.

Riverlands will be sentenced on 23 January.

 

Dairy farm accident leaves three critical

Three people are fighting for life and six others are injured after falling ill working inside a water tank on a Victorian dairy farm.

According to Sky News, the group was working on a rural property in Cloverlea, near Warragul when they became ill. 

It's believed they suffered a reaction to the contents of the tank, inhaling carbon dioxide.

The three that are in a critical condition are being flown to hospital, while the others will be taken by ambulance to a nearby hospital in Warragul.

 

Liquid chlorine leak at Fonterra factory

A major liquid chlorine leak at Fonterra’s Clandeboye factory in New Zealand has led to seven people being decontaminated.

According to stuff.co.nz, the leak is believed to have occurred in the mozzarella cheese plant of the factory.

The seven people have “moderate symptoms”, said St John South Island communications advisor, Ian Henderson, and went through the decontamination process, being transported to Timaru Hospital for further checks.

A Fonterra spokesperson contacted Food magazine and said, "All seven employees who went to hospital as a precaution have been checked and given the all clear." 

Clandeboye produces 381,000 metric tonnes of dairy products per year.

 

New app aims to tackle food manufacturing’s injury rate

In light of research indicating that the food and beverage manufacturing industry records the highest incidence of workplace accidents in Australia, the Group Training Association of Victoria has released the Safety First App to help promote workplace safety in the lead up to Christmas.

Recent Safe Work Australia data shows that employees in the food and beverage industry, particularly workers in meat manufacturing, are the most likely to injure themselves at work, and November and December are the most dangerous months for manufacturing, transport and construction workers.

To help ensure the safety and apprentices and trainees and improve their understanding of OH&S, the Group Training Association of Victoria has developed the Safety First App.

Gary Workman, executive director of the Group Training Association of Victoria, said “Our members employ 8500 apprentices and trainees across Victoria and are committed to ensuring their staff, particularly those that are on new worksites, or equipment and plant, have handy access to the safety information checklists they need.

“Now apprentices have the safety questions they should be able to answer right in their pocket.”

The app will bring technology-enabled features into the traditional OH&S documentation, streamlining it and ensuring it is more site-specific.

It will provide instant feedback to apprentices with links to further information and a “percentage completed” indicator that will highlight how much information each individual knows for each worksite.

From an employer point of view, the app will provide a permanent compliance record for each employee on every worksite they attend, with the ability to produce electronic certificates of OH&S induction completion levels
 

Man suffers suspected spinal injuries after becoming trapped at chicken factory

A worker at a chicken processing factory in Perth has been freed after becoming trapped in a cooling machinery silo.

The processing factory which is located at Wangara in Perth’s industrial area, had 25 fire fighters called to the scene to free the man, The West reports.

The man became trapped when 2-3 cubic meters of ice fell on him at 1.50pm yesterday, with an alarm only raised once a fellow worker noticed that the man was missing from a production line.

It took the fire fighters around 45 minutes using specialised equipment to free the worker which involved cutting a hole in the side of the silo.

The man was taken to Joondalup hospital and is suspected to have suffered spinal injuries. 

 

Enware Australia celebrates 75 years

Hospitality, hygiene and water conservation product company, Enware Australia, is this year celebrating its 75th anniversary.

Headquartered in Caringbah, Enware has more than trebled its employment in a decade and has a team of more than 190 people.

Enware Australia produces specialist tapware, water management systems and water technology products for hospitals, schools, laboratories, food preparation facilities, hospitality providers, retail facilities, local and government facilities and age care facilities.

Executive chairman, Paul Degnan, said connecting with its customers is key to the brand's success.

"We don’t even try to match the strengths of Asia, which are predominantly bulk production runs for mass markets. Our markets are those where there is a strong design component required, a special relationship with the end user and understanding of their needs – qualities that they just can’t buy off the shelf," he said.

As well as trebling the size of its team, Enware has also trebled its turnover over the last decade, focusing strongly on the plumbing and safety markets with special emphasis on food and hospitality, hygiene and water conservation products.

Degnan doesn't deny that Australian manufacturers are experiencing tough conditions at the moment, but is optimistic that a commitment to quality and to the Australian industry will pay off in the long run.

"It’s tough out there for any business at the moment, there’s no doubt about that, but Enware has stayed committed to quality, and keeping skills and jobs in Australia," he said.

"While many companies in the industry have moved offshore for lower costs, Enware has, as much as possible, committed to keeping core manufacturing skills and technology here."

 

Former Teys worker sues over workplace injury

A meatworker is suing his former employer Teys Australia for $750,000 over a February 2011 incident, in which he slipped and cut his hand on a metal tray.

The Morning Bulletin reports that Peter McKenzie’s claim lodged in the Rockhampton District Court stated that a damaged rubber strip on the tray – which McKenzie had earlier complained about – contributed to a fall from a fat- and blood-covered ladder.

When McKenzie fell, he grabbed the tray, severing tendons which required surgery to mend. The accident caused him to lose work and also possibly miss out on a promotion, McKenzie claims.

McKenzie’s legal representative, Gino Andrieri of Maurice Blackburn Lawyers said, “A case like this highlights the dangers in the workplace if complaints aren't acted on immediately." 

 

Don’t let pest management eat away at you

Pest management is a dirty word for some food manufacturers. They don't like to talk about it, and they don't like to admit that it's an integral part of their business. But let's face it – if you're a food brand in Australia worth your name in salt, then you must have a pretty serious pest management plan in place.

Having a strategy for keeping creepy crawlies out of your facility, as well as one for removing them if they find their way in, is indicative of a proactive, responsible business, not a negligent one.

But, like a lot of regulation in the food manufacturing industry, knowing exactly what an effective pest management strategy looks like can be difficult.

There are a wide array of pest management standards that a brand can adhere to, depending on what products it manufactures and where those products will be sold.

Eighteen months ago, the Australian Environmental Pest Managers Association (AEPMA) penned a Code of Practice for pest management in the food industry in Australia and New Zealand.

David Gray, national president of the AEPMA, says "With the industry Code of Practice, we didn't create anything new, really. We just took the benchmarks that were there and, in a nutshell, if someone is setting up a pest management program in a food manufacturing facility and they set it up to the Australia and New Zealand Code of Practice, then they will meet the requirements of all the existing standards or codes that are out there."

The Code, which aims to define best practice in managing pests in food manufacturing, is a go-to guide not only for food brands, but also for auditors and pest management companies.

"We've added some additional value in the sense that auditors usually come from the food industry. Their expertise is in food, some of them have some experience in pest management but most don't. So we've developed this Code equally for their benefit, so they can look at it and then audit the pest management program against the Code. It gives them some KPIs that they can measure against, rather than just going in and approaching it blindly," Gray told Food magazine.

"It also includes the downstream suppliers to the food industry, so the suppliers of raw materials, and things like packaging. Often the packaging plants and packaging materials come under the same stringent requirements because they're supplying into the food industry."

Abiding by the AEPMA's Code of Practice means food manufacturers will not necessarily have less regulatory I's to dot or T's to cross, but will at least know what systems and processes it needs to have in place to ensure everything's kosher, so to speak.

Stephen Ware, national executive director at the AEPMA, says "In the pest management industry, everyone knows they need pest managers, but the food manufacturers haveproblems because auditors turn up and different auditors have different ideas of what should happen as far as, for instance, where to put down rodent baits and traps. The Code of Practice has helped to clarify that.

"That's why [the Code] has been pretty well accepted by both the pest controllers – who don't really want to argue with everybody about where he should put the bait – and the food manufacturer – who doesn't want to have to sit down and have an argument with every auditor that comes in."

A multi-faceted approach
Paul Moreira, service manager for Victoria at Adams Pest Control, says the two fundamental pillars of pest management are hygiene and maintenance.

But this isn't as straight forward as it may sound, he insists.

"In the food industry there's a requirement to integrate a pest management approach which is multi-faceted. So rather than just focusing on applying a pesticide, it's about identifying proofing issues, harbourage issues, alternative food sources. All of those things link into the site's pest management program," he said.

Safety of the end product, obviously, is a high priority in pest control in the food industry. Manufacturers need to be very careful about where and how they fight off pests, and there are a number of options available to them, Moreira says.

While toxic bates are available, which are consumed by rodents and kill them five to 10 days later, Moreira believes that in the coming years the industry will move award from these chemicals.

"Another approach is to have a monitoring block, which allows you to assess activity. So the pest controller goes around and has a look at if the block has been consumed or not,and if it has you obviously have a problem and you have to go down the path of getting rid of the infestation," he says.

This approach means there's no risk of contaminating the product being manufactured, but on the other hand it's purely an information gathering exercise – it doesn't treat the problem at all.

It's for this reason that the American Institute of Baking (AIB), which has an internationally recognised standard, is moving away from the use of non-toxic chemical blocks internally, instead recommending the use of mechanical traps.

"It's all about minimising pests within the site by hitting them outside, and then inside your treatment becomes a non-toxic approach. According to the AIB's standard you have to use a mechanical trap. You can't use a monitoring block … because all that does is feed the rodent. You haven't addressed the issue of having the rodent there."

While Adams Pest Control's latest product, Baitsafe, can be used with toxic baits, it's like nothing else on the market as it allows food manufacturers to use pesticides in cavities in a safe, controllable way, Moreira says.

"What Baitsafe allows us to do is put a device in that cavity and then apply the pesticide in a very secure way. It looks like a fire alarm. It's flush against the ceiling, but it doesn't have to be in the ceiling. It can be in the splashback of the kitchen, it can be in the kickplate of a bench or in a wall, but it sits flush against it.

"We have a key, we place it in the device, open it and the pesticide is on the other side, or we can even apply a monitoring block or a sticky board to allow us to gauge the activity levels of, say, fruit flies or cockroaches, then we close the device.

"So as far as anyone on this side of the wall, where people work, are concerned, all they see is a tiny little circular flat planel and they can't access the pesticide that's on the other side," Moreira says.

Money well spent
Food manufacturers need to be proactive with their pest management strategy. It goes without saying that it's much easier – and more cost effective – to prevent an infestation from occurring than it is to have one treated.

So while regular inspections and a detailed pest management strategy might seem like an unneccesary expense, it's money well spent, says Simon Lean, Australian technical manager at Rentokil.

"Pest control isn't free but they [food manufacturers] do get good value for money. It's always something you have to have on your books and something manufacturers often want to get done for as cheap as possible, but generally, if people are chasing cheap pest control they get a cheap job, and if they get a cheap job they end up with pest problems.

"That's the last thing they need because all these food manufacturing companies are very particular about brand protection. The last thing they want is for someone to see a rat in a loaf of bread or something like that," Lean told Food magazine.

"A PR disaster can really hit these companies. But it's not just PR. If they've got a contaminated line in their manufacturing, just imagine if they have to close that line down because it's either riddled with pests or simply broken. The cost of that line being down could be thousands of dollars, sometimes hundreds of thousands a week, in lost production. Whether that be because of pests or an engineering concern, it gets very serious and it really does hit their bottom line."

Regular inspections are critical for any food brand, especially those in older facilities that may not be able to keep pests out as effectively as new buildings can.

Having said that, regular – and thorough – hygiene and maintenance schedules go a long way in pest-proofing your business, and therefore minimise the likelihood and cost of treating infestations, replacing equipment or – heaven forbid – dealing with product recalls.

"If you keep things clean and in good working order, it's going to be easier to inspect for any pest problems, and you're not going to have as many pest problems because it's clean and you don't have any food for the pests or harbourage where they can hide and breed," Lean says.

"That's why inspections are so critical in food manufacturing."

 

Fonterra workers win jobs back after Harlem Shake sacking

Two workers fired from Fonterra's Takanini plant in New Zealand for doing the Harlem Shake dance have successfully appealed the company's decision.

Henry Taufua and Craig Flynn were fired after a video showing the men performing the dance was discovered by the dairy company, which stated that Taufua had "rode a paper trolley or pallet jack in an unsafe manner endangering himself and others and failed to report unsafe acts by other employees", while Flynn had put himself and others at risk by organising the videos, "dancing with a shovel between his legs, hosing water where another employee was dancing and splashing a pallet ."

According to The NZ Herald, the workers successfully appealed the decision to the Employment Relations Authority (ERA), with the video [below] disproving Fonterra's grounds for dismissal.

"Their individual actions do not seem factually similar to the facts alleged in the respondent's[Fonterra's] authorities. Hosing an area of floor then cleaning the water up prior to employees dancing around indicates preventative steps to ensure employee safety. Falling or tipping the paper trolley may have resulted in minimal (if any) injury or damage or none at all," the ERA stated.

"Neither of the applicants conduct necessarily had the potential for the serious injury contemplated in the respondent's authorities."

The ERA ordered the men's temporary reinstatement to their jobs until a substantive hearing.

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Man dies in meat blender accident

A 41 year old man died on Friday night at a meat distribution plant in Oregon, USA following a fatal fall into a running meat blender.

Hugo Avalos-Chanon appeared to have died from “blunt-force injuries and chopping wounds,” according to the medical examiners statement in The Oregonian’s report via the Huffington Post.

Interstate Meat Distributors plant, where the accident occurred had recently come under fire for “serious” violations regarding lax safety.

Avalos-Chanon was said to have been cleaning the blender at around 11.45pm when the accident happened. Efforts from a fellow worker failed to save the man as they did not activate the emergency switch in time to stop the machinery.

A spokesperson from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration told local news outlet, KGW, that both the plant and Avalos-Chanon’s employer, DCS Sanitation Management was being investigated over the incident.

They also stressed that it was too early to conclude if the violations were connected to the accident.

President of Interstate Meat Distributors, Darrin Hoy, said that the death was “extremely unfortunate” and that the company is cooperating with investigators.  

Calls to strengthen standards for NZ baby milk exports to China

 

New Zealand is being urged to strengthen the standards for infant formula manufacture and to thereby realise the full potential of its exports to the Chinese baby milk market.

As stuff.co.nz reports, infant formula exports to China are estimated to be worth NZ$8.2 billion to the economy.

In an effort to highlight New Zealand’s anti-counterfeiting efforts, the New Zealand Infant Formula Exporters Association will make a presentation to the Chinese media at this month's Mother and Baby Expo in Beijing. The presentation will outline its work accrediting suppliers and approving brands.

And Chief Executive of Westland Milk Products Rod Quin, who recently visited China as part of a trade and political mission led by Prime Minister John Key, has also called for an extra focus on infant formula standards.

Historically, the counterfeiting of infant formula has been a problem in China and the nation understandably takes a strong stand on the issue.

For example, in 2008 the nation experienced a melamine baby milk powder doctoring scandal which resulted in the deaths of babies and long term kidney problems.

The New Zealand Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) is understood to be working on the issue of standards alignment.

The importance and sensitivity of the issue were highlighted earlier this year when a chemical residue was found in Fonterra milk powder.

The MPI’s handling of the situation came in for much local criticism at the time.

WorkCover investigating Matraville freezer death

A 23-year-old man was found at 2:45 pm on Saturday, trapped in a cold storage freezer in a Matraville factory, and died yesterday morning.

“Something happened and he became wedged between the forklift and part of the framework,'' a police spokeswoman told AFP.

News Limited reports that the man was trapped between framework in the freezer and his stand-up forklift for over an hour before being extricated by police rescue officers. He died at 6:30 am on Sunday morning after being in a critical condition overnight at St George hospital.

The man was reportedly exposed to temperatures as low as minus 19 degrees Celsius.

 

Duopoly’s market share affects truckies too: TWU

The Transport Workers' Union is arguing that the supermarket duopoly uses its market share to force transport workers to accept unsafe conditions.

According to the AFR, the TWU is pushing for new work rules and pay scales for transport workers in the retail sector and wants to remove incentives which may encourage drivers to speed, overload their trucks and work excessive hours.

Coles has slammed the proposal, saying there's no evidence that such changes would improve safety and referring to it as a "wages grab."

The supermarket giant said the proposals could increase its transport costs by 25 percent a year, which means costs could rise at the checkout too.

"The draft orders and supporting submissions filed by the TWU and [National Union of Workers] fail to provide any substantive evidence or analysis to support the existence of such cogent links between claims and safety outcomes," said Coles.

TWU's proposals form part of a tribunal set up by the federal government last year to promote safety and fairness in road transport. It follows a review by the National Transport Commission of the effects of pay practices, such as payment per load or kilometre.

 

Ammonia leak at Oak factory

Workers at the former Oak factory in Hexham had to be evacuated over the weekend after an ammonia leak at the site.

According to The Herald, the minor leak came from a valve in the old section of the factory, which is now owned by the National Foods plant.

Fire brigade crews arrived at 6.30am on 21 April and hazmat crews identified the leak and repaired the pipe.

While workers were evacuated, no one was harmed as a result of the leak.

 

Dairy industry angry over DCD secrecy

Fonterra and the New Zealand government will be under industry scrutiny this month after failing to inform other dairy exporters of dicyandiamide (DCD) residue discovery.

Members of the Dairy Companies Association of New Zealand (DCANZ), whose chairman is Fonterra director Malcolm Bailey, will meet Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) bosses on April 26.

Independent processors and the public were kept in the dark about the chemical residue discovery in Fonterra testing some of its dairy products until four months later, when MPI announced it in late January, stuff.co.nz reported.

Laurie Margrain, chairman of Open Country Dairy, the country’s number two dairy exporter, said the company would be looking for protocols and answers to avoid this debacle.

The Waikato Times attained MPI documents under the Official Information Act, which said MPI decided in November not to disclose Fonterra’s September finding with anybody else.

DCD residue was also discovered at very low levels in dairy products other than milk powder, as first thought. More testing found it in milk protein concentrate, colostrum, nutritional powders and UHT milk.

DCD, which is chemically related to malmine, is used distinctly in New Zealand agriculture, especially dairying, on pasture as a nitrogen inhibitor.

MPI said there was no food safety risks associated with it.

Fertiliser companies like Ballance and Ravensdown no longer sells it.

MPI’s shock announcement in late January triggered alarm in overseas dairy markets, especially China, which had a fatal melamine infant formula poisoning scandal in 2008.

The harsh reaction drove Fonterra’s chief executive to declare the DCD issue a crisis. But according to the documents, Fonterra had been worried about international trade reactions for months.

MPI had a public relations strategy to control the DCD issue since last year. This consisted of having a ‘holding’ PR plan for over Christmas if the DCD issue became public.

However, the documents do not bring to light how involved DCANZ was before the public announcement in January.

MPI said DCANZ was ‘part of a working group’ on DCD. But non-Fonterra DCANZ members said they were unaware of the DCD issue much before the public.

Chemical in food packaging harms unborn babies, says report

France’s health authority has released a report that highlights the toxic effects of an industrial chemical used in food packaging on pregnant women and their unborn child.

Exposure to bisphenol A (BPA) for a baby in the womb can result in a vast range of health and behavioural problems later in life, including breast cancer.

The report, released publicly on Tuesday by the French National Agency for Health, Food, Environment and Work Safety (ANSES), said BPA has been consumed by entire western populations.

In recent years, BPA, which is present in items like tins, boxes, bottles and dental fillings, has caused concern as an ‘endocrine disruptor’, due to its ability to imitate oestrogen and disrupt the hormone systems in humans and animals.

“In certain situations the exposure of a pregnant woman to BPA presents a risk for the mammary gland of the unborn child,” ANSES wrote.

“The identified effects concern a modification of the structure of the mammary gland in the unborn child, which could increase the risk of late tumour development.”

The Guardian reported pregnant supermarket check-out operators are particularly at risk of exposure to BPA through the thermal paper used in till receipts. This puts their children at risk of behavioural issues, obesity and reproductive problems.

Health risks posed by BPA have been an issue for twenty years, but ANSES says its research is the first to present scientific results with research on the population and environment. It did point out, however, that the risks are still considered moderate due to lack of further research.

The report said between 20 and 25 per cent of pregnant women are exposed to levels of BPA exceeding the indicated safe amount by the health agency.

ANSES said the biggest offender is food, making up 84 per cent of a pregnant woman’s exposure to BPA. Half of this comes from epoxy resins used to line food tins. Bottled water also poses a risk.

Woman injured at Shepparton plant

A worker has sustained crush injuries to her arms after they became trapped in a food processing machine at a manufacturing plan in Shepparton early this morning.

The woman, thought to be 30, was working at around 1.30am when she was injured. She was airlifted to hospital in Melbourne.

Worksafe is investigating the incident.

Worksafe regional director Shane Gillard said the event served as a reminder of the danger posed by machines.

“We know machines are essential to many businesses, but they can be dangerous and must be controlled,” he said.

He said 11,000 workers in Victoria have sustained injuries from dangerous machines in the past five years.

Gillard said the incident comes as a warning employers should take preventative measures to recognise and control risks associated with dangerous machines at the workplace.

”Workers should also speak up if they were concerned about safety,” he said.

“If we’re going to keep Victoria the safest place to work, employers and employees have to play their part.”

Sorghum safe for people with coeliac disease

New research shows the cereal grain sorghum is safe for people with coeliac disease.

Published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, the research found biochemical and molecular evidence sorghum does not have the proteins harmful to people with coeliac disease.

The study was done by researchers at chemistry science representative body American Chemical Society. Their evidence from an analysis of the recently published sorghum genome, the set of genes in the plant and other sources, shows the gluten protein is not present.

Aus Food News reported the researchers said sorghum is high in nutrition and that everyone should think about consuming food grade sorghums, especially coeliac patients.

The researchers said sorghum is used for animal feed in Western countries. But in Africa and India, it has been food for people.

Farmers in the United States recently started producing sorghum hybrids that are a white grain, known as ‘food grade’ sorghum.