Monthly Archives: August 2012

Needles and the Damage Done

This past July, an unsettling story came out that detailed how several passengers on four Delta flights, bound for the United States from the Netherlands, bit into sandwiches containing small needles. The FBI, Delta Airlines, and Gate Gourmet, the Amsterdam-based company that produced the meals, all took the event quite seriously, as surely as many travelers did as well when hearing of the story.

These types of events prompt the food industry to reflect further on a major focus of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA): food security and food defense. Food safety issues resulting from mistakes and/or negligence have largely been the focus of many media outlets, but the need to protect the food chain from malicious attacks is another key area of concern in the market and within the FSMA itself. No matter the motive, Gate Gourmet is treating the case “as a criminal act”.

Like other facets of food safety, food defense as well as food security are being targeted with controls that aim at prevention. To prevent attacks, the Act intends to improve areas such as inspections of foreign food facilities, zeroing in on smuggled food, identifying vulnerable areas of the food supply chain, and focusing on imports and ports of trade.

There is no doubt that a story like the Delta case will bring some additional focus from the general public on food security and food defense as part of the larger implementation of the FSMA, as it should. Events like this one also act as unfortunate reminders of the need for our vigilance within the food industry to look not only for potential mistakes but also for malicious attacks in the food supply chain. To check out more about food defense and food security, along with all other aspects of the FSMA click here.

Featured Column: Cost Cutting Can Kill

For the next three months, “The Wide Line” blog will feature a series of columns authored by Dan Strongin, a well-known name in the food industry.

Do you think it’s crazy to argue against cutting costs and advocate for not paying what appears to be the lowest price? I don’t blame you for thinking so; it’s natural because “cutting costs make more profit” is so logical, but, logical or not, except in the very short term, it is not true. What matters is lowering overall costs. The true cost is what the company has to spend for each dollar of sales, not what it spends on each individual part. If you care about profit as much as I think you do, you will invest in the time to digest this.

To help, I am including a link to the video page at the Deming Collaboration. At the bottom of the list on that page are links to three YouTube videos that go into depth using real world examples of how cost cutting can put you out of business. I do ask your forbearance as they are among the first I did, and while jam packed with goodies, are not Disney-level productions.

Click here to watch videos.

Watching costs alone is not enough in today’s rough and tumble business environment, and truthfully, it probably never was. If you have been buying on price alone, purchasing inventory you won’t use for months to get an even lower price, or buying from 15 different sources, a bit from here and a bit from there, don’t feel bad! You are not alone. Sadly!

I never saw a company that was forced to sell, that wasn’t drowning in excess packaging and supplies. Many companies fail to meet their long-term potential because they believe that old lie, “watch your costs, the rest will take care of itself.” Cost is just one part of the equation. We will cover the whole equation more in the next post.

Continue reading

Fallout from the Drought: Aflatoxins in Corn

Aspergillus flavus in standing corn, SOURCE: University of Missouri

The drought this summer has affected the country in the short term; there is also no doubt that long-term effects will be felt for some time to come. According to Clemson University, “Drought and high air temperatures raise concerns over the potential of aflatoxin contamination of the corn crop that may impact the usability of much of the remaining drought-stricken crop.” Aflatoxins are the result Aspergillus flavus and Aspergillus parasiticus: molds that attack corn both in storage and in the field. Drought heightens possible alarm because, “One characteristic of drought is the substantially higher air temperatures. Most fungi flourish between 68 and 86 degrees but A. flavus has a much broader temperature range and an optimum growth temperature in the range of 96 degrees.”

Aflatoxins can affect both humans and animals in the food chain. According to Cornell University’s Department of Animal Science, “Aflatoxin-contaminated corn and cottonseed meal in dairy rations have resulted in aflatoxin M1 contaminated milk and milk products, including non-fat dry milk, cheese, and yogurt.” In humans, negative health effects range from cancers possibly resulting from the long-term carcinogenic properties of the toxins, to the  appearance of acute aflatoxicosis in individuals (namely reported in third world countries).  In animals, there is also a great deal of concern due to acute effects and long-term health effects of such exposure, as well.

Drought conditions throughout the United States, including in the Midwest have highlighted the need for further attention to be paid to this threat to humans and animals. The final effects on this year’s harvest are yet to be completely seen, but the favorable conditions for the production of aflatoxins bring heightened awareness to this year’s harvest. This is another difficult pill to swallow in a summer of already great challenge and frustration for many farmers and for those watching the food supply closely.

Testing, of course, is a way to prevent aflatoxins from reaching humans and animals. To meet the demand for testing methods in this time of concern, Nelson-Jameson will be selling FDA approved Aflatoxin Reveal™ test kits, and Idexx™ test kits.

Reveal Aflatoxin M1 Test Kit

SNAP Aflatoxin M1 Test Kit

For questions on aflatoxins and test kits please contact our experienced technical support staff at 800-826-8302 or

Product Focus: Allergen Test Kits

Did you know that one of the most common food safety concerns reported to the FDA was undeclared allergens in food?  Since the implementation of the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA), consumers have had much of the guesswork taken out of the equation, thanks to the industry’s use of allergen statements and easier-to-read nutrition and ingredients labeling procedures.

Still, the problem persists, a problem that produces mild to severe reactions, and can even lead to death. These reactions are sometimes caused by trace amounts of allergens, making the situation even more challenging. According to the Mayo Clinic, a common cause for allergic reactions from food products, even with the labeling systems in place, comes from cross contamination. When food is exposed to “unintended” ingredients in food industry production, allergic reactions can be triggered. Obviously, though unintended, these ingredients can be extremely dangerous to some consumers.

One way to combat unintended ingredients is to test your product. Nelson Jameson stocks both Neogen’s Reveal® and Rapid 3-D™ allergen test kits. Reveal® kits require no refrigeration and have an easy-to-read one or two line test readout. One line indicates a negative test and two lines means there is at least 5ppm of the allergen in question. The Reveal® kits are available for milk detection and peanut detection.

The Rapid 3-D™ kits are great for “onsite” detection, when an accurate measurement on the spot is needed. Using a rapid lateral flow method, the test takes only ten minutes and requires no additional equipment. For more information on how to combat this major food safety issue, and to find what allergen testing supplies would best fit your operation, email Cathy Laube at 1-800-826-8302 or visit our website.

Featured Column: Focus On What You Do Best

For the next three months, “The Wide Line” blog will feature a series of columns authored by Dan Strongin, a well-known name in the food industry.

In 1947, when Nelson Jameson was founded, there were 3000 cheese plants in the state of Wisconsin. As I write this, in 2012, there are 140. The same thing has happened in the rest the country, and not just in dairy, but in most industries, with the exception of computer electronics.

We’re all in the same boat even if it sometimes feels like it’s sinking. Survival in consolidating markets is usually bought at the price of lower margins. As “commodity” markets mature, the choice is almost always made to compete on price. Dollars profit per pound becomes pennies, and companies are forced to find ways to survive on ever-smaller, already razor-thin margins at greater volumes of production.

Food plants in 1947 operated in a far simpler environment than that of today. The computer and the Internet have sped things up so much, spitting data at us faster than we can swallow it; I don’t need to tell you!  Just look at how logistics has changed.  The food economy now depends on exports, not just imports. Who would have thought, fifteen years ago, that would be the case in today’s market?

And the icing on the cake is the burden of requirements to keep up with, including: safety audits, environmental standards –the challenge of keeping up with all the forms, all the information, and the rapid pace of change, and the ever increasing complexity of choosing the best possible product. Remember, you also still need time to make that product, and to figure out how to make a profit from it!

All of you know this, but what you may not know is according to the Bureau of Labor standards, only a fraction of businesses are profitable even after a decade in business. It’s tough, and there is little room for error.

There is a silver lining in all of this, if it were easy you have a lot more competitors. No one can afford any longer to manage by shooting from the hip, or going with his or her gut. In the old days, you could get away with simplistic notions like buy low sell high. Today, buying on price alone will put you out of business. Have I lost my mind? How can cost-cutting put you out of business? We need real knowledge to survive, to understand business in new, more effective ways.

Continue reading