Archive | Food Industry

CDC: E.coli Incidence Down

ATLANTA, April 15 (UPI) — Rates of illness associated with Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) O157 declined in 2009, hitting the lowest level since 2004, U.S. health officials said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, released Thursday, said the food safety study used data from the CDC’s Foodborne Diseases Active Surveillance Network, known as FoodNet, which tracks U.S. trends in foodborne illnesses.

The rates of most of the nine illnesses tracked through FoodNet in 2009 maintained the declines in food pathogens that began in 1996, but there has been little change since 2004, the report said.

“The interventions begun in the late 1990s were successful in decreasing some of these foodborne diseases, but we haven’t seen much recent progress,” Dr. Chris Braden, acting director of CDC’s division of foodborne, waterborne and environmental diseases, said in a statement. “To make additional strides against these diseases and ultimately better protect the American people from foodborne illness, CDC, our federal and state partners, and the food industry will need to try new strategies.”

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Group Urges Crackdown on 'slack Fill'

WASHINGTON, April 7 (UPI) — Food manufacturers that fill only half of their product boxes could cut shipping costs by half if they filled their packaging, a U.S. advocacy group says.

Michael F. Jacobson, executive director of The Center for Science in the Public Interest in Washington, says the food industry practice — called “slack fill” — is subject to federal regulations defining the difference between the capacity of a container and the volume of product inside.

Jacobson is calling for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and state attorneys general to crack down on illegal slack fill in food packages.

“If food companies cut packages of ginger snaps or Hamburger Helper in half, what now takes two trucks to ship would only take one,” Jacobson said in a statement. “Some of us might appreciate some extra space in our cupboards, too.”

“Cut the Slack” is the lead editorial in the April issue of the Nutrition Action Healthletter, a publication of The Center for Science in the Public Interest.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

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Wind Energy Projects Receive Credit Boost

OTTAWA, March 25 (UPI) — Wind energy projects run by Wind Works Power Corp. received a boost with a $10 million credit facility that will go toward developing capacity in Canada, the United States and Europe.

Wind Works Power Corp. said it was pledged the line of credit after an investment agreement signed with Kodiak Capital Group LLC of New York. The agreement covers a

a $10 million equity line of credit that Wind Works will use to expand projects in its portfolio.

Wind energy received a major boost worldwide amid controversy over the impact of hydrocarbons use on climate change and also the volatile conditions in the crude oil market.

In the poorer countries hit by oil price spikes through 2009 renewable energy generation, including wind power, became an urgent priority. U.N. cash helped poorer countries start renewable energy projects in Africa and the Caribbean, though on a small scale compared to those countries’ energy needs.

However, the less-developed countries still lag behind industrial nations in optimum use of renewable energy because the technologies they apply in harnessing wind power and other renewable sources are often primitive. Lack of cash resources has come in the way of developing nations adopting renewable energies as efficiently as in the industrial world.

In North America and Europe, wind energy, wave energy and geothermal power have caught on with impressive results, attracting new investment.

Wind power development in North America received an unexpected setback as security authorities found that wind energy farms obstructed proper functioning of radar.

The most publicized obstacles to wind power expansion have been complaints over their visual impact and the potential for bird and bat deaths. Less known is the conflict with radar systems, highlighted by military authorities.

More than 9,000 megawatts worth of wind capacity, nearly as much as was installed in the United States in 2009, had to be canceled because of those security concerns.

Wind farms create “cones of silence,” making it difficult for primary radar systems to detect airplanes as they fly over them. Planes with transponders can communicate with air traffic control but many smaller planes don’t have transponders.

Analysts said the conflict over radar would need to be addressed for wind farms to thrive and attract more investment. The latest credit accord indicated that investment climate for wind farms could be improving.

Following the agreement signing, Wind Works filed a registration statement with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to register 10 million shares of common stock. Wind Works will draw down on the credit facility, in amounts and timing at its sole discretion, and will issue common stock to Kodiak as the facility is utilized. The company won’t be able to draw down the equity line of credit with Kodiak until the registration statement is declared effective by the SEC.

Wind Works plans to use the funding from the equity line of credit to further develop its project portfolio. The company’s holding consists of equity interests in 23 wind energy projects in Canada, the United States and Europe for a total capacity of 367 megawatts.

Wind Works President and Chief Executive Officer Ingo Stuckmann said the credit facility facility “offers us access to the capital markets that we believe provides more flexibility, and ultimately less dilution, than traditional financing vehicles.”

The funds will enable the company to expand its operations and advance its project portfolio “to the point we can generate revenue in the near term, thereby adding value to the company and increasing shareholder value,” Stuckmann said.

Kodiak Capital Group, LLC, which was founded in 2009 and has headquarters in New York, assists growth companies in their long-term strategy by providing capital and business solutions.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

Posted in Geothermal, Military, Other, Wind0 Comments

German Renewable Industry Booming

BERLIN, March 24 (UPI) — Countering Germany’s overall economic trend, the renewable energy industry boomed in 2009, supplying more than 10 percent of the country’s energy for the first time.

“We have made delightful progress,” German Environment Minister Norbert Roettgen said upon unveiling of the renewable data Wednesday in Berlin. “Germany is a global market leader in the field of renewable energies.”

Renewables — including biomass, geothermal, hydroelectric, wind and solar energy — accounted for 10.1 percent of the overall energy mix, up from 9.3 percent in 2008. Renewables produced 94 billion kilowatt hours of power in 2009, a share of 16.1 percent, up from 15.2 percent in the previous year.

That puts Germany in a comfortable position when it comes to reaching its targets of boosting renewables in the energy mix and at the same time reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Renewables in 2009 avoided 109 million tons of emissions; Germany has reduced its emissions levels by 28 percent compared to 1990 levels.

Roettgen said it was “very realistic” that Germany before 2020 reaches its target of a 30 percent renewable share in the power mix and by the same year reducing its emissions by 40 percent compared to 1990 levels.

The German renewable energy sector has benefited from a generous feed-in-tariff provided by famous renewable energy law, or EEG.

Last year, the German renewable energy industry unlocked investments worth some $23 billion, in a year when the overall economy contracted by 5 percent. The sector employs 300,500 people, that’s almost double the 2004 figure.

“The sector is growing against the trend and it remains a job and economic motor,” Roettgen said.

It’s not all positive news, however: The solar energy industry has turned into a problem child.

The feed-in tariff requires large utilities to buy up power generated by solar panels at prices several times the market value. This has led to German companies leading the global solar power market but also in an excess capacity within relatively chilly Germany: The country in 2009 accounted for more than half of global panel installations, meaning that billions of dollars in subsidies go to their owners. Despite those massive subsidies, solar accounts for less than 1 percent of the overall energy mix in Germany.

This over-funding “discourages technological advances and lowers the acceptance of renewables with the public,” Roettgen said, adding that subsidy cuts were imminent. “We don’t want to use the EEG to subsidize solar investment funds that enjoy double-digit returns.”

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

Posted in Energy & Fuels, Energy Industry, Geothermal, Hydroelectric, Solar0 Comments

$400 Million for Indonesia's Geothermal

JAKARTA, March 23 (UPI) — Indonesia’s massive geothermal energy potential has been boosted by a $400 million investment fund plan to help double the sector’s energy capacity, the World Bank announced.

The $400 million plan, endorsed by the Trust Fund Committee of the Clean Technology Fund is designed to support the Indonesian government’s long-term goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 26 percent by 2020.

The plan will involve co-financing from the multilateral CTF to increase large-scale geothermal power plants and to boost programs to promote energy efficiency and renewable energy by creating risk-sharing facilities and addressing financing barriers to small- and medium-scale investments.

By 2020, the Indonesian government hopes to provide electricity access to 90 percent of Indonesia’s population; about 65 percent currently have access.

The $400 million funding follows an Indonesian energy and mineral resources ministry announcement earlier this month saying it had revised the country’s geothermal potential to 28,100 megawatts, up from 27,000 megawatts a decade ago.

The ministry’s geological agency said that with 30 years of operation, Indonesia’s revised geothermal potential was equal to 12 billion barrels of oil. That compares with the country’s current oil reserves of 6.4 billion barrels, the agency said.

Indonesia’s national energy policy aims to obtain 9,500 megawatts of power from geothermal sources by 2025. Less than 1,200 megawatts of geothermal energy has been explored, according to the agency.

“Indonesia has the largest geothermal energy potential in the world,” said World Bank Vice President for Sustainable Development Katherine Sierra in a statement announcing the $400 million plan.

“The co-financing will help Indonesia reduce the use of fossil fuels to meet its rapidly growing energy needs. It also gives a clear signal on the practical actions developing countries can take to combat global climate change,” she said.

Sierra, along with Ursula Schaefer-Preuss, vice president for knowledge management and sustainable development at the Asian Development Bank, point out in an editorial in The Jakarta Post Tuesday that Asia’s energy demand is projected to almost double by 2030. Unless development and consumption patterns shift, they said, the region would soon become the largest source of new greenhouse gas emissions.

Dennis Tirpak, a climate change expert at the World Resources Institute, said the $400 million funding was a positive step that can help jump-start Indonesia’s geothermal industry, ClimateWire reports. He pointed out, however, that Indonesia also needs long-term policy changes, particularly relating to fossil fuel subsidies, if it aims to achieve lasting changes to its energy structure.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

Posted in Consumption, Electricity, Energy Efficiency, Geothermal, Other0 Comments

Pesticides Linked to Developmental Delays

NEW YORK, March 22 (UPI) — Exposure to the pesticide chlorpyrifos — banned for use in U.S. households — is associated with early childhood developmental delays, U.S. researchers say.

Researchers at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health examined the association between exposure to the pesticide and mental and physical impairments in children in low-income areas of New York neighborhoods in the South Bronx and Northern Manhattan.

Chlorpyrifos was commonly used in these neighborhoods until it was banned for household use by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 2001, but it is still used as an agricultural pesticide on fruits and vegetables.

After controlling for building dilapidation and community-level factors such as percentage of residents living in poverty, the research indicates that high chlorpyrifos exposure was associated with a 6.5-point decrease in the Psychomotor Development Index score and a 3.3-point decrease in the Mental Development Index score in 3-year-olds.

The findings are published online in the American Journal of Public Health.

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Posted in Ailments & Diseases, Children’s Health & Parenting, Farming & Ranching, Food Quality & Safety1 Comment

Obama Prepares to Sign Healthcare Bill

WASHINGTON, March 23 (UPI) — U.S. President Barack Obama will sign the sweeping healthcare reform bill into law Tuesday in the East Room, the White House said.

The signing ceremony will include remarks by Obama, who will be introduced by Vice President Joe Biden, the White House daily schedule indicated.

After the signing, Obama will go to the Interior Department, where he will discuss the healthcare reform bill passed Sunday by the House. The Senate passed the bill in December.

In the afternoon, Obama is scheduled to meet with Sens. John Kerry, D-Mass., and Richard Lugar, R-Ind., as part of continuing consultations with Congress on the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, the White House said.

In the evening, the president will meet with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in the Oval Office.

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Posted in Policies & Solutions, Policy, Law, & Government, U.S. Federal Government Agencies, U.S. State & Local0 Comments

U.N. Group Votes Down Tuna Export Ban

DOHA, Qatar, March 18 (UPI) — A United Nations wildlife group meeting in Qatar voted Thursday against banning Atlantic bluefin tuna exports.

The Economist reported online the vote in Doha by member nations of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora was 68-20 against invoking the ban, with 30 abstentions. A witness told The Economist the vote came after Libya’s representative contended the proposed bluefin ban was based on poor science and was “part of a conspiracy of developed countries.”

It is unlikely the issue will be revisited before the meeting ends March 25, meaning it will be another three years before CITES members will take it up again, The Economist said.

A ban on the export of bluefin tuna, whose population researchers say has been decimated by about 85 percent by commercial fisheries, is opposed by Japan, Canada and many poor nations that depend on fishing economies, the BBC said

“The market for this fish is just too lucrative, and the pressure from fishing interests too great, for enough governments to support a truly sustainable future for the fish,” Sue Lieberman of the Pew Environment Group told the BBC.

Glenn Sant of Traffic, an international wildlife trade monitoring organization, said the vote was “quite a blow” to efforts to implement harvesting levels that would allow for the recovery of bluefin populations.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

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Nuclear Power a Possibility for Indonesia

JAKARTA, March 17 (UPI) — Indonesia’s House of Representatives gave a green light to the government’s plan to build nuclear plants.

That decision Monday came after the parliamentary commission for energy, technology and the environment visited the country’s National Nuclear Energy Agency, which is known as Batan, during the weekend.

“Indonesia can no longer rely on non-renewable energy sources such as gas and coal to generate electricity in future,” said Teuku Riefky Harsya, chairman of the commission, in a statement.

Coal is estimated to account for 44 percent of state-owned utility PT Perusahaan Listrik Negara’s total energy production this year with natural gas another 26 percent.

Hudi Hastowo, head of Batan, told The Jakarta Globe the agency wouldn’t operate nuclear plants but would act as a supporting partner in providing technical advice.

Building a nuclear plant was a long-term project for Indonesia, Hastowo said, that could take at least 10 years.

“We now have to convince all stakeholders to support the plan,” he said.

The agency has carried out a feasibility study on the construction of nuclear plants in Indonesia, covering such issues as safety and the environment. Batan said the country’s uranium reserves in Kalimantan are capable of producing 1,000 megawatts of electricity for 150 years.

As for safety, Hastowo said that Indonesia would carefully evaluate safety measures in building nuclear power plants because the agency is party to the 1994 Vienna Convention on Nuclear Safety.

Noting that the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency is “very strict” in issuing permits for a country to build a nuclear power plant, he said that an IAEA inspector last November unofficially endorsed Indonesia’s capacity to build a nuclear power plant.

While Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s administration has yet to present a detailed proposal to Parliament on the building of nuclear facilities, the Antara news agency reported the president as saying, “I believe that nuclear power plants will not leak if managed properly.”

But the nuclear option “carries high-level risks for which Indonesia is not well prepared,” said Richard Tanter, an expert on Indonesia’s nuclear program at Australia’s Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, The Sydney Morning Herald reports.

“There are very serious volcanic and seismic risks,” Tanter said.

Indonesia, faced with increasing electricity needs, encounters regular blackouts that hamper industrial production and discourage investors.

Hikmat Soeriatanuwijaya, a campaigner for Greenpeace Southeast Asia, said it was too early for Indonesia to embark on the nuclear path, the Globe reports.

Soeriatanuwijaya said the government should first explore geothermal energy. Indonesia’s untapped geothermal energy accounted for 40 percent of the world’s total reserves, he said.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

Posted in Coal, Electricity, Geothermal, Natural Gas0 Comments

Kraft to Cut Back on Sodium Use

NORTHFIELD, Ill., March 17 (UPI) — Kraft Foods Inc. said Wednesday it would cut sodium in many of its food products by an average of 10 percent by 2012 out of concern for customer health.

“We are reducing sodium because it’s good for consumers, and, if done properly, it’s good for business,” said Rhonda Jordan, Kraft’s president for health & wellness.

“A growing number of consumers are concerned about their sodium intake and we want to help them translate their intentions into actions,” Jordan said.

The company had cut sodium as much as 30 percent in many items before setting the new goal of sodium reduction.

For Kraft, a pinch of salt makes a huge difference. A 10 percent reduction in two years takes more than 10 million pounds of sodium out of the country’s collective diet, the statement said.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

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