The USDA has released specifications for purchasing irradiated ground beef through the National School Lunch Program. Schools may order the product for January 2004. Before that time, USDA has promised to provide “balanced” consumer education materials to all school districts. The materials are to be used by parents, teachers and the community in deciding whether to order the product. Ultimately, the purchasing decision will be the responsibility of each local school district.

“Each school district will … decide how to notify parents and students if they choose to offer (irradiated ground beef products),” said Eric Bost, under secretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services.

USDA defines food irradiation as “a process in which products are exposed to radiant energy including gamma rays, electron beams, and x-rays in amounts approved by the FDA.”

The educational package sent to all school districts will feature a brochure answering commonly asked questions about irradiation, as well as website addresses for the brochure and FDA's consumer information on irradiation.

USDA estimates the irradiated ground beef items will cost an extra $0.13 to $0.20 per pound. This price reflects the additional handling and packaging for irradiated products, the cost of irradiation and the post-irradiation sampling for pathogen testing.

For more information on the National School Lunch Program, visit www.fns.usda.gov/cnd/. The new ground beef specifications with irradiation included may be found at www.ams.usda.gov/lsg/cp/beef/beef_whatsnew.htm.

FYI on GM in EU

Europeans and Biotechnology in 2002 has been completed, the fifth in a series of Eurobarometer surveys on biotechnology and the life sciences. Evaluating approximately 1,000 respondents in each European Union member state, the report addressed six applications of biotechnology: genetic testing of inherited diseases, cloning human cells and tissues, genetically modified (GM) enzymes for soaps, transgenic animals for zenotransplantation, GM crops and GM foods. The findings show that support of such endeavors varies by application.

Firmly not supported, the report says, are GM foods, which respondents find not useful and risky for society. GM crops, meanwhile, enjoy “lukewarm” support, determined to be moderately useful but still risky. Support for GM crops appears to have stabilized across Europe between 1999 and 2002, although support declined noticeably in Italy.

Regarding GM foods, respondents evaluated purchasing them if the foods had less pesticide residues, were more environmentally friendly, tasted better, contained less fat, were cheaper or were offered in a restaurant. No matter the reason, more Europeans say they would not buy or eat GM foods. Across the EU, opposition to all of these reasons ranged from 30% to 65%. The report noted, “These results could be taken as indicating a more or less total rejection of GM foods and discussed in terms of the impossibility of introducing such new products. On the other hand, it could be argued that if GM food actually offered some of these benefits, and if they were labeled appropriately to give the rejecters the opportunity to express their preference, then the products might capture a sizable market share.”

Sidebar: THE IN BOX

General Mills (Minneapolis) named John Machuzick as senior vice president, president of Bakeries and Foodservice.

Primera Foods Corp. (Cameron, Wis.) has opened a new ingredient processing facility in Altura, Minn.

RFI Ingredients (Blauvelt, N.Y.) named Sarah M. Muhlbradt business development manager.

Monsanto Co. (St. Louis) named Hugh Grant chief executive.

Kikkoman Corporation (Chiba, Japan) will spend $100 million on a plant expansion in Walworth County near Lake Geneva, Wis.

Chr. Hansen Inc. (Milwaukee) appointed Paul Duddleston as vice president of sales, dairy.

Stepan Company (Maywood, N.J.) has formed the Food & Health Specialties business group to “enhance its services within the food and pharmaceutical industries.”

The Solae Company (St. Louis) has debuted as a developer and marketer of branded, plant-based, specialty food, feed and industrial ingredients.

Treatt plc (Lakeland, Fla.) named Richard Hope as group finance director and company secretary.

The Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) (Chicago) named Barbara Byrd Keenan as executive vice president.

ConAgra (Omaha, Neb.) hired Allan B. Lutz as president and chief operating officer of its Foodservice group and promoted William J. Caskey to president of Foodservice Sales. Saputo Inc. (Montreal) purchased Treasure Cave and Nauvoo brands of blue cheese and other assets from ConAgra Foods. ConAgra sold the Bumble Bee canned seafood business and other seafood assets to a group comprised of Bumble Bee operating management and affiliates of Centre partners Management LLC (New York).

Kellogg Co. (Battle Creek, Mich.) named Brad Davidson president of U.S. Snacks.

McCormick & Co. (Sparks, Md.) agreed to purchase the Zatarain's business from Citigroup Venture Capital and other investors for $180 million.

Dean Foods Co. (Dallas) created Dean Branded Products Group to be responsible for marketing and selling Dean's nationally branded products and will transfer all private label dairy products and all dairy manufacturing assets to the Dean Dairy Group.

Gelita Group (Eberbach, Germany) has renamed its operating units. Extraco AB, Sweden, is now Gelita Sweden AB. I.G.G mbH and DGF Stoess and Davis Gelatine GmbH, all of Germany, are combined as Gelita Deutschland GmbH. VlaPro B.V., Netherlands, becomes Gelita Nederland B.V. Davis Gelatine SARL, France, is Gelita France SARL. Gelatine Products Ltd., Great Britain, is Gelita UK Ltd. In North America, Kind & Knox Gelatine and Dynagel Inc. are known together as Gelita USA Inc., while Gelita Mexico S. de R.L. de C.V. remains unchanged. In South America, Gelita do Brasil Ltda. is the result of combining Brazil's Gelita do Brasil Ltda. and Sargel Ltda. In Asia Pacific and Africa, the Davis Gelatine units in Australia, New Zealand and South Africa are now Gelita Australia Pty. Ltd., Gelita NZ Ltd. and Gelita South Africa Pty. Ltd., respectively. Gelita Tianjin International Trading Co. Ltd. remains unchanged.

Montagu Private Equity (London) purchased Marlow Foods (Stokesley, U.K.), the manufacturer and distributor of Quorn products.

D.W. Montgomery & Co. (Satellite Beach, Fla.) appointed Cesar A. Contreras to vice president and director of technical services.

Quality Botanical Ingredients Inc. (South Plainfield, N.J.) hired Martha Reublin as vice president of sales for the western U.S.

Nature's Path Foods Inc. (Blaine, Wash.) named Dag Falck organic program manager and Christine Negm technical services director.

Sartori Foods (Plymouth, Wis.) named Gordon Putz vice president-general manager of sales and marketing.

Domino Specialty Ingredients (Baltimore) hired Stacey D. Griffith as regional sales manager.

Denny's (Spartanburg, S.C.) executive chef Tim Soufan has been promoted to vice president of product development. He retains his executive chef title.

Braes Group (London) signed a North American distribution agreement with McCormick & Co. (Hunt Valley, Md.).

Bing Graffunder, former Morningstar Foods COO, is now chief executive officer of the newly launched Fairmount Food Group LLC (Chicago).

Dutch Gold Honey (Lancaster, Pa.) promoted Norman Randall to vice president of operations.

Dawn Food Products (Jackson, Mich.) acquired the Fort Wayne, Ind., operations of Brothers Baking Co. Inc. (Edwardsburg, Mich.). Dawn also appointed Erick Riswick vice president of distribution services and sales.