Shane Commentary

 

Management Turmoil at Hampton Creek Inc.

May 19, 2017

    

Bloomberg Technology recently reported on extensive ‘churn’ in the management ranks at Hampton Creek.  Olivia Zaleski documented the changes which included:-

  • Firing of the Head of Finance in October 2016
  • Firing of the Head of Logistics in October 2016
  • Dismissal of the CFO in April 2017
  • Dismissal of the COO in April 2017
  • Dismissal of the HR Director in April 2017
  • Resignation of the Vice President of Business Affairs and Corporate Counsel in May 2017
 

It is unclear whether the resignations and dismissals are an attempt to reduce the cost of operations or whether these executives were incompatible or disillusioned with the founder Josh Tetrick.  Since 2015, Tetrick has acquired total control of Hampton Creek since he has majority voting power over the Board.  According to Zaleski this strategy has been beneficial for Facebook and Alphabet but has proved controversial and damaging for Uber Technologies and Zenefits.

At issue is the generally accepted reality that Hampton Creek requires infusions of capital to remain afloat, given reported losses.  The Bloomberg Technology article suggest that Tetrick has only raised $7 million towards the current funding round of $150 million, although this figure was denied by a company spokesperson in the absence of alternative figures which were  not provided.

The image of Tetrick and his company was sullied by revelations that he employed contractors in 2014 and 2015 to purchase quantities of Just Mayo™ an egg-free mayonnaise substitute, to create the impression of consumer demand.  Although Tetrick has informed employees that investigations by the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Department of Justice have been dropped, there have been no official announcements from either of the Agencies.

According to Bloomberg, losses have been reduced to approximately $4 million per month, down from a whispered $10 million. It is unclear how money is spent since the promised introduction of a stream of vegetable-based products are not apparent on supermarket shelves.

The fact that Tetrick is claiming interest from investors in Asia indicates a lack of confidence from traditional U.S. venture capitalists.  Dropping names such as Prince Khaled bin Alwaleed bin Talal and various Chinese industrialists is less than reassuring.

When Tetrick established his enterprise together with Josh Belk of the HSUS, it was claimed that the innovative technology of the company would displace conventional production of eggs by hens.  None of the prognostications, widely publicized by Tetrick-hype has come to pass.  All that Hampton appears to show for millions invested is a ‘me-to’ mayonnaise substitute, cookie dough and minor products which use off-the-shelf formulas.

It is time for Tetrick to disclose sales figures, a projection of when the company will achieve breakeven and to provide an explanation of how funds provided by private investors have been expended and what the company has to demonstrate for the claimed R&D.  Hampton Creek is looking less like an innovator and disruptor than a money pit.

   
 

Antigen-Capture Tests Present Epidemiologic Challenge in Public Health

May 19, 2017

    

During the period 2013 through 2016, the use of Culture-Independent Diagnostic Tests (CIDTs) increased from 2 per 460 laboratories to 59 per 421 laboratories participating in the FoodNet cooperative database*.  Although CIDTs generally have high sensitivity and concurrent specificity, experience has shown variable results when assaying for Campylobacter, yielding occasional false positive diagnoses. The fact that laboratories can perform a rapid and inexpensive CIDT assay will intuitively result in an apparent increase in incidence rates. Unfortunately a spurious increase in incidence rates is to be anticipated.

  

Data presented in the review covering a three-year period showed that approximately 1,500 infections with Campylobacter were diagnosed in 2013 compared to 3,500 in 2016. For the same period, Salmonella diagnoses increased from 100 to 1,500 for ten laboratories in participating states and counties. The 2016 confirmed infection rate for Campylobacter was 11.8 per 100,000 population representing an 11 percent decline in confirmed cases from 2013 through 2015. When reviewing cases of campylobacteriosis either confirmed or CIDT positive, the 2016 rate was 17.4 per 100,000.

For salmonellosis, the 2016 confirmed infection rate was 15.4 per 100,000 representing a two percent increase over the average annual incidence rate compared to 2013 through 2015. When considering the number of cases confirmed or applying CIDT, the 2016 rate increase was 16.7 cases per 100,000 or a six percent increase.

An inherent problem relating to increasingly more extensive application of CIDT is that the diagnostic protocol does not include isolation of the causal pathogen which is therefore unavailable for classification as to serotype or whole genome sequencing. This information is critical to evaluating epidemiologic studies.

 *Marder, E. P. et al, Incidents In Transient Infections With Pathogens Transmitted Commonly Through Food And The Effect Of Increased Use of Culture-Independent Diagnostic Tests on Surveillance MMWR. 66: 397-403 (2017)

   
 

Application of Radio Frequency Technology to Pasteurize Eggs

May 5, 2017

   

The Agricultural Research Service recently issued a press release on the application of radio frequency technology adapted by Dr. David Geveke to pasteurize eggs.  Dr. Geveke is a chemical engineer located at the Agriculture Research Service Food Safety and Intervention Technologies Research Unit in Wyndmoor, PA.

The latest press release is basically similar to a previous release in 2013.

EGG-CITE posted two commentaries in 2013 and 2014 which are reproduced below:-

  

 

In the intervening years since 2013, RF pasteurization technology may have been refined but the reality is that it is a solution looking for a problem.  The market for pasteurized eggs is extremely small, representing less than one percent of shell eggs consumed.  This market is satisfied by an immersion process developed by L. John Davidson in the 1990s.

After a series of bankruptcies and restructuring of the Pasteurized Egg Corporation, the successor, National Pasteurized Eggs was formed in 2011 to market the concept. In 2016 the Company, including patents and the brand were acquired by Michael Foods.

The comment in the press release that this technology could reduce “egg-borne Salmonella illness (SE) by up to 85 percent, or more than 110,000 cases a year is arrant nonsense.  There has not been a documented case of SE acquired from eggs produced by commercial flocks operating under the FDA Salmonella Prevention Rule, a State EQAP, the UEP Five-Star Safety program or their combination since the DeCosters’ Wright County, IA outbreak in 2010. This episode represented a complete aberration as evidence suggested that the DeCosters operated their farms and packing plants contrary to industry standards, resulting in guilty pleas by the Defendants.

    

USDA and Princeton Develop RF Pasteurization for Shell Eggs -- Sep 3, 2013

The Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory and the U.S. Department of Agriculture-ARS have developed a radio frequency (RF) pasteurization process for shell eggs.  The prototype is capable of inactivating potential Salmonella infection in eggs by heating. 

  

It is claimed that the process will not affect the physical appearance or properties of the albumen.  This is a deficiency with the current batch hot water immersion pasteurization process used commercially.

While pasteurization of shell eggs is appropriate for consumers with health problems including immunosuppression, there does not appear to be a great demand for pasteurized shell eggs this is evidenced by the fact that less than 1% of all shell eggs are subjected to heat pasteurization.  This new technology, even if effective and financially feasible, will have a limited market, probably restricted to specific food service applications.  The bulk of egg liquid used in food manufacturing processes is subjected to conventional plate pasteurization in high-capacity plants.

Although the small prototype has proven effective under laboratory conditions and is the basis of a patent application, scaling up the device to commercial level will obviously be a challenge. It will take many years to bring to market, if ever. A requirement for commercialization would be that the total of both fixed and variable components of cost to process eggs should be below 10 cents per dozen and process rates of 200 cph for each installation should be attainable.

The development of in-shell pasteurization should be viewed against declining demand for this technology since the prevalence rate of SE is extremely low. It is highly likely that within 2 years SE will be eradicated from the commercial egg industry in the U.S.  It is noted that only 0.25% of flocks in the U.K yield either Salmonella Enteritidis or Salmonella Typhimurium.  The prevalence rate of SE in the U.S. is low and declining given recent figures on SE positive environmental samples obtained from farms undergoing comprehensive FDA inspections. The complementary goals of eradication in flocks and elimination of egg-borne SE in consumers is achievable given the current application of diligent biosecurity, sourcing chicks from NPIP-certified hatcheries, vaccination and maintaining a cold chain from production to point of sale.

Promoting pasteurization of shell eggs on the presumption of a high egg-borne incidence rate in U.S. consumers of product produced in accordance with the FDA Egg Safety Rule is disingenuous. To be charitable statements in support of this project reflect wishful thinking on the part of scientists developing complicated solutions to non-existent problems.

   
 

Row Crop Farmers Pain is Egg-Producers’ Gain

May 5, 2017

    

It is axiomatic that the domestic price of corn and soybean meal which represent close to 70 percent of nest- run cost is determined by World supply and demand.  This suggest that domestic producers of corn and soybeans are effectively in direct competition with Argentine, Brazil, and the Ukraine.

The preeminence of the U.S. with respect to exports has shifted radically during the past 30 years.  It is estimated that U.S. exported 26 million metric tons of soybeans and 55 million metric tons of corn in 1985.  The U.S. share of these export markets was 77 percent and 56 percent respectively. 

 

Although export volume has increased steadily attaining 143 million metric tons of soybeans in 2016, the U.S. share has halved to 38 percent.  In the case of corn, a three-fold increase in exports to 154 million metric tons in 2016 represented only 37 percent of world corn trade.

The U.S. has virtually maxed-out on acreage for corn and soybeans. Arable acreage available for cultivation has actually declined by 12 percent since 1982. Given price projections for the two main commodities in the 2017 season, there has been a shift from corn to soybeans but total acreage has remained unchanged as noted in the most recent April WASDE report. In contrast nations such as Brazil have the luxury of converting vast acreages of potentially arable land to row crops.

The trend towards increased production in Brazil is reflected in increased sales of genetically engineered seed, permitted since 2004, coupled with investment in fertilizer plants and facilities to manufacture tractors and combines.  The major seed companies, which today represent an oligopoly, are now producing cultivars specifically developed to resist insect pests prevalent in Latin America. 

In the April WASDE Report he USDA forecast corn prices for the 2016 crop within a range of $3.25 to $3.55 per bushel and soybeans over a range of $9.40 to $9.70 per bushel.  The prospects for increased ethanol production which would raise the price of corn do not appear promising. This is based on rising opposition to the RFS by non-corn state legislators and by an evident pro-fossil fuel bias by the Administrator of the EPA and by the Secretary of Energy.  Despite recent reassurances by President Donald J. Trump, reiterating support for corn-based ethanol expressed in his pre-election rhetoric, the reality may be different. 

Irrespective of U.S. Administration policy, the World supply of biofuels now exceeds demand, constraining the ability of distillers to increase volume.  In many corn-producing areas in the nation with a high demand by ethanol plants for available corn, farmers frequently have to pay up to 50 cents per bushel as a premium since they compete with the subsidized ethanol industry.  Fixing or even lowering the RFS as expected will obviously be to the benefit of producers.

The effect of lower corn and soybean meal prices on production cost is illustrated by the projection that during the third quarter of fiscal 2017, one cent per dozen in feed cost represented $2.6 million to the bottom line of Cal-Maine Foods.  Similar proportional benefits accrue to all egg producers.

During the past three years, corn and soybean crops have reached record or near-record levels. A drought such as the 2012-3 occurrence could materially affect commodity prices on the domestic market.  Major weather patterns are influenced by El Nino/La Nina cycles.  Evidence points to an emerging El Nino which is usually associated with increased rain in the Midwest which will benefit yields compensating for losses in sub-Saharan Africa and other regions such as Australia where wheat will be impacted. 

Stability and predictability in World trade would have been likely had the Trans Pacific Trade Agreement been approved.  Renegotiation of the NAFTA agreement may be to the detriment of U.S. crop farmers, further reducing domestic prices.

   
 

Endoscopic Sexing of day-old Chicks Report by Poultry Periodicals

Apr 28, 2017

    

At least three poultry periodicals or their websites have reported recently on an endoscopic system to visualize the male copulatory organ in day- old chicks. 

Using the apparatus, the study team in Japan were able to achieve 91 percent accuracy in White Leghorn pullet chicks and 88 percent in Rhode Island Red pullet chicks. As anticipated sexing of male chicks achieved a higher level of 95 percent.

  

There is no indication of the rate of sexing using an endoscope but it must be slower than trained operators apply vent sexing which achieves levels of 99 percent or feather sexing by color which is equally accurate depending on diligence of hatchery workers.

It is inexplicable why poultry periodicals and industry websites would report on a project which is essentially reinventing the wheel.  The reports basically reproduce releases announcing “progress” made by a group of scientists engaged in make-work activities of little relevance to commercial production.

   
 

Glyphosate Residue Free! A Cynical Marketing Claim

Apr 21, 2017

    

A California company, Leaf and Love Lemonade, is marketing products claimed to be “glyphosate-residue free.”  If the truth be known, there is no detectible glyphosate residue in foods. Naturally, the marketing initiative, based on the sophistry and appealing to the affluent “worried well” of California is lauded on the Detox Project website.

This type of misinformation possibly fueled by discredited claims by IARC, claims that glyphosate is toxic, causing cancer, birth defects and disruption of hormonal function,.

  

Reputable scientific organizations including the EU European Chemicals Agency, European Food Safety Agency, United Nations World Health Organization, Health Canada, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the FDA have determined that glyphosate is innocuous when administered to laboratory animals.

Organizations such as Leaf and Love Lemonade should be ashamed of themselves for their blatant attempts to generate sales by spurious allegations of health risks which are non-existent. Invariably there is some misinformed celebrity endorsing the idiocy or mendacity, in this case Amy Dibianca – co-founder of Leaf and Love Lemonade who is promoting the scam.     

Yet again we have an example of exploitation of ignorance for financial gain. The exercise is at best misguided and at worst a cynical attempt to profit from fear and ignorance.

   
 

Wheat Cultivar Bred to Express Phytase

Apr 21, 2017

    

A number of poultry periodicals have recently highlighted joint studies conducted at Trent University in Nottingham, U.K. and Aarhus University in Denmark concerning the evaluation of a strain of wheat, developed about 10 years ago which expresses a high level of phytase.

The exercise is simply an academic make-work endeavor to create a solution for which there is no evident problem. For more than three decades, poultry producers have added commercially available phytase, now a commodity, to diets to reduce the quantity of inorganic phosphorus supplements to satisfy nutritional requirements for poultry. The incorporation of synthetic phytase in diets is mandated in many areas of the world to reduce phosphorus content of manure and hence eutrophication of waterways due to run-off from fields fertilized with chicken waste.

  

Even if wheat expressing phytase becomes available, it would have no impact in the U.S. or other countries where corn is the major cereal incorporated in diets. In the E.U. it will be necessary to segregate modified wheat from the conventional commodity. This will add considerably to the cost of acquiring a special ingredient necessitated by the imperative of complete traceability and identification through the chain extending from field to feed.

There is obviously concern that poultry journalists accept press releases from universities and in many cases from companies without questioning  validity, applicability or commercial reality in their ‘infomercials’. Evidently inquiry and skepticism are no longer taught in contemporary schools of journalism or are these periodicals operating simply as “cut-and-paste operations?.

   
 

Family Feud-British Royal Style

Apr 14, 2017

    

Prince Charles, heir to the British throne, is an avowed supporter of organic farming. He considers that GM crops have damaged the Earths’ soil, and he openly opposes GM crops and ingredients which he regards as an experiment “gone seriously wrong”.

In contrast his sister Anne, the Princess Royal, in an interview to be aired on the British Broadcasting Corporation stated, “Gene technology has got real benefits to offer.”  She opined, “technology maybe has an occasional downside but I suspect not very many.”  She opposes her brother in stating “condemnation of all farming other than organic is a huge oversimplification”. 

  

Prince Charles

The public debate over the merits and safety of organic compared to conventional farming has attained new significance as Britain intends to leave the E.U. This would free the Nation from onerous regulations and constraints which have impeded adoption of GM technology on the Continent.

   
 

FDA Questions Safety of Pharmaceutical Products from India

Apr 14, 2017

    

Frequently the FDA had been criticized in the columns of CHICK-CITE and EGG-CITE for not adequately protecting U.S. consumers and patients with respect to foreign-produced generic drugs. This criticism has been used to justify the concept of unified food safety agency since it is maintained the FDA is ineffective with both regard to its responsibilities for food and for drugs.

  

Reuter’s reported that the FDA has issued a warning letter to a Mylan NV manufacturing plant in Nashik in the state of Maharashtra, India. The warning letter included the statement “Your quality system does not adequately ensure the accuracy and integrity of data to support the safety, effectiveness and quality of the drugs you manufacture.” In addition the FDA noted numerous violations including failure to “thoroughly investigate” unexplained discrepancies in drug batches and cited examples of “missing, deleted and lost data.” 

Mylan operates nine plants in India producing antiretroviral drugs used to suppress HIV. In 2015 the FDA sent warning letters expressing concern over quality control at three Mylan facilities in the city of Bengaluru.

With respect to pharmaceutical products, any deficiencies in operation should be regarded in a serious light and should result in more than a warning letter, especially in view of the fact that the company has been cited for discrepancies on previous inspections. These occur at infrequent intervals. There does not seem to be a reason why the FDA should not place the Plant on an embargo list since this will certainly protect U.S. consumers from substandard product and at the same time bring about urgent improvements.

The FDA is not fulfilling its obligations to consumers and despite receiving increased funding appears to favor pharmaceutical manufacturers possibly as a consequence of the “revolving-door” syndrome. By its own admission, the FDA only inspects less than two percent of imported food. Given that the Agency does not appear to be effective in surveillance of either food or drugs, it should relinquish food and concentrate on what it is apparently best equipped to control.

   
 

TARGET TO REVAMP STORES

Apr 7, 2017

    

Brian Cornell, Chairman and CEO of Target has announced a major redesign of stores to cater for shoppers who would otherwise patronize convenience stores but with a layout appealing to customers who linger over their shopping.  Ten minute-limit parking spaces will be available near doors and aisles will be curved to encourage browsing. It is hoped that these innovation which seem to represent a compromise will be successful in their objective and not merely rearranging deckchairs on the Titanic.

  

Target has tried a number of concepts during the past two years in order to restore declining same store sales. It is anticipated that 600 of 1,800 total locations will be updated over the next three years with the intention of increasing same-store-sales by 2 to 4 percent.

Target has encountered competition from Walmart but has also lost business to Amazon and other online providers in addition to a proliferation of smaller stores catering to millennials.

   
 

Concern over USDA Budget Cuts

Mar 31, 2017

    

Despite the fact that Midwest agricultural states strongly supported President Trump in his election campaign and contributed to his victory, provisions in the conceptual “Skinny Budget” have aroused concern both from farmers and agricultural associations.

It is proposed that the USDA discretionary budget will be reduced by 20 percent to $17.9 billion.  Areas which will be cut include a support program for water and sewer systems in small communities, reducing statistical services, eliminating many positions at regional and county level and a reduction in food-aid programs including the National Program for Women, Infants and Children which generates demand for U.S. agricultural products.

  

The proposed cuts involve discretionary programs.  Mandatory spending incorporated in the Farm Bill cannot not be reduced. The American Farm Bureau Federation representing farmers is concerned that staffing cuts will hurt the agricultural community. Representations will be made to the Office of Management and Budget before the comprehensive budget is released in mid-May.

   
 

FDA Farm Inspections-Still required?

Mar 31, 2017

    

The FDA intends inspecting 500 egg production farms in accordance with the Final Rule to prevent Salmonella.  Farms holding over 50,000 hens will the subject of 136 targeted inspections and 41 comprehensive inspections.  Generally targeted inspections are delegated to the Departments of Agriculture in the states with a high density of egg farms.  Among small producers ranging from 3.000 to 49,999, there will be 234 targeted inspections and 89 comprehensive inspections.

  

The FDA obviously has distorted priorities with regard to the U.S. egg production industry which they view as an easy target.  Since 2011 there have been no documented cases of SE from commercial farms operating in accordance with either a state EQAP, or the UEP 5- Star Egg Safety Program.

In contrast, there were 32,000 fatalities from opiate overdoses in 2015 representing 64 percent of all accidental or deliberate drug-related deaths.  There were approximately 5,000 pedestrian deaths in the U.S. in 2015 with the number increasing by double-digit percentages each year.

The cost-effectiveness of the Salmonella detection and prevention program is inconsistent with the societal benefits obtained.

   
 

Micromanagement of Standards

Mar 24, 2017

    

In discussions with equipment suppliers at the 2017 Midwest Poultry Federation Convention Exhibition it became apparent that there is considerable confusion over specific standards imposed by various welfare certifying agencies. 

It is appropriate to specify broad parameters such as stocking density, feeding space per bird and other quantitative requirements. Problems arise in over-specifying details of design which represents micro-management.

This possibly arises from the perceived need for certifying agencies to “out welfare” their competition. Approval of installations and setting standards has less to do with welfare than with generating revenue.

  

In one case, after payment of salaries and expenses, the excess is channeled back into activities which are contrary to the interests of the intensive livestock industries which these agencies purport to assist.

This is analogous to the situation in China where condemned prisoners have to pay for the bullet used to execute them.  In the case of one organization profits are used in a more benign manner to support other welfare activities including companion animals and service dogs. 

Irrespective of the motivation, micromanaging specifications is disruptive and adds to the cost of equipment.  A case in point is the diameter and configuration of perches.  Most certifiers require a round or rounded perch placed in a specific location. 

A prominent international manufacturer of aviaries has designed an exceedingly efficient perch which is not only comfortable for hens but also aligns the flock to face in a single direction to prevent fecal contamination of eggs and the area in front of modules.  This perch may or may not be acceptable to auditors based on the standards imposed by certifying agencies or in many cases the specific discretion (dare we say prejudice?) of auditors.

On evaluation, there appears to be little justification for specific requirements since these are not based on established scientific principles with experimentation at the level of a peer-reviewed publication.  In many cases the inclinations and personal opinion of individuals are adopted through a process of consensus by an Advisory Board. In some cases, decisions on specifications are based on EU standards which may or may not be applicable to U.S. housing and management conditions, climate and predators.

It is hoped that a more realistic attitude towards standards and specifications could be developed.  Over the next nine years more than 200 million hens will have to be re-housed from conventional cages at a cost exceeding $40 per bird.  This magnitude of investment presumes a level of knowledge and responsibility on the part of certifiers which transcends creating regulations in an academic vacuum. 

The U.S. egg production industry should establish common ground with equipment manufacturers and to speak authoritatively and forcefully on welfare, equipment and housing standards. Both ends of the transaction are being subjected to unjustified and unnecessary expense as a result of imperfectly defined standards and specifications. Ultimately shareholders and consumers will bear the cost of inappropriate decisions based on sentiment and pseudo-science.

As with all editorials and commentaries posted on EGG-CITE and CHICK-CITE, responsible rebuttals will be considered and posted if informative to subscribers.

   
 

Egg Shells Could Improve Performance of Car Tires

Mar 17, 2017

    

The Wall Street Journal on March 11 carried an article by Daniel Akst noting that agricultural waste could be added to carbon black to reduce cost and improve the performance of car tires.

A research team at Ohio State University evaluated eggshells and tomato skins to replace a proportion of the waste, generally disposed of in landfills.

  

The principal researcher Dr. Katrina Cornish estimates that substituting food waste for carbon black would reduce production costs and provide a competitive advantage for tire manufacturers as the quantity of carbon black, usually 30 percent by mass of a tire could be displaced.

The only point of difference between current poultry industry practice and the article relates to the projection of available eggshell material.  Dr. Cornish used a value close to 600,000 metric tons of eggshells annually.  Since this figure appeared high, a calculation of the potential supply of raw material yielded a value of 181,000 metric tons. 

The difference probably lies in the fact that only eggshells from approximately 100 million hens supplying the breaking segment of the industry and eggshells from broiler breeders would be accessible.  Eggshells from domestic and restaurant kitchens will probably not be worth the expense of collection and transport. 

If it is assumed that each egg yields 5 grams of shell, 100 million hens at 78 percent production would produce 350 metric tons of shell material daily or 128,800 metric tons each year.  Assuming 200 million shells could be recovered each week from broiler hatcheries, the total from this segment of the industry would amount to 52,000 metric tons each year.

Irrespective of the quantities involved, any additional value derived from what is effectively a waste product will be beneficial to the egg and broiler industries respectively, providing the cost of collection, pre-delivery handling and transport is commensurate with the value derived.

   
 

Claims on Commercial Gender Determination Lack Substance

Mar 10, 2017

    

A recent press release claiming the ability to differentiate between the genders of embryos revisits prospective technology. Over the past year there have been a number of claims of imminent introduction of gender determination to avoid destruction of egg-strain cockerels after hatch. 

The Federal Government of Germany which includes members of the Green Party who are strenuously opposed to intensive livestock production, has funded research applying ramen spectroscopy to determine gender.  The experimental technique, as published, involves removal of a portion of the shell to facilitate assay, which may be satisfactory for research and development but certainly would be impractical under commercial conditions.

  

A concern of note is the frequency of claims made by universities, research institutes and entrepreneurs claiming that their specific systems will offer gender determination at ages ranging from 0 to 5 days of incubation. In one case a claimant maintains that the gender of male embryos can be switched to female by the application of light of a specific wavelength.  

The latest joint publicity released from researchers at the Technical University of Dresden in Germany and Vilnius University in Lithuania claim 97 percent accuracy in differentiation on a sample of 380 eggs examined between the third and fourth day of incubation.  The principle of the technique involves detection of unspecified markers in blood within the developing vasculature of eggs bearing male embryos, producing fluorescence at a frequency of 910 nanometers.

Dr. Roberta Galli (appropriately named) of the Technical University of Dresden noted “in ovo sexing based on spectral analysis is non-invasive, does not require extraction of egg material and does not use consumables.” This obviously a reference to the “gender-sorter” technology developed by Embrex in the 1990s which although technically effective did not achieve commercial acceptance by the broiler industry

A number of other techniques, one of which has been promoted by a company with questionable ethics as a potential solution has been shown to be totally ineffective by an independent research institute. A second candidate when evaluated has no plausible biological basis for gender determination.  

The problem arising from the premature announcement of “imminent success” and similar breakthroughs is that premature publicity raises false hopes and delays the need to implement humane treatment of cockerels requiring anesthesia before disposal.

An important underlying consideration relating to gender determination is that the activists opposed to destruction of cockerels are deceptively using the “humane justification” to stimulate development of a system. In reality these activists wish to completely displace commercial production of all livestock including laying hens.  Their ideal is to replace a highly efficient industry producing a nutritious product at a reasonable cost with some form of 19th century idyllic dual-purpose bird to produce eggs and meat albeit with poor efficiently and sustainability on small family farms.

It is anticipated that even if an economically viable and technically acceptable method of gender determination is developed, activists will simply claim that destruction of eggs with male embryos at any stage of incubation represents gender discrimination and is morally unacceptable. This will stimulate a further round of protests following the pattern applied against confined housing, beak trimming, outside access, environmental enrichments, lighting and other pressure points. There will be no placating or satisfying vegan opponents of intensive livestock production. 

The major challenge facing developers of spectroscopic systems will be translating laboratory-scale detection into a commercial system which can achieve at least 99 percent specificity at a reasonable cost and which will operate reliably in a commercial hatchery at rates of up to 50,000 eggs per hour.

Since there is no immediate prospect of a practical and financially feasible solution the EU and U.S. egg-production industries and specifically prospective investors, should be skeptical of premature press releases which have no biological basis or which offer limited potential for commercialization.

   
 

INCIDENCE OF FOOD-BORNE ILLNESSES ASSOCIATED WITH IMPORTED FOODS IS INCREASING

Mar 3, 2017

    

According to a recent publication from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 20 percent of food consumed in the U.S is imported including 97 percent of fish and shellfish, 50 percent of fresh fruit and 20 percent of fresh vegetables. 

The report in the peer-reviewed Emerging Infectious Diseases documented 195 outbreak investigations associated with imported foods involving 10,700 illnesses, 1,117 hospitalizations and 19 fatalities during the period 1996 through 2014.  Seafood was responsible for 55 percent of outbreaks and fresh produce with 33 percent.

  

The authors concluded that “efforts to improve the safety of the food supply can include strengthening and reporting by gathering better data on the origin of implicated food diets including whether imported and from what country”. 

The CDC performs a vital service in identifying outbreaks of food-borne illness and coordinating the activities of state and regional diagnostic laboratories since many of the outbreaks occur in more than one state.  The real issue is that food is produced under suboptimal conditions in some plants in foreign countries and is not subject to the same level of safety including HACCP surveillance.

The FDA is charged with maintaining the integrity of the food supply. The Agency admits to only inspecting one percent of imported food.  This is an unconscionable situation and can only be corrected by establishing an independent and dedicated Food Safety Agency allowing the resources of the USDA the current FDA and other Federal agencies to be devoted to monitoring the wholesomeness of domestic and imported foods.

   
 

FDA Negligent in Inspecting Foreign Drug Plants

Feb 24, 2017

    

It would appear that the FDA is ignoring “Drugs” in their Agency title.

A report in the January 30th edition of Chemical & Engineering News cites a Government Accountability Office report which documents that the Agency has failed to inspect 1,300 drug-manufacturing facilities in foreign nations exporting to the U.S.  A total of 243 of  535 pharmaceutical facilities in China have yet to be inspected. 

 

Approximately one-third of 600 pharmaceutical plants in India have not been evaluated by FDA personnel.  The report noted that 90 percent of 171 facilities in South Korea have not been reviewed in on-site visits.

Apparently, the FDA uses a risk-based system to prioritize visits but the agency is chronically under-staffed.

Peter Saxon, president of a consulting group with extensive ties to foreign manufacturers indicated that most of the uninspected plants produce over-the-counter (OTC) products.

If the FDA can expend time and energy in inspecting egg-producing farms following the implementation of the Salmonella Prevention Final Rule and finding virtually no SE even in 2011. The Agency should have the resources to audit manufacturing facilities manufacturing both generic and OTC drugs.

EGG-CITE has frequently noted the deficiencies in establishing priorities and execution of responsibilities for protection of consumers. The FDA as presently staffed and structured cannot do justice to both food and drugs. The U.S. would be better served by separate Food Safety and Drug Agencies with concentration on their specific areas of concern.

   
 

The Egg Industry in China

Feb 24, 2017

    

In a presentation at the 2017 IPPE Dr. Mark Lyons, VP of Alltech shared his observations and experiences based on his residence in China over the past three years.

In preferencing his comments on China Dr. Lyons noted the changes in the structure of society during the past fifteen years. 

One of the most significant has been the shift in population from rural areas to cities involving relocation of 300 million citizens.

There are now180 cities in China with a population exceeding that of Chicago. 

  

Mark Lyons

Industrialization has elevated over 400 million from poverty.  Changes have resulted in profound economic consequences.  Since 2008, labor cost has increased by 62 percent, raw materials have soared by 70 percent and the real estate boom has increased the price of property by 60 percent.  Advancing earning power has changed the economy of China from an export to a consumer market.

The four trends promoted by the Government include self-sufficiency, improvements in quality, increasing scale of production and protection of the environment.  Concurrent with a campaign against corruption, the Government is enforcing food safety, modernization of agriculture and relocation of the population.

Changes in food production have resulted in intensification.  In the two decades preceding the turn of the century, there were approximately 20,000 feed mills in operation.  During the last ten years there has been a marked move to integration with 6,000 feed mills many of which are financially connected to pork or poultry producers.  It is estimated that by 2020 the trend will extend through the food chain with integration and clearly defined market segments.

It is estimated that there are 1.2 million egg-producing hens in China in addition to ducks for egg production.  Approximately 40 percent of flocks are under 2,000 hens in size with 33 percent ranging from 2,000 to 10,000 hens and only 25 percent of the national flock comprises farms with more than 10,000 hens. 

Integration has seen the emergence of a few in-line operations with as any as three million hens.  To place egg production in China in perspective, output expressed in metric tons (19,000 eggs) is approximately five times the size of the U.S.  Average production per hen is estimated at 185 eggs per year.

Challenges facing the Chinese egg industry include high feed cost and relatively stagnant consumption.  Intensification of environmental laws and high labor rates dictate adoption of western technology in housing, equipment, management of flocks and housing of flocks.

As in the U.S., specialty eggs are emerging in response to demand from affluent urban consumers.  Approximately five percent of eggs are branded yielding a 2 to 5-fold premium over generic product.  Nutritional enrichments include DHA, selenium and vitamins.

The challenges facing egg producers will be to raise capital to erect modern in-line facilities, to comply with pollution control and environmental laws, conserve water and to suppress diseases such as evident avian influenza.  Given relatively stable egg production consumption from commercial farms, China is actively seeking export markets.  In all probability egg products will represent the bulk of shipments although there will be extensive competition from India, the U.S. and Eastern Europe.

Agricultural banks and investment groups will play an important role in modernizing the egg industry in China by providing finance and promoting trade involving importation of ingredients and export of product.

Dr. Lyons noted that the business environment in China is unique and challenging given the rapid evolution of the poultry industry, it is necessary to embrace flexibility, commit to the nation and to adapt.

   
 

U.S. Children Derive Calories from Sugar-Sweetened Beverages

Feb 17, 2017

    

Data derived from a National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey published in NCHS Data Brief #271, released in January 2017 disclosed that almost two-thirds of boys and girls in the U.S. consumed at least one sugar-sweetened beverage each day.

They obtained on average 7.3 percent of total daily caloric intake from these drinks.  Non-Hispanic Asian boys and girls consumed the least calories and the lowest percentage of total calories from sugar-sweetened beverages compared to non-Hispanic white, non-Hispanic black and Hispanic boys and girls.

Numerous studies have demonstrated a link between consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages and dental decay, obesity, Type-2 diabetes, dyslipidemia, and fatty liver disease.

In a related nutrition and health topic, The Union of Concerned Scientists petitioned the Food and Drug Administration to establish “disqualifying levels” of added sugars that would prohibit the use of “healthy” in labeling.  Generally, “healthy” foods should contain 3 grams or less of total fat per serving and 1 gram or less of saturated fat per serving.

  

FDA has received citizen petitions requesting that the definition of “healthy” should be reevaluated in the light of current knowledge. The term “healthy” as applied in labeling of food  has not been changed since 1994 when funded research and lobbying by the sugar industry distorted public policy on consumption of fats. This directly impacted the egg-production industry.

The FDA has now been requested to set disqualifying level” for added sugars.  The topic will be reviewed by the FDA at a March 9, 2017 public meeting on the term “healthy” in food labeling.

   
 

FDA Negligent in Inspecting Foreign Drug Plants

Feb 17, 2017

    

It would appear that the FDA is ignoring “Drugs” in their Agency title.

A report in the January 30th edition of Chemical & Engineering News cites a Government Accountability Office report which documents that the Agency has failed to inspect 1,300 drug-manufacturing facilities in foreign nations exporting to the U.S.  A total of 243 of  535 pharmaceutical facilities in China have yet to be inspected. 

  

Approximately one-third of 600 pharmaceutical plants in India have not been evaluated by FDA personnel.  The report noted that 90 percent of 171 facilities in South Korea have not been reviewed in on-site visits.

Apparently, the FDA uses a risk-based system to prioritize visits but the agency is chronically under-staffed.

Peter Saxon, president of a consulting group with extensive ties to foreign manufacturers indicated that most of the uninspected plants produce over-the-counter (OTC) products.

If the FDA can expend time and energy in inspecting egg-producing farms following the implementation of the Salmonella Prevention Final Rule and finding virtually no SE even in 2011. The Agency should have the resources to audit manufacturing facilities manufacturing both generic and OTC drugs.

EGG-CITE has frequently noted the deficiencies in establishing priorities and execution of responsibilities for protection of consumers. The FDA as presently staffed and structured cannot do justice to both food and drugs. The U.S. would be better served by separate Food Safety and Drug Agencies with concentration on their specific areas of concern.