By Bernard Pacyniak
Candy Industry

getting fresh: Food Safety Overhaul a Work in Progress

President Obama’s hand must be getting tired with all the legislation he’s been signing lately. Of course, given all the Christmas cards that he’s had to send out, you’d think the President would be used to it.
One piece of legislation that surprisingly came out of this lame-duck Congress at the last minute involved food safety. As I understand it, the new bill provides the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) with greater authority over food production.
Food manufacturers - a group that includes the confectionery industry - now will be required to review their processes and detail a proactive and preventive plan regarding contamination. Nearly all of the confectionery manufacturers I’ve visited - and this covers a 10-year period - have had or were in the process of implementing a Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) program.
As many of you are aware, HACCP’s seven principles provide an excellent foundation for ensuring food safety in a manufacturing environment. Naturally, the program is only as good as its implementation and enforcement of those principles.
Today, many companies have gone beyond HACCP, focusing on traceability and product flow throughout the entire supply chain. So why the need for a new food safety law when self-policing by the industry seems sufficient?
As we all know, even the largest and most sophisticated companies can become lax and sloppy in executing food safety measures. It wasn’t that long ago when Cadbury in the UK paid out millions of dollars over salmonella stemming from contaminated milk crumb. Daily diligence in food safety needs to be a top priority, one that’s reaffirmed by a company’s leading executives.
Got it, you say. So then how will the new food safety law affect us? Interesting question.
From the articles I’ve read about it, it’s definitely a work in progress. Hence, the answer is I don’t really know. Neither am I alone on this since the bill provides that the FDA will have a long lead time to write and implement the rules.
Then there’s that sticky issue of funding.The bill doesn’t actually provide enough money for the FDA to do all the things it mandates. Next year’s incoming Congress, which includes more Republicans, will have to deal with that issue. In the end, figure on more inspections from the FDA. Y
es, I realize some of you already have experienced that, but as I’ve often commented to my wife regarding child-raising, remodeling and other issues, “You can’t expect what you don’t inspect.” So everyone, keep your plants in order. That’s the best food safety law you’ll ever need.
Finally, warmest wishes for a very merry and festive Christmas as well as a healthy, happy, holistic and prosperous New Year. See you in 2011. Cheers!

U.S. recognizes Mars' efforts with Ghana's cocoa farmers

McLean, Va.-based Mars Inc., received the U.S. Secretary of State’s 2010 Award for Corporate Excellence as recognition for its efforts to help cocoa farmers in Ghana.

Grant Reid, Mars Global Chocolate president, said his company, which was selected from a record-setting 78 nominations submitted by American ambassadors around the world, was honored to receive the award,   “The farmers in Ghana play an essential role in the world’s cocoa business, so working to improve their livelihood is an important step in fostering a vibrant industry in all levels of production,” he said.  

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton presented Reid with the award Dec. 17. During the ceremony, she said the company was chosen because of its special relationship with cocoa farmers of Ghana.

“Mars works to raise awareness of the importance of reducing child labor and protecting workers at every level of the cocoa value chain, from the fields to the factories,” Clinton said. “And, by 2020, Mars has committed to certify its entire cocoa supply – 250,000 tons a year – as sustainable.” 

She said the company also has supported the Sustainable Tree Corps and helped in developing the Cocoa Livelihoods Program to evaluate the cocoa sector of Ghana and other regions.

During the ceremony, Reid said the award reflects his company’s desire to make farming a profitable and sustainable industry.

“Our vision is an industry that empowers the cocoa farmer to thrive alongside suppliers and manufacturers in a way that doesn’t happen today,” he said. “We stand ready to work with anybody who shares that goal, and look forward to a day when the Ghanaian saying, ‘Ghana is cocoa and cocoa is Ghana,’ rings as true for farmers of tomorrow as it has for generations past.”

Donald Teitelbaum, U.S. Ambassador to Ghana, said that Mars is helping to create 800,000 jobs in industries ranging from farming to transportation, including work at the ports.

 “Every one of these jobs helps a Ghanaian farmer, driver, or shipper to pay school fees for his or her children, pay the cost of health care, and to provide other essential services,” he said.

The Award for Corporate Excellence, established by the State Department in 1999, is given to U.S. businesses that demonstrated good corporate citizenship abroad and therefore have a positive impact on American foreign relations. This year, Dominatrix and Cisco also received the award. 

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New cocoa-based drug in final development stages

A new cocoa-based drug that would treat persistent coughs could be on market in the UK within a little more than two years. 

The drug – being jointly developed by UK-based SEEK, and U.S.-based Pernix – contains theobromine, an ingredient naturally present in cocoa and chocolate and is entering the final stages of human clinical trials, says SEEK.

Specifically, following consultation with the European Medicines Agency, the single Phase II trial of theobromine (BC1036), should begin in the U.K in the first half of 2011.

The drug has potential to be on the market in Europe within two years from the start of the trial, if it receives final marketing authorization.

Persistent cough, which is a cough that lasts for more than two weeks, affects about 12% of the general population. Theobromine has been shown to inhibit the inappropriate firing of the vagus nerve, which is a key feature of a persistent cough.

Theobromine also has been used a vasodilator, or blood vessel widener, a diuretic and a heart stimulant. 

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Mars Retail Group signs Maramor Chocolates to Licensing Agreement

The Mars Retail Group announced it has signed a licensing agreement with Maramor Chocolates to produce chocolate lollipops depicting the M&M’S characters. The Retail Group also inked a licensing agreement with Rock Hill, S.C.- based Springs Creative to produce M&M’S-themed fabrics and fleece throws.    

“We are pleased to associate the M&M’S brand with two companies that are leaders in their industries,” said John Capizzi, general manager for licensing for Mars Retail Group. “Our alliances with Maramor Chocolates and Springs Creative Products Group provide consumers with new items to extend their enjoyment of our fun-loving M&M’s characters.”   

Maramor plans to have the chocolate lollipops depicting the Red and Yellow M&M’S available sometime this month, while Green, Blue and Orange are scheduled to debut in the middle of 2011. The chocolate lollipops will be sold initially at Blockbuster, Cracker Barrel and Walgreens for a suggested retail price of $3.99. 

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Lindt loses battle to trademark bunny, reindeer shapes

Swiss-based Lindt & Sprüngli AG candy company has lost its battle to gain trademark rights for its Easter rabbits and Christmas reindeer.    

The General Court of the European Union ruled that the candies were “devoid of any distinctive character” that would make them worthy of trademark protection, reports the Associated Press.    

Germany’s August Storck AG also wanted to register its own chocolate figure of a mouse, but was denied the right under a separate ruling.   

Both companies said they are studying the judgments.  

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Sweet of the Week: Helen Grace's Dark Chocolate Cashew Coconut Brittle

Helen’s Grace new dark chocolate cashew coconut brittle offers a twist on the common peanut brittle, but it’s familiar enough that it could easily be classified as a comfort food. The dark chocolate coating compliments the cashew coconut brittle, and the product comes in a gable box that might appeal to consumers looking for a sweet gift.    

Lynwood, Calif.-based Helen Grace Chocolates also will offer gourmet peanut brittle and milk chocolate peanut brittle in the same new gable boxes. All three flavors are trans-fat free and have a S.R.P. of  $9.95 per 8-oz. bag.   

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