Cheese Heists, Wing Rings and Nut Jobs: Global Crime Rings Are Stealing Food

Food Burglar

Credit: holykaw.alltop.com

Large-scale food theft is the plat du jour on criminal menus as of late. In fact, food and beverages have replaced electronics as the most-stolen good in the United States, with an estimated $21 million worth of food and beverages stolen in 2015. Products range from alcohol, meat ($41,000 in chicken wings by a father and son team in New York), and dairy (especially cheese and ice cream) to produce, nuts and seeds.  Thieves find edibles appetizing targets because the value is high and the risk is relatively low—many perishables don’t have serial numbers and can’t be tagged or traced.

Who Moved My Cheese

Cheese is currently the most stolen food item in the world. In the last 3 years, almost $425,000 worth of cheese has been stolen in Wisconsin alone—including $90,000 in Marshfield near Nelson-Jameson’s headquarters and $46,000 worth just a month ago near Milwaukee. Any way you slice it, that’s a whole lot of cheddar. Gouda thing for the dairy industry, it’s not that easy to get away with stealing lotza mozza. Cheese is a highly-regulated food, with documentation implemented at various stages of production and distribution—from paperwork to truck seals. Thus, most of the recent queso the stolen cheeses have been solved.

Going Nuts

Some of the most sophisticated and frequent shell games involve the nut industry in California, with almonds, walnuts and pistachios targeted most often. And the thieves are clearly on a (nut) roll: in the past 9 months, more than $10 million worth of product has been stolen from the California supply chain, which is about $3 million more than the amount stolen in the last 4 years.  It is believed that most of the stolen nuts are being sold for export, as they have a long shelf-life, are relatively untraceable and have increased in global value and popularity. Fortunately, the nut industry is doing their best to crack the case. Since most of the thefts take place during the logistics process, extra safety and security measures have been implemented that include radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags and fingerprinting and photographing truck drivers. Police task forces have also been recently increased.

An Issue of Both Economics and Public Health

While we often laugh when we hear that someone’s stolen 600 barrels of maple syrup, don’t let the puns and humor detract from the economic damage the stolen food black market inflicts. It negatively impacts growers, agricultural laborers, processors, logistic companies, distributors, retailers and insurers. Eventually, the loss of income is passed onto the consumer through food shortages and raised prices. Food safety is also an issue. Like the California man that was caught selling unrefrigerated, stolen orange juice out of his garage, most thieves don’t care about proper handling and storage of the product. Clearly, the risk of foodborne illness combined with far-reaching monetary losses make food crime a seriously unpalatable concern that needs to be addressed with some importance. For more information on the FDA’s cargo theft policies and notices, please see http://www.fda.gov/ICECI/CriminalInvestigations/ucm182888.htm .


Arch Deluxe: Nelson-Jameson at IAFP

IAFP 2016 , image courtesy of foodprotection.org

IAFP 2016 , image courtesy of foodprotection.org

In the shadow of the towering Gateway Arch in St. Louis, Missouri, Nelson-Jameson will be displaying a host of products and services at the International Association for Food Protection Annual Meeting (IAFP)! From July 31st-August 2nd, swing by the Exhibit Hall at the America’s Center Convention Complex to see all we have to offer!   Dayton, Fritz, Amanda, Barb, and Mat will be in attendance to help you check out several of our offerings, and to assist in figuring out how Nelson-Jameson can be of service in supplying your Lab, MRO, Processing, Ingredient, Packaging, and Cleaning Chemical needs!  This year, we’ll be featuring a wide selection of Whirl-Pak bags, 3M Food Safety supplies & instruments, 3M Safety products, Metal Detectable & Color-Coded products, and a host of other quality items.

Each year we look forward to IAFP, as it gives us a chance to connect with customers on the front lines in the fight for food safety. The Exhibit Hall, as well as a remarkable program of presentations, workshops, and meetings bring together an array of resources that continue to propel the industry forward in our new regulatory era. To check out more about IAFP, click here. Be sure to stop by our booth (#619) to find out more about how Nelson-Jameson take care of all of your food safety supply needs and beyond!

In addition, this year we will be featuring an INCREDIBLE drawing for 3M ATP Clean-Trace Luminometer! The 3M Clean-Trace ATP Luminometer is portable, compact, and simple to use for easy testing. The Luminometer is supplied with data trending software that allows plants to filter, sort, and chart your results for easier analysis, making you feel more secure about the decisions that are being made for your plant.

All you have to do to win this beauty is to simply come visit us at Booth #619, and drop off your business card. One winner will be drawn at random, and booth attendance at the time of the drawing is not required. The prize is currently valued at over $3,000, and is not eligible for exchange, return, or credit to Nelson-Jameson or 3M.

See you under the Arch!

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Foodborne Bacteria: Do You Know How They Grow?

Food safety concerns are on all food manufacturers’ minds (and, honestly, probably in their dreams too), so it is critical to know how bacteria grow.  Armed with that knowledge, we are better able to stay ahead of bacterial contamination in the food manufacturing facilities.

Petri dish with bacteria.

Petri dish with bacteria. Source: processingmagazine.com

Often, when I was in the plant environment, I would refer back to a case study put together by the Royal Society for Public Health in 2010. It laid out some excellent basics on growth factors for bacteria in a concise manner that readers of The Wide Line may appreciate.

The RSPH states, “In order to grow, bacteria require a source of nutrients, an appropriate atmosphere, neutral or alkaline conditions, available moisture and an appropriate temperature. (In turn), the nutrient source needs to have available moisture, a source of energy, nitrogen, vitamins, and minerals.” A large number of bacteria are able to grow with or without oxygen. Some bacteria (obligate aerobes), will only grow if oxygen is present. Other bacteria (obligate anaerobes) will only grow in the absence of oxygen.

The RSPH’s “Growth Requirements of Bacteria” section continues: “Most bacteria grow best in a neutral or alkaline environment. Bacteria do not grow well in foods which are too acidic (with a pH of less than 4.5).”  So, the more acidic the food, the less likely it is to support the growth of bacteria.  In addition, foods that are dried or high in salt or sugar have a reduction in available moisture content, and bacteria will grow poorly on these foods.

Finally, “Most bacteria will not grow in cold conditions, or will only grow and divide slowly. High temperatures will also inhibit the growth of bacteria.”  For example, most food poisoning bacteria die when exposed to a temperature of 70°C for two minutes or more. The optimum temperature range for the growth of most bacteria is 5°C to 63°C, which is known as the ‘temperature danger zone’.

The RSPH concisely acknowledges that there are multiple areas in all food production facilities that need to be assessed for risk regularly, as well as monitored daily in order to prevent microbiological product contamination. All processing steps have the potential to increase the chance of microbial corruption.  Nelson-Jameson carries food safety products that assist with control and surveillance in every step of the production process—from ingredient receiving through manufacturing, storage, and shipping of finished products.  Contact a sales representative today to find out how Nelson-Jameson can help strengthen your food safety prevention and protocol.

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Testing the Water

j0444789What is the difference between water activity and water “moisture” content? Well, it all depends on what you want to achieve. Do you want to monitor the amount of water and dry matter present in a product? Or do you want to increase and monitor the shelf stability of a product?

“Water ‘moisture’ content is the amount of water contained in a product”. Measuring water “moisture” content is better used to determine quality of the process. For example, if the product is a cheese powder that is spray dried, it is common practice to measure the water “moisture” content to determine yield and to ascertain if your drying process is running according to the diagnosed plan.

Water activity is defined as the measurement of the availability of free water for biological reactions—especially the biological reactions that can make humans and animals very sick.  Water activity is more critical in the food industry. Bacteria love water; gram-negative bacteria like E.coli need a minimum of .97 moisture content for growth, and the Staphylococcal toxin produced by Staphylococcus aureus only needs a minimum of .93 for growth. To put this into perspective, know that pure water’s moisture content is 1.00. Thus, it is critical for food manufacturers to know and monitor the water activity before, during, and after manufacturing for safety. See the table below for the water activity and content levels of common foods:

Water Activity of Common Foods (aw)

fresh meats and fish:                     0.99

moist cakes:                                       0.90-0.95

soy sauce:                                           0.80

jams, marmalades, jellies:            0.75-0.80

dried spices, milk powder:           0.20-0.60

Water Content of Common Foods (%)

apples:                 84

peppers:              92

salami, beef       60

dried fruit            31

wheat flour        11

Water activity is crucial to food safety. Microbes are everywhere, and will find any way possible to a food source, ultimately causing spoilage. Moisture analysis monitoring processes are set up to eliminate as many microbes as possible, with the key to moisture control and water activity being to find ways to bind the water so that it doesn’t allow microbes to find a food source—thus extending a product’s shelf life. Contact one of Nelson Jameson’s product specialists today to discuss your moisture analysis and water activity needs.

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BrewExpo America 2016: A Stake In Philly, Not a Rocky Commitment…

logo@1xAs Nelson-Jameson continues to supply the craft beer industry with a mixture of laboratory products, maintenance/repair/operations supplies, and processing products, we are always on the lookout for resources that can help us anticipate our brewery customers’ needs. If you haven’t been before, the Craft Brewers Conference & BrewExpo America® is a prolific place to take in the newest developments in the industry from a rich array of industry professionals and suppliers.

Nelson-Jameson will be in attendance this year at Brew Expo America® in Philadelphia. Whether you are talking lab supplies, instrumentation and equipment, color-coded offerings, hosing, or even engineering products and services through our sister company Kaestner, we’re here to help!

I personally will be sitting in with Nasco, maker of the very popular Whirl-Pak® bag, on Wednesday, May 4th. If you will be attending the show, I would like to invite you to booth #3714 to check out an array of Whirl-Pak products, as well as discussing any supply needs that your brewery may have that Nelson-Jameson could provide.

Then, on Thursday, May 5th, Jeff Turnbull, Technical Sales Specialist, will be sitting in with Allied Purchasing (booth #3521).  Jeff will be there to discuss how Allied and Nelson-Jameson can help you with an array of products, including processing and flow control offerings.

For more information on the Craft Brewers Conference & BrewExpo America® click here.  To sneak a peek into our Whirl-Pak offerings before the show, click here.  To check out Allied Purchasing, click here.

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