2014: The year's biggest Food Processing Technology stories

Ebola caused widespread food insecurity, Del Monte Pacific completed the $1.67bn takeover of consumer food business of American food production firm Del Monte, while there were outbreaks of bird flu in Canada and Europe. Foodprocessing-technology.com wraps up the key headlines from 2014.


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Del Monte Pacific completes $1.67bn takeover of Del Monte's US unit

Del Monte Pacific (DMPL) completed its $1.67bn takeover of the consumer food business of American food production firm Del Monte.

DMPL chairman Rolando Gapud said: "We are very excited about this historic transaction which quadruples DMPL's sales from $500m to more than $2bn, and fortifies DMPL's vision of becoming a global branded food and beverage company."

The acquired entity, which will be renamed Del Monte Foods, Inc (DMFI), will gain access to DMPL's expertise in the Philippines, and the Asian markets.

Three new British foods gain EU protected status

EUprotected-1Anglesey Sea Salt, West Country Beef and West Country Lamb had their protected food name (PFN) statuses confirmed by the European Union (EU).

The new products join the UK's existing popular foods already EU protected, including Welsh Lamb, Melton Mowbray Pork Pies and Stilton cheese.

More than 60 British foods have now gained the EU protected status, which aims to help safeguard iconic products and deliver a boost to the economy.

Scottish Government to create new food safety body

The Scottish Government outlined plans to create a new food safety body, Food Standards Scotland (FSS), as part of the Food (Scotland) Bill.

The key provisions of the bill are to establish FSS to take over over the functions of the UK Food Standards Agency (FSA) in Scotland, to allow for the scope to expand beyond the FSA's remit and to establish new enforcement arrangements.

FSS would carry out the functions currently performed by the FSA, including food safety and standards, feed safety and standards, nutrition, food labelling, meat inspection policy and operational delivery.

Stevia First to trial agricultural drones to boost stevia leaf productivity

stevia-1US-based Stevia First announced plans to conduct a field-scale study using agricultural drones to provide brief overnight illumination, in a bid to achieve dramatic gains in stevia leaf and steviol glycoside yields.

Under laboratory conditions, using brief overnight illumination to interrupt Stevia's photoperiod has delivered significant gains in leaf biomass and steviol glycoside content, the company said.

According to researchers, brief overnight illumination of stevia with red LED light can mimic long-day growth and prevent flowering, which leads to increases in leaf mass and steviol glycoside content.

US scientists develop advanced modelling tool to improve food security

modellingtool-1Scientists from the USDA Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS) have developed an advanced modelling tool to help optimise crop production across larger areas.

The new tool, known as the Geospatial Agricultural Management and Crop Assessment Framework (GAMCAF), brings together crop models that estimate plant growth and crop yield at scales as fine as 30m.

It also uses spatial sources of information on soils, water, land use, and other factors.

Unlike conventional tools, the new tool is designed to work automatically with spatial data, which makes it possible to make much larger predictions of yields across the entire regional scale, according to Jonathan Resop, who led the platform's development as a USDA-ARS postdoc.

European Commission fines food firms for fixing prices of canned mushrooms

The European Commission fined French frozen / canned vegetable producer Bonduelle and Dutch peer Prochamp a total of €32.22m, after it was discovered that the firms fixed prices of canned mushrooms in Europe for more than a year.

Prochamp received a reduction of 30% for cooperating with the investigation, and both firms received further fine reductions of 10%, as they agreed to settle the case.

Bonduelle was fined €30.20m and Prochamp €2.02m.

ADM buys WILD Flavors for €2.3bn

US-based food processing company Archer-Daniels-Midland (ADM) acquired Swiss flavour manufacturer WILD Flavors, in a transaction worth around €2.3bn.

As part of the deal, ADM will pay €2.2bn to Wild Flavors shareholders and assume about €0.1bn of net debt.

With around 3,000 customers globally and estimated 2014 net revenues of around €1bn, WILD Flavors provides food and beverage companies with full flavour and ingredient solutions known as flavour systems.

French chocolate makers oppose government's proposal for colour coding chocolates

frenchchocolate-1French chocolate and pastry makers launched a campaign to oppose the government's proposal to impose health warnings on their products in an attempt to tackle the rise of obesity in the country.

The proposal requires companies to introduce colour-coded labels for all food products to ensure healthy eating. These labels have to be produced in five colours, ranging from green for products considered good for health, to red for those best avoided or eaten in small quantities. It has been proposed to put chocolate under the red category.

The Confederation of French Chocolate and Pastry Makers, which represents more than 4,500 chocolatiers and pastry makers from across France, has started a campaign on social media sites to counter the argument that chocolates are unhealthy.

Seafood labelling and sourcing to become clearer in UK

seafoodlabel-1Labelling and sourcing of sustainable fish in the UK will become clearer with two new codes of conduct published by the Sustainable Seafood Coalition (SSC).

SSC, a coalition of major seafood suppliers, brands, supermarkets and restaurants, has agreed to the new codes with the aim of making environmental claims on fish and seafood clearer.

The sourcing code will also ensure responsible sourcing of seafood by suppliers and retailers, as well as adherence to the agreed minimum standards.

Cutrale-Safra finalises merger with Chiquita for $682m

Brazilian juice maker Grupo Cutrale and investment firm Safra Group announced a takeover banana company Chiquita Brands International for $682m.

The agreement received a unanimous approval of Chiquita's board of directors, and involves Cutrale-Safra acquiring all of Chiquita's outstanding common shares for $14.50 per share in cash.

With the merger, Chiquita will work with Cutrale Group, a leading fresh produce company, and global financial services company the Safra Group. Including debt, the value of the deal amounts to $1.3bn.

FSA survey finds 70% of chicken sold by UK retailers is contaminated

FSA-1The UK Food Standards Agency (FSA) released results from its year-long survey of campylobacter in fresh chickens, which revealed that almost 70% chickens tested positive for the bacterial presence.

The agency stated that campylobacter is the most common form of food poisoning in the UK, affecting around 280,000 people a year. Its major source is poultry and can be killed by thorough cooking.

A total of 1,995 samples of fresh whole chilled chickens have been tested. Data show variations between retailers but none are meeting the end-of-production target for reducing campylobacter.

Thousands of birds die from avian influenza at two Canadian farms

Thousands of turkeys and chickens died from H5 subtype avian influenza at two poultry farms in south-western British Columbia, Canada, with both locations currently under quarantine.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) confirmed in a statement that the birds at both farms in the Fraser Valley, a turkey farm in Abbotsford and a broiler breeder farm in Chilliwack, have died from the avian influenza.

The two farms are located are three miles from Canada's border with Washington state and have been quarantined by CFIA to contain the spread of the disease and has notified industry sector to adopt enhanced biosecurity practices.

Food insecurity due to Ebola to affect a million by March 2015, says UN

ebola-1Two United Nation (UN) agencies warned that the number of people facing food insecurity due to Ebola in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone could top one million by March 2015.

The agencies have stressed on the need for improvement in the access to food to safeguard crop and livestock production.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP) said in their three country reports that the effect of the disease on the three countries that have already been dealing with chronic food insecurity, has been devastating.

Hong Kong bans poultry products from Germany following bird flu outbreak

Hong Kong's Centre for Food Safety (CFS) of the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department banned imports of poultry meat and products from Lower Saxony, Germany, following an outbreak of H5N8 avian influenza.

After the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) made an announcement about the outbreak of the pathogenic influenza in Germany, authorities ordered the culling of thousands of farm animals in Lower Saxony's Cloppenburg district.

Almost 5,500t of frozen poultry meat and 580,000 poultry eggs were imported from Germany into Hong Kong between January and October in 2014, according to a CFS spokesman.