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Articles from 2008 In February


Delicious Living

By the numbers: Cancer awareness

71 Percent of participants in the American Institute for Cancer Research's 2007 Facts Versus Fears Survey who correctly believe that pesticide residue contributes to cancer risk.
46 Percent who correctly believe that obesity contributes to cancer risk.
43 Percent who correctly believe that insufficient physical activity contributes to cancer risk.
6 Number of cancers linked to excess body fat (esophagus, endometrium, colon, kidney, rectum, and postmenopausal breast).
Delicious Living

March 1, 2008

NBJ

Sales of organic, natural pet food skyrocket after 2007 recall

 

Last year’s recall was initiated by Menu Foods after 14 pet deaths were linked to melamine in the company’s products, all of which were made in China. But new evidence suggests the scope of damage was far greater. In its April 2008 issue, Pet Age reported that consumer complaints received by the FDA suggest that more than 4,000 pets died after eating contaminated pet food.

The Nutrition Business Journal estimates that sales for organic pet food grew 150% last year to $132 million. Sales for both natural and organic pet food grew 70% in 2007 to $979 million. That’s up sharply from 2006, when sales of organic and natural pet food rose 15% over 2005. NBJ forecasts that combined sales for both natural and organic pet food will grow 45% in 2008.

According to natural products distributor United Natural Foods Inc. (UNFI), natural and organic pet food sales shot up 52% in the second half of 2007, with five of the six brands UNFI carries posting 70% or higher growth over the prior period. Three of the top six pet food brands carried by UNFI rose more than 180%.

“I would say that our organic pet products business has tripled in the last 24 months,” said Peter Meehan, chief executive officer of Newman’s Own Organics. “We were well on pace to double before the melamine hit and we’d gotten a lot of distribution. The recall accelerated the interest.” The melamine scare resulted in interest from new retailers as well as from core natural products and pet specialty retailers. Sales thus far in 2008 remain strong, Meehan added.

Phil Brown, corporate veterinarian for Newman’s Own Organics, said he typically answers 20 e-mails a day from customers but was deluged with a ten-fold increase during the melamine crisis. Brown said he suspects the company’s sales this year have increased “another two or three times, maybe more.” Helping to drive this increase are the growing number of mainstream grocery stores that now carry Newman’s organic pet food line, Brown added.

In March 2007, Newman’s reformulated its organic dry pet food line. Developed for optimized health and vitality, the new Advanced Formula contains higher levels of protein including soy. The new line includes dry dog food and cat food for seniors, as well as for puppies and kittens. Newman’s also offers organic canned foods for dogs and cats and organic biscuits and training treats. Some products are 100% organic; others are 70% organic.

“We will soon be launching another five varieties of 100% organic canned food,” Brown said. “We’d like to come up with some alternative meats,” he added. “We’re looking into lamb.” Newman’s currently offers chicken, turkey and salmon in its canned pet food line.

Following the pet food recall, Newman’s was able to respond swiftly to verify that its products, which are made in the United States, contained no contaminants. “People became suspicious of any brand that was recalled, of some of the lower-priced supermarket brands and of any brand that had wheat gluten in it,” Brown said. Pet foods containing byproducts and chemicals also sounded alarm bells for consumers, he added.

Brown said the organic pet food industry’s ability to track the sources of its ingredients helped save his and other organic pet food companies from being associated with those brands contaminated by the recall. For example, the Animal Supplements Council, of which Brown is a member, asked its member companies which of its ingredients were sourced from China. “We were able to e-mail all of our members to [ask] which products [had] rice gluten, and we expected an answer in 12 hours,” Brown said.

Safety and Transparency

Natura Pet Products also reported a “high percentage increase” in sales of its Karma brand of organic pet foods following the melamine contamination, said Peter Atkins, president of the Santa Clara, California-based company. Natura makes several lines of natural and organic dog and cat foods and treats.

1997-2017e U.S.Organic Pet Food Sales
1997-2017e U.S.Organic Pet Food Sales
Select image to enlarge

The company’s Karma line is 95% organic and, while growing, currently represents less than 5% of Natura’s total sales, Atkins said. In 2007, Natura Pet Products generated total revenues of more than $100 million, of which about $5 million were in organic baked dog food and treats. The company is looking at an organic cat food formulation as well as at an opportunity to have a 70% organic product, he added.

As Atkins sees it, the recall was an “awakening for all of us in the industry,” he said. “The events of last year have added two new words to the vocabulary of the industry: safety and transparency. We’ve been focusing on those two areas. It really boils down to supplier management.” The problem is, Atkins added, “a lot of suppliers buy materials from other people.”

Natura prides itself on being diligent in certification and quality control, attributes which Atkins credits with keeping the company’s products safe from recall. But, he added, “at the same time, [the melamine scare] caused us to go to that next step.”

While most of the company’s suppliers are already domestic, Natura’s long-term initiative calls for all of its suppliers to be located in North America or the European Union. “Right now there are some ingredients, [such as ] B vitamins and the amino acid taurine, [that] are only available from Asia,” Atkins said. “If anybody says they are getting it from a domestic source, either they know something we don’t or they are fibbing.” Atkins predicts that a domestic source for these ingredients should come online within the next six to 12 months, and Natura will likely switch to sourcing from that company. In addition, Natura has established new protocols and inspections to further insure that it knows exactly where its current suppliers are sourcing ingredients.

Natura sells its products only through independent food and pet stores, with about 2%-3% sold through distributors. “We don’t sell to the Petcos or Costcos or Safeways of the world,” said Atkins. But, he added, the company does sell a “surprising” amount of pet food over the Internet. “For a long time we fought it [because we wanted to] control our distribution,” Atkins said. “But it’s become a nice piece of our business.”

 

A Promise to Pet Owners




Boulder, Colorado-based Natural Pet Nutrition’s Pet Promise line of natural dog and cat foods is currently the top-selling brand of pet foods sold through natural channels, according to SPINS data.

Despite not being organic, the company’s products also fared well after the recall. “In many cases we were the only product on the shelf,” said Natural Pet Nutrition Founder Anthony Zolezzi. “Our business tripled or even quadrupled. We’ve maintained it and built from there.”

To date, Natural Pet Nutrition has not offered any organic products, but the company is now eyeing the market. “Our only limit is protein,” said Zolezzi, adding that protein is among the fastest-growing categories in the natural and organic space. “When we get to the point of critical mass, we will convert to ‘made with organic’ chicken or ‘made with organic’ beef.”

In addition to sourcing poultry from family farmers in the Midwest, Natural Pet Nutrition has contracts with Coleman Natural Foods and Smart Chicken. “All of our protein is domestically sourced, and we are one of the only companies in the entire food business— pet food or human food—that has 100% traceability on our proteins,” Zolezzi added.

Product integrity is of prime importance to Natural Pet Nutrition, and the company recently divested itself of a facility that was unable to meet the National Organic Standards Board’s antibiotic-free requirements because pipes in the facility were not cleaned after rendering conventional foods through the system. “We sold it to Nestlé,” Zolezzi said. “Now we run on a plant that Purina made for veterinarian food. It’s super clean.”

Pet Toys Go Organic, Too

Heightened consumer interest in safe products for their pets has also led to increased demand for natural and organic pet toys that are free of lead, cadmium and other harmful contaminants. One company benefiting from the consumer push for safer pet toys is Planet H, maker of the Simply Fido organic dog toy line and the Good Earth Dog natural pet toy line. Based in Brooklyn, New York, Planet H is a subsidiary of Hosung NY Inc., a 30-yearold toy company that also makes organic and natural baby toys.

When Planet H first began presenting its Simply Fido line to potential retailers four years ago, the initial response was less than positive, said Jean Chae, director of new business development for Hosung NY Inc. “We said ‘organic toys’ and nobody got it. Now they are looking for it. Our business [has grown] almost 100% every year.”

Last year’s melamine contamination in the pet food category certainly stimulated consumer interest in non-food organic products for their pets, Chae said. “We had so many inquiries—phone calls and e-mails requesting our toys and also asking us how [they are] made. We had to explain why [our toys are] organic and how [that] is good for your dog.”

Launched first into boutique stores and at pet shows, the company’s pet products are now selling in Whole Foods Market and will be in Toys R Us beginning in July 2008. In addition, the company’s organic and natural pet toys are turning up in luxury markets. For the last holiday season, Planet H launched a line of pet products in conjunction with Estee Lauder’s Origins organic body care lines. “This was a good match,” said Chae.

The company has opted against selling into large pet supply chain stores to avoid saturating the market, except in cases where the pet product retailers have added a “green store” set, Chae said. “Our company’s forte is creating a whole program for the retailer with new toys and concepts.”

Consumers are willing to pay substantial premiums for the company’s organic plush pet toys, which carry a retail price of approximately $17. In comparison, conventional plush pet toys are sold for as low as $2.99 at such stores as Petco, Chae observed.

Quality is one reason consumers will shell out extra money for Planet H’s toys. “We have a lot of features that enhance durability,” she said.

To make its Simply Fido line, the company purchases USDA-certified-organic raw cotton and cotton with Organic Crop Improvement Association International (OCIA) certification. Planet H uses a natural dying process that utilizes only purified drinking water for all of its toys and, before shipping, all finished toys go through a UV-light sterilization process. “We have a lot that the industry is not asking for, but we felt it was necessary,” Chae said.

The company’s non-toxic, chemical-free and biodegradable products also feature herbs and minerals, such as gardenia seed and madder root. “When dogs get our toys, it’s very comforting,” Chae said. In addition, the toys contain no small parts that could pose as choking hazards.

Hosung recently branched out into offering pet home furnishings, such as pet beds. “A lot of home furnishing stores are getting into green design, so it goes with their concept,” Chae observed. The company also offers an organic T-shirt line for pets and will soon launch a line of accessories including blankets and bedding for small dogs.

Hosung’s products are manufactured in China, and to ensure the integrity of its organic products, the company built its own manufacturing facility in Shanghai four years ago. “There is no way to make organic products in China unless you have your own factory,” said Chae. “In China, it is very hard. They don’t even get the concept of organic, so it was pretty hard work for us to convey the idea of why this was necessary.”

Organic cotton costs have risen as much as 40% recently, but having its own facility has enabled Hosung to control its margins and stabilize cotton reserves. Owning its own manufacturing facility has also allowed the company to eliminate many middle-tier costs, Chae said.

Organic and natural pet products now account for 35% of Hosung’s sales, while organic baby products bring in 65% of revenues for the company. The company’s baby and pet toys are manufactured in the same facility, and all Hosung pet toys go through safety testing similar to the company’s baby toys and meet high safety standards for Europe, Asia and Japan, Chae said.

The fact that the United States’ industry safety standards for baby products are not also required for pet products is “quite concerning,” Chae said. “You can pretty much put anything out there, and nobody is policing them.”

Given the lack of regulation of pet products, recent events such as the melamine pet food contamination and reports of lead found in a wide variety of children’s toys have had a positive impact on Hosung’s bottom line. “Our sales have gone up more than 200% since last year because of all the scares,” Chae said. “People are more looking to get natural and organic products; but for non-food products, we are among only a handful of companies [offering them].”

Tetra Pak packing a green punch

Multinational packaging specialist Tetra Pak — a company that provides the packaging for a multitude of functional-foods and beverage offerings — reports its US curbside collection schemes are proving successful and are to be ramped up even further.

Tetra Pak has, in the past, been the target of green campaigners because its cartons were difficult to recycle. Many councils and private collectors would not accept them. But the Illinois-based US arm of Tetra Pak is quickly rectifying that situation, facilitating curbside collection for two million US households in 2007, and notching 50 per cent growth in carton collection in the US in five years.

"Our goal is to have another two million households come on board in 2008,? said Michele Wagner, Tetra Pak environmental manager. "We're continually working to help communities expand their current recycling programmes, especially in states where we do not yet have a presence.? More than 40 US cities in eight states joined the programme in 2007, Tetra Pak said, with more than 20 million households having access to carton recycling.

Over the pond at Tetra Pak's European division, group environmental director Erika Mink said industry action needed to be met with international standards. "We need internationally agreed rules and scientifically robust standards for determining the carbon footprint of a given package or product, in order to create the right policy support for business action and consumer behaviour,? she said.

NBJ

Health concerns drive growth spurt for organic baby food

 

New Nutrition Business Journal research found that organic baby food sales grew 16% in 2007 to $268 million. This growth was considerably more robust than overall baby food sales, which rose 3.1% to $3.7 billion in the last fiscal year (ending Feb. 24, 2007), according to ACNielsen data.

The real growth engine in the category, however, is organic infant formula, which NBJ estimates spiked 106% to $36 million in 2007. Relatively new to the organic scene, organic infant formula is now made by The Hain Celestial Group’s Earth’s Best brand, Wal-Mart’s Parent’s Choice Organic private-label brand, Baby’s Only Organic and conventional formula giant Similac. Launched in October 2006, Similac Organic experienced a 580% jump in sales last year to $11 million, according to SPINS and ACNielsen data.

SPINS reports that sales of organic baby food and formula grew 34% last year, with most of the growth coming from mass market supermarkets, which saw sales rise 49.6%. Sales of organic baby food and formula rose a modest 0.4% in the natural channel in 2007.

Shazi Visram, founder and CEO of Happy Baby Food in Brooklyn, New York, estimated that organic baby foods now account for 7%-9% of the overall U.S. baby food market. “It used to be less than 5% of the total back in 2004,” she said.

Visram, who launched Happy Baby Food on Mother’s Day 2006, said she sees continued strong growth for the U.S. organic baby food market because of consumer trends abroad. “In the U.K., almost 40% of baby food consumed is organic,” Visram said. “Our organic-consumption patterns follow those of the U.K., so there is plenty of room for growth here.”

Demand for organic baby food has grown as consumers have become more educated about the danger of chemicals found in conventional foods and as the media has increasingly reported on the importance of feeding organic food to tots. For example, a 2006 Consumer Reports article titled “Better for baby? Our analysis finds organic food is safer for children” sent this message to parents: “Nearly two-thirds of U.S. consumers bought organic food and beverages in 2005. And because children’s developing bodies are especially vulnerable to the toxins found in nonorganic baby food, it pays to buy organic food for baby as often as possible.”

Market leaders for organic baby foods in the United States include Gerber Products Co., which began selling jarred baby foods almost 80 years ago, in the conventional channel and Hain Celestial Group’s Earth’s Best brand in the natural channel. Earth’s Best, which sells a wide variety of organic jarred foods and cereals and recently launched an organic infant formula with DHA and ARA (omega-3 fatty acids important to brain and eye development), is Hain’s largest organic brand. SPINS reports that sales of the brand grew 43.8% in mainstream stores and 9.1% in natural stores in 2007. In comparison, sales of Gerber Organic grew 27% in mass market stores to $45 million.

 

Products Move to the Freezer




The organic baby food category has seen a flood of new companies in recent years, most focused on the newest segment of the category: frozen organic baby food.

One new entrant in the organic frozen baby food market, Plum Organics, has already gained the attention of the investment community, which has been increasingly eager to jump into the fast-growing organics market. In August 2007, Simon Equity Partners worked with the Demeter Group, a boutique investment bank specializing in consumer companies, to make an equity investment for an undisclosed sum in New York City-based Plum Organics.

“We feel Plum Organics is uniquely positioned to innovate the entire baby food category,” said Steve Simon, managing partner of Simon Equity Partners, in a press release. “Given parents’ awareness of childhood obesity and increasing demand for more nutritious options that deliver on taste and freshness, the time is right for organic frozen products to fully penetrate the baby food market.” Simon Equity Partners went on to say it believes the organic baby food market could grow to become a $600 million business by 2010.

Plum Organics was founded in late 2005 by Gigi Lee Chang, a new mother who was seeking to provide fresh, nutritious options for health-minded but busy parents. The company’s products have gained distribution nationally in more than 700 stores, including Whole Foods Market, Andronico’s, Mollie Stones, Shaws and other key regional retailers. Plum Organics sells a line of flashfrozen, pureed foods including such flavors as pumpkin banana, mango muesli and black bean tomato ragout.

Los Angeles-based Tastybaby is another new mother-created organic baby food company that has chosen to debut its products in the grocery freezer section. Sold in individual frozen cups, the company’s 10 100% organic flavors—which include Life’s a Peach, Peas on Earth and Kickin’ Chicken—are sold in Whole Foods Markets and other specialty stores in California, Arizona, Nevada and Wisconsin.

Bristol Farms, an upscale specialty grocery store in southern California [that] has never had much of a commitment to the baby food category, decided to take a chance on Tastybaby because [it] responded to our overall message and marketing approach,” said Liane Weintraub, who started the company with Shannan Swanson (granddaughter of Swanson Frozen Foods’ founder) in September 2007. “Thus far, it has been a very successful partnership.”

Tastybaby has also secured distribution throughout the Southwest, Southeast, Midwest and Northeast through Tree of Life, which services more than 6,000 retail accounts nationwide. In addition, the company has increased its West Coast availability through Unified Western Grocers.

1997-2007 U.S. Organic Baby Food Sales
1997-2007 U.S. Organic Baby Food Sales
Select image to enlarge

Swanson said the growth of frozen organic baby food sales within Whole Foods Market is representative of the category’s overall growth within the natural channel. Whole Foods reports that “last year, [it] did around $500,000 in frozen organic baby food,” Swanson said. “That was up from zero the year before. They expect that to grow two to three times, at least, this year.” In 2007, only about 50 Whole Foods stores carried frozen baby foods, Swanson added.

In addition to the new frozen foods, Whole Foods appears to be very excited about the overall organic baby food category, which has traditionally focused on jarred foods and dry cereals, Weintraub said. Whole Foods “just had a meeting in Boulder; they said the whole baby food section was set to explode.” An Aug. 27, 2007, article in the Dallas Morning News confirmed that Whole Foods has tripled its shelf space for organic baby foods.

Happy Baby, a pioneer in the frozen baby food niche, reported similar explosive growth. Sold in ice-cube trays with convenient individual frozen portions, the Happy Baby brand initially launched with six SKUs in 10 flavors. Today, the line includes eight SKUs and 15 flavors, including new meat additions such as Super Salmon, Chick Chick and Gobble Gobble.

“We’re selling that in Whole Foods and SuperTarget—and we’ve been approached by some large conventional chains. It’s been a lot of high growth,” said Visram, whose company generated “just under a million” dollars in sales for 2007. “We are expecting to more than triple it this year,” she added.

Alexandria, Virginia-based Mom Made Foods also reported thriving sales of its fresh-frozen organic baby food line. Launched in May 2006 by new mom Heather Stouffer, Mom Made Foods was among the first U.S. companies in the frozen organic baby food category. “There was really nobody out there in the United States when I was doing the business plan,” Stouffer said, adding that frozen organic baby food was sold in Canada, Europe, Australia and New Zealand before it debuted in the United States.

“What makes Mom Made different is that we use fresh ingredients,” Stouffer said, “and our packaging is portable, geared toward the parent on the go. It doesn’t require them to take [the food] out of something or put it into something else, and it’s in sizes that the average baby is consuming.”

Stouffer said she was raised by a single mother who made providing fresh food daily a priority. Stouffer wanted to do the same for her children, but when it came time to introduce her son to solid foods, the new mom was working full time and found it difficult to find fresh foods in convenient forms. So, working with her brother, who is a professional chef, Stouffer decided to turn a challenge into a business opportunity by making her own fresh baby food and began selling it at a local farmers’ market. “I was producing it in a kitchen I was renting from a catering company during off hours,” Stouffer recalled. “I had it organically certified and was filling all the 4-ounce cups by hand.” Six months after launching, Mom Made Foods gained distribution in Whole Foods throughout the Washington, D.C. area and the mid-Atlantic region—making hand production and packaging impractical. “Now, in 2008, we are doing a national launch,” said Stouffer.

Mom Made Foods is also expanding its organic product line to include meals and munchies to meet growing children’s needs. “Mom Made Meals and Mom Made Munchies are a natural expansion of our brand,” said Stouffer. “We are growing our commitment to developing healthy eating habits in babies and young children as they themselves grow. My own son turns 3 this spring, and the recipes for our latest items were inspired by his voracious appetite for new foods.”

The company unveiled its Mom Made Meals—which includes the flavors Cheesy Mac and Fiesta Rice—and its Mom Made Munchies—which includes Cheese Pizza and Bean Burrito—at the Natural Products Expo West in March. Both brands are made with 100% organic, flash-frozen foods for children ages 2 and older.

Stouffer said the company’s Cheesy Mac, made with organic peas and sweet potatoes, includes less than half the sodium of the leading organic macaroni and cheese. Fiesta Rice, which includes organic brown rice, corn, kidney beans and green peppers, is gluten-free and high in fiber.

Like other organic baby food makers, Stouffer has tried to be innovative with her product flavors. “Our Mom Made Broccoli is a bit hit. It didn’t exist in the market,” Stouffer said. “We’ve converted many non-greeneating babies and toddlers into green-eaters.” More traditional flavors such as pureed sweet potato have also been popular, she added.

To date, sales of Mom Made Foods are under $1 million. “We see mass potential for the market, but it’s something that we want to do right,” Stouffer said. “We are being strategic and cautious about the growth. We’ve had unbelievable interest.”

The company’s sales, along with the organic frozen baby food category overall, are expanding daily. “More and more, moms are looking in the freezer aisles for foods,” Stouffer said. “It’s really growing like wildfire.”

 

Functional Foods




Another development in this category has been the creation of functional foods geared toward babies and toddlers. One company moving in this direction is Happy Baby, which became the first organic baby food firm to add DHA to its product line to enhance infants’ brain and vision development, Visram said.

In 2007, the company also launched a line of organic dry cereals that are supplemented with probiotics called Happy Bellies. Happy Baby worked with Dr. Bob Sears (part of a celebrated family of pediatricians who have authored numerous books on childcare and parenting) to create the product, which is designed to help build babies’ immunity against the development of food allergies, asthma and eczema.

“The probiotics strengthen babies’ guts, and that, in turn, [strengthens their] immune systems,” said Visram. Happy Bellies cereals are selling in Babies R Us stores and will soon be on shelves in Target, The Kroger Co.’s stores, Albertson’s and Whole Foods Market nationally. Visram said the cereal line has been easier to market on a national basis than the company’s frozen products because grocers can always make room for new cereals, whereas freezer space is often much tighter.

At Natural Products Expo West, Happy Baby unveiled Happy Bites, a new line of toddler meals and nutritious snacks. “It’s a really fun line—all hand-held, nutritionally balanced meals that incorporate [a] high vegetable content,” Visram said.

Mom-to-Mom Recommendations

Happy Baby and the other new organic baby food companies all said they have primarily grown through word of mouth, as satisfied mothers have passed on recommendations for their products to other moms.

“What has worked best for us in terms of marketing that we can actually control is getting out and reaching parents,” said Mom Made Foods’ Stouffer. To help do this, Stouffer said she hosts events targeted to parents of young children including a class on introducing solid foods to babies.

Tastybaby has utilized traditional marketing approaches including coupons, giveaways, product tastings and ads in store circulars, Weintraub said. The company also uses its Website to create a virtual community among its customers. The Tastybaby.com site includes a blog section for moms to share tips and recipes, a kids’ blog area, and links to other helpful sites for parents. “Our online membership and daily visits to our site are robust,” Weintraub said. “We are not a nameless, faceless corporate entity, yet we’re more than just two moms who set out to make baby food. We have a big mission and a big message to pass on.”

That message includes an environmental commitment, Weintraub added. “Our entire company is green.” Tastybaby’s planetfriendly packaging includes a biodegradable paperboard outer box with an aqueous freezer-safe coating that contains no chemicals or petroleum glue. The company’s inner packaging is made out of recyclable plastic. In addition, soy and vegetable inks are used, and stock is recycled whenever possible. “We make a product for generations that will inherit this planet,” Weintraub said, “so part of our responsibility is to help make the planet something worthy of them.”

Tastybaby also uses its Website and sponsored events to promote “the fun of parenthood and motherhood, and the fun of healthy foods,” Weintraub added. Amid media reports of childhood obesity, diabetes and environmental hazards, the message that sometimes gets lost is that parenthood is a beautiful and special relationship, she said. “We’re trying to infuse that celebratory element of parenthood and eating” into Tastybaby.

Weintraub and Swanson meet frequently with local “Mommy and me” groups in the Los Angeles Area and host lectures and product tastings at parenting centers in other areas of the country. Tastybaby representatives also hand out materials to parents on ways to make food and environmentalism relevant and fun for kids, such as through eco-art projects using recycled materials that include empty Tastybaby packaging.

Given the success of the company’s organic frozen foods, Swanson said Tastybaby is likely to introduce many more new products including possibly an organic baby-clothing line. “We set out to be a lifestyle brand as well as a food brand, so there are all kinds of possibilities out there.”

Dressing the part for GMPs

During my visits to dietary-supplements manufacturing facilities, one line of questioning continually surfaces: what are the Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs) requirements for proper dress in the manufacturing environment? What is the 'accepted norm' in the industry?

I am always amazed to see the wide variation in compliance based on how companies interpret the regulatory requirements. Some companies seem to believe that being 'GMP compliant' simply means having really nice, clean uniforms with glove and hairnet dispensers located throughout their facilities. This approach, though good, might not necessarily be required and definitely should not be the only thing on which a company focuses.

Let's take a quick look at how I think companies can 'dress the part' for GMPs: the requirements, some interesting interpretations and solutions, and ways to exceed the requirements to create a feeling that quality-control standards are being met throughout an operation.

Uniforms: Regulations do not stipulate uniforms. GMP regulations, however, do insist that individuals maintain a high level of cleanliness, especially where open product is being processed.

To uphold a specific level of cleanliness throughout their facilities, many companies choose to provide clean uniforms (some fully color co-ordinated!), smocks, or lab coats to their employees. A few companies forego the uniforms, which can be somewhat costly to supply and keep in good condition. Regardless, any clothing — uniform or not — must always be clean to satisfy safety issues in addition to GMP requirements.

From a perception standpoint, however, operations personnel donned in well-kept uniforms makes a powerful first impression on auditors or visitors.They immediately have a sense that the entire facility is also orderly and well maintained. Obviously, the opposite impact is created if a guest walks into a facility and sees individuals dressed in torn jeans, tennis shoes, or flip-flops and T-shirts.

Gloves: Always wear gloves! It is essential that anyone working in product areas wear clean gloves at all times. Companies should ensure that a good supply of clean, well-fitting gloves is constantly available to employees. They also should mandate that employees change their gloves on a regular basis.

Obviously, gloves should be replaced after visiting a restroom each time. Further, gloves should not be used for note taking or keeping track of machine settings, lot numbers or someone's phone number.

And if gloves develop tears or holes? Toss them! In addition, my opinion is that maintenance personnel are not compliant when the fingers of gloves are cut off in order to more easily handle tools and turn nuts and bolts with bare fingers.

Hairnets and face covers: Though not necessarily an evident contamination-safety issue, finding a hair in one's product is probably one of the most disturbing experiences a consumer can have. Beyond the apparent hair issue, dead skin, oils, etc., are also a contamination risk if a person's head is not covered.

Therefore, the regulatory requirements are fairly strict regarding the wearing of hairnets in all processing areas. Even if one is completely bald, a person is still obliged to wear a hairnet because it is the law. The GMPs do not provide any exceptions to this rule. For those who have hair, the hairnets must cover all of the hair. Those with extra-long hair might need to use two hairnets. In addition, any facial hair should always be hidden with a face cover regardless of the individual.

As with gloves, changing hairnets and face covers regularly is important. While visiting a customer, an operator once told me that he was saving the company money by not changing his hairnet regularly. I pointed out that the cost of a hairnet is minimal and his attempted contribution towards improving the company's bottom line, though appreciated, really wasn't benefiting the company.

In addition, manufacturing personnel working directly with product are recommended to wear long sleeves or arm covers.

Shoe covers: GMPs specifically require closed-toe shoes only. They don't stipulate shoe covers. Nevertheless, some companies do specify that their employees wear special shoes or covers on their shoes. Many facilities have specialized floor finishes that the company is trying to protect and preserve. Obviously, shoe covers should be disposed of properly after use, and should never be worn in the facility after they have been worn outside the facility.

Summary: Cleanliness is the chief criteria behind GMP regulations, and should be the prime factor driving apparel-related decisions. The appearance of the workforce influences first impressions of auditors, customers and other visitors. A well-tended look sends a vital message about the overall quality and professionalism of an entire operation.

Brian Frisby is manager of business development for the Americas for Capsugel (and a certified quality auditor). Respond: Brian.Frisby@pfizer.com

Safe, sustainable seafood recipes

We all know fish is good food. It's loaded with protein and contains less fat and cholesterol than most lean meats; many varieties also provide those excellent omega-3 essential fatty acids.

But all the worry about hidden toxins and overfishing of certain species may leave any seafood lover wondering if it's really such a catch after all.

Happy news: There's no need to scale back on your intake. Recent studies published in the Journal of the American Medical Association and The Lancet indicate that the benefits of eating seafood — including a lower likelihood of heart disease, cancer, and other diseases — far outweigh any potential risks from toxins. And environmental watchdog groups can help you pick the best options for the planet's health, too, based on your geographic location and the most current sustainability information. (See “Fishing for Answers,” page 45.) These recipes feature fish and shellfish that get high-water marks on health and sustainability, so set aside your worries and enjoy these gifts from the sea.

Lime-Scented Bay Scallops on Linguine

Serves 4 / A light dish that's perfect for a simple dinner. Serving tip: Accompany with a salad of endive and radicchio tossed with lemon juice and olive oil.

8 ounces linguine

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 tablespoons olive oil

½ cup minced shallots

2 small Serrano peppers, seeded and finely minced

1 pound bay scallops, rinsed and patted dry

4 tablespoons lime juice

  1. Cook pasta in boiling water until al dente, about 8 minutes. Drain. Place in a serving bowl and keep warm.
  2. While pasta is cooking, in a large skillet, heat butter and olive oil over medium-high heat. Sauté shallots, peppers, and scallops, stirring frequently, until scallops are tender, about 3 minutes. Add lime juice and cook for 1 minute longer. Using a slotted spoon, transfer scallops to pasta bowl. Bring sauce to a boil and cook for 1 minute to slightly reduce. Season with salt and pepper. Pour sauce over scallops and cooked pasta; toss and serve.

PER SERVING: 430 cal, 32% fat cal, 15g fat, 6g sat fat, 83mg chol, 28g protein, 46g carb, 1g fiber, 207mg sodium

Pan-Seared Tilapia with Blackberry Sauce

Serves 4 / A fresh, fruity sauce enhances the earthy sweetness of the spiced fish. Prep tips: You can substitute rainbow trout or another white fish. For the sauce, experiment with other fruit combinations, such as raspberries, mangoes, or peaches.

1 10-ounce package frozen blackberries, partially thawed

3 tablespoons honey

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

⅓ cup dry white wine

Pinch of salt

½ teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

2 teaspoons ground cumin

¼-½ teaspoon cayenne pepper

½ teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper

4 5- to 6-ounce tilapia fillets, skin removed, rinsed and patted dry

1 tablespoon olive oil

  1. In a medium saucepan, combine blackberries, honey, vinegar, wine, and a pinch of salt. Mash berries lightly with a fork. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer, uncovered, about 8 minutes, until sauce is slightly thickened.
  2. While sauce cooks, in a small bowl combine ½ teaspoon salt, cinnamon, cumin, cayenne, and black pepper. Gently rub both sides of tilapia fillets with spice mixture.
  3. In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium-high. Sauté fish 2-3 minutes, until golden, then turn and sauté 2-4 minutes longer, until cooked through. Transfer to serving plates and top with blackberry sauce. Serve immediately.

PER SERVING (with ¼ cup sauce): 252 cal, 18% fat cal, 5g fat, 1g sat fat, 69mg chol, 27g protein, 26g carb, 5g fiber, 346mg sodium

Broiled Sardines with Fennel and Olives

Serves 8 / Serving tips: This Mediterranean classic makes a marvelous appetizer on crostini or any toasted bread. Or toss with cooked linguini and top with shredded Asiago cheese for a fast entrée — not your ordinary dinner!

2 tablespoons olive oil

4 medium cloves garlic, minced

½-1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

1 medium fennel bulb (about 12 ounces), very thinly sliced

2 4-ounce cans skinless, boneless sardines packed in water, drained, halved lengthwise

⅔ cup pitted kalamata olives, rinsed and drained

2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley

  1. Preheat broiler. In a medium bowl, combine olive oil, garlic, and crushed red pepper. Add fennel slices and mix with fingers to coat.
  2. Arrange sardines in a 9×13-inch baking dish. Scatter olives around sardines. Scatter fennel slices over sardines and olives. Broil on middle rack for 6-8 minutes. Remove from oven and stir to mix. Season with salt and pepper, and sprinkle with minced parsley. Serve at once.

PER SERVING: 145 cal, 65% fat cal, 11g fat, 1g sat fat, 18mg chol, 9g protein, 5g carb, 2g fiber, 130mg sodium


Food and nutrition writer Lisa Turner learned to catch fish when she was 5 years old, but she still won't eat sushi.

BAKED COD IN LEMONGRASS-COCONUT SAUCE

2 small Thai peppers, seeded and minced

2 stalks lemongrass, tough outer leaves removed, minced

1 large clove garlic, minced

½ cup chopped fresh cilantro

Juice of 2 limes

6 tablespoons coconut cream

2 teaspoons pure maple syrup

Pinch of white pepper

1 2-inch piece fresh ginger, unpeeled, coarsely grated

4 11-inch-square banana leaves or parchment paper

4 6-ounce cod fillets

  1. Preheat oven to 400°. In a bowl, combine Thai peppers, lemongrass, garlic, cilantro, lime juice, coconut cream, maple syrup, and white pepper. Squeeze grated ginger into the bowl to extract juice; discard ginger solids.
  2. Place banana leaves or parchment papers on a large, rimmed baking sheet. Spoon a little of the lemongrass sauce in the center of each leaf or sheet of paper. Place fish on top, then spoon remaining sauce over fish. Fold top and bottom sides over fish, overlapping; fold in remaining sides, forming a square packet around each fillet. Using a strip of foil, crimp top two edges together to keep each packet from unfolding. Slip a thin strip of banana leaf (or a piece of kitchen string) under and around each packet and tie in a bow or square knot.
  3. Bake 25-30 minutes, depending on thickness. Remove from oven. Transfer packets to serving plates and carefully remove foil seals, leaving string intact (as decoration). Serve hot.

PER SERVING: 222 cal, 25% fat cal, 6g fat, 5g sat fat, 63mg chol, 32g protein, 10g carb, 1g fiber, 566mg sodium

WILD SALMON WITH WASABI-AVOCADO SAUCE

2 medium cloves garlic

1 large, very ripe avocado, pitted and peeled

1 tablespoon canola mayonnaise

1 tablespoon lemon juice

2-3 tablespoons nonfat milk

¼-½ teaspoon wasabi powder

1 tablespoon sesame oil

4 5-ounce wild salmon fillets, rinsed, patted dry

2 tablespoons black sesame seeds

¼ cup low-sodium tamari

1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil

½ cup water

  1. Mince garlic in a food processor. Add avocado, mayonnaise, lemon juice, 2 tablespoons milk, and wasabi powder; purée until creamy, adding remaining milk if needed. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a glass bowl, cover, and refrigerate. (Makes about ¾ cup.)
  2. In a medium skillet, heat sesame oil until very hot. Place salmon in pan, skin-side up, and cook until lightly browned, about 1½ minutes. Turn fillets over and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Add tamari, toasted sesame oil, and water to pan. Cover and cook over medium heat for 7-10 minutes, until just cooked through, adding more water if needed. Remove from pan, arrange on serving plates, and drizzle with sauce. Serve immediately.

PER SERVING (with 1 tablespoon sauce): 329 cal, 52% fat cal, 19g fat, 3g sat fat, 64mg chol, 35g protein, 5g carb, 2g fiber, 684mg sodium

PECAN-CRUSTED CATFISH WITH REMOULADE

2 tablespoons olive oil, divided

4 4- to 5-ounce catfish fillets, skin removed, rinsed and patted dry

¾ cup finely chopped pecans

2 tablespoons canola mayonnaise

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons ketchup

⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 tablespoon capers, chopped

1 ½ teaspoons dried tarragon

1 shallot, minced

Minced fresh parsley, for garnish

  1. Preheat oven to 450°. Rub 1 tablespoon olive oil into catfish fillets. Sprinkle with salt and pepper (use cayenne pepper if desired). Coat a 9×13-inch baking dish with remaining 1 tablespoon oil. Arrange fish in baking dish and top with pecans, pressing gently. Cover with foil and bake for 15 minutes. Remove foil and bake for an additional 5-10 minutes, or until cooked through.
  2. While fish is baking, in a small bowl, combine mayonnaise, mustard, ketchup, cayenne pepper, capers, tarragon, and shallots; stir to mix well.
  3. Place each fillet on a serving plate. Top with sauce, garnish with minced parsley, and serve at once.

PER SERVING (with 1 tablespoon sauce): 350 cal, 69% fat cal, 28g fat, 3g sat fat, 67mg chol, 23g protein, 5g carb, 2g fiber, 241mg sodium

Fishing for answers

Get up-to-date information on environmentally sound seafood choices by visiting the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch website, www.seafoodwatch.org; you can even print out a pocket-size buying guide. Oceans Alive, www.oceansalive.org, tells you the best (and worst) seafood picks based on nutrients, contaminants, and sustainability concerns.
-L.T.

At your market

Forward-thinking companies now offer easy-prep meals that feature ecofriendly fish and shellfish. Options include Blue Horizon Organic Seafood's tasty, ready-in-minutes frozen pasta dinners with shellfish; and Henry & Lisa's Natural Seafood, with kid-friendly fish nuggets, vacuum-packed and premarinated salmon fillets, and more.
-E.B.

Delicious Living

Pecan-Crusted Catfish With Remoulade

2 tablespoons olive oil, divided

4 4- to 5-ounce catfish fillets, skin removed, rinsed and patted dry

3/4 cup finely chopped pecans

2 tablespoons canola mayonnaise

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons ketchup

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 tablespoon capers, chopped

1 1/2 teaspoons dried tarragon

1 shallot, minced

Minced fresh parsley, for garnish

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Rub 1 tablespoon olive oil into catfish fillets. Sprinkle with salt and pepper (use cayenne pepper if desired). Coat a 9x13-inch baking dish with remaining 1 tablespoon oil. Arrange fish in baking dish and top with pecans, pressing gently. Cover with foil and bake for 15 minutes. Remove foil and bake for an additional 5-10 minutes, or until cooked through.
  2. While fish is baking, in a small bowl, combine mayonnaise, mustard, ketchup, cayenne pepper, capers, tarragon, and shallots; stir to mix well.
  3. Place each fillet on a serving plate. Top with sauce, garnish with minced parsley, and serve at once.

PER SERVING (with 1 tablespoon sauce): 350 cal, 69% fat cal, 28g fat, 3g sat fat, 67mg chol, 23g protein, 5g carb, 2g fiber, 241mg sodium

What do you think of this recipe? Love it? Could be better? Share your experience, ask questions, or post comments and helpful cooking hints on our DL Recipe Feedback forum, hosted by senior food editor Elisa Bosley

Pan-Seared Tilapia with Blackberry Sauce

Serves 4 / A fresh, fruity sauce enhances the earthy sweetness of the spiced fish. Prep tips: You can substitute rainbow trout or another white fish. For the sauce, experiment with other fruit combinations, such as raspberries, mangoes, or peaches.

1 10-ounce package frozen blackberries, partially thawed

3 tablespoons honey

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

⅓ cup dry white wine

Pinch of salt

½ teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

2 teaspoons ground cumin

¼-½ teaspoon cayenne pepper

½ teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper

4 5- to 6-ounce tilapia fillets, skin removed, rinsed and patted dry

1 tablespoon olive oil

  1. In a medium saucepan, combine blackberries, honey, vinegar, wine, and a pinch of salt. Mash berries lightly with a fork. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer, uncovered, about 8 minutes, until sauce is slightly thickened.
  2. While sauce cooks, in a small bowl combine ½ teaspoon salt, cinnamon, cumin, cayenne, and black pepper. Gently rub both sides of tilapia fillets with spice mixture.
  3. In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium-high. Sauté fish 2-3 minutes, until golden, then turn and sauté 2-4 minutes longer, until cooked through. Transfer to serving plates and top with blackberry sauce. Serve immediately.

PER SERVING (with ¼ cup sauce): 252 cal, 18% fat cal, 5g fat, 1g sat fat, 69mg chol, 27g protein, 26g carb, 5g fiber, 346mg sodium

What do you think of this recipe? Love it? Could be better? Share your experience, ask questions, or post comments and helpful cooking hints on our DL Recipe Feedback forum, hosted by senior food editor Elisa Bosley

Research capsule

Beneo-OraftiVital Stats: Beneo-Orafti's Synergy1 FOS-enriched inulin
Study claim: The prebiotics inulin and oligofructose enhance absorption of calcium in the colon, which also confirms the ingredients' potential to support bone health and prevent osteoporosis. The mechanism-of-action study will also be helpful in designing other prebiotic products.

Published: Abrams SA, et al. An inulin-type fructan enhances calcium absorption primarily via an effect on colonic absorption in humans. J Nutr. 2007 Oct;137(10):2208-12.

Abstract: Calcium absorption efficiency and bone mineral mass are increased in adolescents who regularly consume inulin-type fructans (ITF). The mechanism of action in increasing absorption is unknown but may be related to increased colonic calcium absorption. Researchers conducted a study in young adults designed to evaluate these mechanisms with a kinetic technique using (42)Ca orally and (46)Ca-dosed iv. Those who responded to eight weeks of supplementation with 8g of a mixed short- and long-degree of polymerisation ITF by increasing their calcium absorption had kinetic measurements analyzed to evaluate the time course of absorption. The area under the curve of the oral tracer in the blood during the 26 hours after dosing was calculated and the time dependence of increased absorption determined.

Eight young adults (of 13 studied), with mean calcium intake approximately 900mg/day, responded to the ITF with an increased calcium absorption of at least three per cent. In responders, absorption increased from 22.7 +/- 11.3 per cent to 31.0 +/- 15.3 per cent. Colonic absorption, defined as absorption that occurred >seven hours after oral dosing, represented 69.6 +/- 18.6 per cent of the increase, or 49 +/- 28mg/day.

These findings suggest that, in those who respond to ITF, its effects on calcium absorption occur principally in the colon. This benefit to ITF may be especially important when absorption in the small intestine is impaired for anatomic or physiological reasons.

Potential applications: Orafti Synergy1 is suitable for most food applications including dairy, baked goods, soy drinks, cereal products, fillings and glazings, meal replacers, and supplements.

More info: www.beneo-orafti.com
+1 973 867 2141

OptiMSMVital stats: Bergstrom Nutrition's OptiMSM
Study claim: OptiMSM may protect articular cartilage and reduce inflammation in early osteoarthritis.

Published: Oshima Y, et al. The effect of distilled methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) on human chondrocytes in vitro. Osteoarthritis Cartilage 2008;15 (Suppl C): C123.

Abstract: The study examined the effect of OptiMSM at varying concentrations on four grades of articular cartilage from post-mortem human knees, from healthy to osteoarthritic. Researchers focused on the expression of specific genes related to cartilage degradation and markers of inflammation, called cytokines, including TNF-alpha and IL-1. Over-expression of these genes and their related proteins are associated with the progression of osteoarthritis. The MSM concentrations were estimated to correspond to human oral dosing at between 0 and 30g/day.

In Grade II osteoarthritis, chondrocytes treated with MSM at the concentration of 12mcg/ml demonstrated a strong trend for MSM to reduce the mRNA expression of inflammatory markers: TNF-alpha -33 per cent and IL-1 -29 per cent when compared to lower concentrations of MSM and control. These results did not apply for osteoarthritis chondrocytes of Grade III or IV. MSM did not show an increase in proteoglycan synthesis in cultured chondrocytes or an increase of cartilage matrix production in normal and osteoarthritic chondrocytes at the mRNA level.

MSM might have an ability to protect articular cartilage in early osteoarthritis by reducing expression of inflammatory cytokinds. The effective concentration of 12mcg/ml MSM correlates with the dosage used in a recent clinical trial — 3g twice daily for a total of 6g/day for 12 weeks. MSM did not elicit an anabolic response in this study.

Potential applications: OptiMSM is organic sulfur that appears as a white, crystalline, water-soluble powder that is available in a variety of topical applications and internal dosage types. It is nontoxic, nonallergenic and always 99.9 per cent pure. Bergstrom is in the develoment stages of bringing OptiMSM to the functional-foods market.

More info: www.bergstromnutrition.com
+1 360 693 1883