GM Crops save lives

A long time ago FTR was what is nowadays called the media sponsor of the First International Food Science and Technology Congress at Imperial College in London, whose President was Lord Rank, the leading figure of the food industry in the UK at the time. This became known as the first IUFOST Congress. As a young man I was introduced by my father Raymond Binsted, Editor & Proprietor of FTR to Dr, now Professor M S Swaminathan. Years later I was to be greeted by Dr Swaminathan as Director General of the International Rice Institute in the Philippines when I was visiting the country with a small group of experts advising President Marcos on what food products could be manufactured in the Philippines and exported to Europe to help replace the income from the giant American Airbase which was already being reduced in size.

Dr Swaminathan reminded me of our meeting all those years before and took our small group on an excellent visit of all the facilities and the rice growing fields before lunching together. In 1986 the research facility was still working hard to improve the harvests of rice across the ASEAN countries to fend off famine. Countless millions of humankind owe their lives to this work to this day. The continuous efforts to improve GM crops are what will feed nine billion people in the coming years.

Adrian Binsted, Editor & Proprietor, Food Trade Review

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Pesto Sauce and the brown bears

My post on the plight of the brown bears in Northern Canada and the Russian Tundra drew over 800 comments via social media and our website within the first month. Some readers re-tweeted the comments on Twitter resulting in a small but growing number of people who have decided not to use pine nuts in their salads anymore nor to east pesto sauce.

It appears from my research that the global uptake of pine nuts for food for human consumption is about 100,000 tonnes a year. It sounds a lot, or rather it sounds as though millions of people must use and  consume Pesto sauce and indeed millions of people must eat Pine nuts on their salads.

I am sure that there is an alternative source for these nuts and indeed readers will undoubtedly make suggestions of alternative homemade sauces and their commercially available equivalents.

Adrian Binsted, Editor, Food Trade Review

Adrian Binsted, Editor

Message from the Editor

Benson GroupThe Benson Group is one example of an innovative packaging manufacturer in the UK. Above: “Benson’s design team created packaging with a concorra opening and carry handle, adding a point of difference for a leading popcorn brand.”
The Benson Group (www.bensongroup.co.uk)

What packaging can supermarket customers recycle these days?

For the last few years there have been enormous efforts made in this country to reduce packaging materials used to protect our food and make it safe. We now have thinner cardboard outer packaging, thinner cans for our canned foods, ever lighter-weight glass containers without mentioning the plethora of plastics materials that have been reduced in thickness.

There are now more packs than ever that tell you that they cannot yet be recycled, only in a few local council areas, or only at your local supermarket.

So many jobs have been lost in the packaging and converting industries through quantity reductions in the UK. How much time is wasted by all those committees and government-funded organisations to arrive at this situation.

We all want to do our bit to save the planet apparently, but we are stymied by regulations that do not necessarily work. We still want to buy a pack of food that does not fall apart. A pack that can be opened safely without the paper ripping, the foil tearing, or simply the weight of the product being too much for the container.

There is still a great deal of work to be done. We are lucky in this country as we enjoy a British food industry that has a huge pool of talent from food technologists, engineers, packaging technologists and production people who make sure that our food is safe. Other countries look to the UK to lead in this area, let us make sure that it happens.

Adrian Binsted, Editor

Message from the Editor

Henkel_InterpackHenkel, an adhesives manufacturer for the packaging industry, showcased numerous innovations and proven adhesives systems at Interpack 2014. Committed to food packaging safety, they have also launched an initiative to support the fight against global food wastage. 

At last it looks as though the supermarkets have realised that we do not all want two packs for the price of one, the famous BOGOF deal, so hopefully for most people needing less rather than more, we shall now reduce the amount of food waste. At least it is a start.

It is noticeable that the pricing strategy at supermarkets is now all over the place. It is little wonder that the food manufacturers and particularly the suppliers of fresh fruit and vegetables are not that happy with their ‘remuneration’.

Next, up we come to my hardy perennial, packaging and packaging waste. It appears that quite a few local authorities in the UK now collect from households, who are required to sort into different bins and boxes, but the collectors now put everything together – for re-sorting later presumably.

There are many new developments in the packaging industry and undoubtedly we will be able to see even more at the forthcoming Interpack Show in Düsseldorf this May. There are numerous new ideas for creating packs for the ever-increasing ready meals markets of the world as the new product developers of our food industry deliver ever better products, ever more adventurous dishes. The burgeoning middle class in India and China are creating an expanding market for better quality products that are better packaged, in particular they are looking for prepared meals.

Adrian Binsted, Editor

Message from the Editor

Binsted Lecture

Spring is here and we have a batch of important exhibitions taking place in the coming month or two.

Exhibitions that we have visited recently covering the machinery sector have been well attended and more importantly the exhibitors have told us of their surprise at the level of genuine enquiries that they received. It looks as though business confidence is coming back across the food industries and people are prepared to invest in the latest technology in food processing equipment, packaging equipment, robotics and indeed in hygienic pallet systems and end-of-line equipment.

It will be interesting to see if this new found confidence continues at Alimentaria in Barcelona, Interpack in Dusseldorf, and the shows covering the catering industry as well.

Spring may be here but then so is the wet weather as was predicted by the Met Office. This is a double-edged sword as we need the rain for the crops but those who have been flooded will not take too kindly to more water. As I said in my last article, the flooding of large areas of agricultural land will both take time to dry out and will be affected by the standing water that means it could take a long time to come back into agricultural production.

For our technologists and scientists we are looking forward to the Institute of Food Science & Technology’s 50th Anniversary Conference in London this May which this year will also include the Annual Binsted Lecture.

Adrian Binsted, Editor

Message from the Editor

PAFA

PAFA has come out fighting on the side of sense and the packaging industry.

Plastic bags, lightweight plastic bags, recycled plastic bags and so-called lifetime carrier bags are all in the news again.

I have said before that the idea of charging for plastics bags in the shops so that you and I can safely separate our food shopping is ridiculous. We should not put our health at risk for the benefit of some ill thought-out legislation to make us pay for the privilege of putting our shopping in a bag. Perhaps we should ask the shop to carry our ‘loose’ fruit and vegetables to our homes. So really it is just a tax after all!

At last PAFA has come out fighting on the side of sense and the packaging industry. We are already in danger, as I have said many times, of reducing packaging too far; its strength, its usefulness as a guard against the migration of harmful materials into the foods that we buy at the shops.

At the moment we have bags that are so thin that the bag breaks with just a couple of groceries inside, requiring a second bag to contain our shopping – what a great idea to reduce the use of bags! What we need are bags that are strong enough to carry as much grocery as we can hold; then, that saves bags.

I have been against the so-called lifetime bag for a long time on the basis of hygiene. We now have microbiologists and bacteriologists suggesting that the uncleaned, unwashed bags, kept in the broom cupboard can harbour germs and bacteria.

What we need is some sensible thinking from the quangos and the government advisers. As I have said many times, scientists and technologists have designed food packaging for a reason; so that we have less tummy bugs and we live longer!

Adrian Binsted, Editor

Message from the Editor

Tetra Pak

FTR’s June Issue 2013, page 403, ‘Appy Drinks’ Nickelodeon characters juice range’ article, is one example of how Tetra Pak is tackling recycling.

More and more people are talking about food waste and how to resolve the problem. Both the food industry and the supermarkets, as well as food distributors are dealing with the problem rather well.

If food manufacturers have mislabelled product or have underweight or overweight rejected product then these can often be recycled, relabelled, or repackaged in their own factories. Other products and overstock, subject to certain parameters, are donated to charities working with the needy.

Some food factories and some larger supermarket sites already have their own anaerobic digesters or they have regular collections by the waste and recycling industry.

Agriculture, by and large, uses its own waste for feedstock, for spreading on the land, or again using anaerobic digestion to create their own electricity or heating.

People tell us that there are millions of tonnes of food wasted in the UK every year. This is hardly correct as so much already has a ‘home’.

I believe that the great fear for our industry is that the academics will spend their time and use Government funds researching unnecessarily, and the politicians will debate incessantly, without either listening to the experts working in our own industry who are already solving the problems of excessive food waste.

Our industry does not create food waste for fun as that costs money and wastes time; so leave us in peace to get on with our research and our projects without even more legislation.

Adrian Binsted, Editor

Message from the Editor

The topic of the moment is food sustainability, which by any other name, is how to feed an expanding world population. Part of the challenge is to improve the nutritional composition, the quality and the quantity of food from agricultural sources and to prevent the enormous post harvest losses in so many countries due to pests and to lack of transport infrastructure.

What is being discussed at the moment are the breeding technologies for grains and oil seeds; how to create new crops using traditional grafting and cross pollination techniques. Let us explore the future of genetically-modified crops which can give such huge increases at harvest; their safety in the food chain; How the wider use of these foods can be properly explained to consumers, is currently entertaining the minds of those much more knowledgeable than myself.

We do not want another fiasco as we had with irradiated foods when certain forms of food poisoning could have been wiped out at a stroke. except for the appalling publicity put out by misinformed people in the 1960s, and propagated by the mass media at the time: The ramifications are still with us today.

We have to continue with the steps being undertaken by the scientific community to create new test methods for the authentication of foodstuffs and their ingredients in the whole supply chain. We must find new analytical methods to prove provenance beyond doubt to assuage the curiosity of people encouraged by the mass media and by TV cooks.

We must find new methods to stamp out locusts, and to eradicate weeds and bacteria in our universal agricultural crops today, so that people can eat tomorrow. I go back to my mantra: Let the scientists get on with expanding out harvests, take the politicians, the quangos and the do-gooders out of the equation, so that our industry, the largest industry and the largest industrial employer in the UK, can help to provide good, nutritious food to feed the world in the coming years.

Adrian Binsted, Editor

Message from the Editor

Spooner

Our poor old food industry has been battered by every conceivable problem in recent months. Fair criticism is one thing, inaccurate, head-line grabbing comments are another, written by people who do not understand our industry, neither do they seek to find the answers. This attitude of whole parts of our broadcast and news media has damaged our industry in the eyes of the consumer.

Sorting out the urgent problem of origin marking will take time because National, European and International politicians need to make decisions. Sorting out the proliferation of what is required on labels, currently too complex and little understood by all but the most dedicated of shoppers, will take time. Simplification of wording to what is necessary will take more legislation, hopefully drawn together carefully across many countries and without political bias.

We, in the food industry, our subscribers, advertisers and those providing us with technical news must start thinking positively about our achievements and project those thoughts on our customers, our Nation. This great country of ours invented much of food technology and gave it to the world. Canning started here, quick-freezing, although developed for the US Army during the first world war, burgeoned and grew here in the UK, our biscuits are exported throughout the world, and thanks to great companies like Baker Perkins and Vicars (who invented ‘hard-tack’ for the Navy out of their Liverpool bakery in the 1820s) and Spooner, British biscuits are baked on British machines throughout the world. The examples are too numerous to mention here, but let us start the ball rolling to project the safety of the food we produce.