Five Bulk Material Headlines You May Have Missed in September

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With the end of September, the recession, supply chain and employment issues still dominate headlines across all bulk material industries. While we move towards the final quarter of 2022, here are five headlines you may have missed in September:

Study Shows Baking Industry’s Embrace of Automation

Sosland Publishing Co.’s 2022 State of the Industrial Baking Industry study, conducted by Cypress Research, found that 53% of respondents who represent baking companies of all sizes experienced a lack of sufficient workforce to meet production demands. The tight labor situation has negatively affected business in many ways: 49% of respondents reported a negative impact to the timeliness of production, 34% noted they were unable to take on new business, and 58% reported that existing employees have had to work significantly more hours to meet demand.

Despite 79% of baking companies reporting overall costs to be up and the supply chain and labor disruptions, company and industry outlook is strong. Eighty-nine percent of respondents said their company outlook is either somewhat positive or very positive in 2022. That remains strong at 90% when looking ahead to 2023. When asked about the US commercial baking industry, 92% of baker respondents said they are somewhat or very positive about 2023. Even with the uncertainty facing the global market, 79% of survey respondents have a positive outlook on the global commercial baking industry for 2023.  

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FDA’s Response to Infant Formula Contamination

The FDA recently released a report on the response to an infant formula contamination outbreak from September 2021 to January 2022. 

Based on over 40 interviews with over 60 FDA staff members involved in the incident, the internal agency review identified five key areas where improvements are needed to prevent and handle similar incidents. 

The FDA’s recommendations included the implementation of modern information technology; sufficient staffing, training, equipment, and regulatory authority for FDA; updated emergency response systems; a better scientific understanding of Cronobacter; and an assessment of the infant formula industry’s preventative controls, food safety culture, and preparedness to respond to events.

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CEMA Reports a 55% Decrease in Conveying Equipment Orders

The Conveyor Equipment Manufacturers Association (CEMA) reports that its July 2022 booked orders decreased by 55.84% when compared to July 2021 and 52.22% compared to June 2022 booked orders.

Additionally, July 2022 booked orders for Bulk Handling Equipment decreased 15.06% compared to June. The Bulk Handling decrease follows a 12.59% increase for June 2022 vs. May 2022.

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A New Report Showing the Effects of Long COVID Infections Could be to Blame for Production-Related Employee Shortage 

New research suggests that debilitating cases of long COVID among working age Americans may also be contributing to the lower rates of manufacturing workforce participation. 

An estimated 2-4 million working age Americans (18 to 65) are likely not working due to long COVID conditions, according to research published by the Brookings Institution in late August. The think tank predicts that the annual cost of the lost wages could total as high as $230 billion annually.

US manufacturers industry lost 1.4 million jobs in the early months of the pandemic but were able to refill about 63% of the roles by the end of 2020, according to research by Deloitte and the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM). As the year drew to a close, around 570,000 positions remained open in the manufacturing labor force.

The White House called for the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to develop two reports on measures the government can take to respond to long COVID and related conditions earlier this year. Federal funds have also been injected into research on ways to prevent or improve long COVID symptoms.

Given the prevalence of the condition, manufacturing firms will probably have to account for long COVID in their staffing efforts moving forward and adjust their attendance and workplace policies to accommodate this population of workers.

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FDA Proposes “Healthy” Definition Change for Packaging

On the heels of the recent White House Summit on hunger, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has proposed updated criteria for when foods can be labeled with the nutrient content claim “healthy” on their packaging. The FDA says the proposed rule “would align the definition of the ‘healthy’ claim with current nutrition science, the updated Nutrition Facts label and the current Dietary Guidelines for Americans.”

Under the proposed definition for the updated “healthy” claim, more foods that are part of a healthy dietary pattern and recommended by the Dietary Guidelines would be eligible to use the claim on their labeling, including nuts and seeds, higher fat fish (such as salmon), certain oils and water.

The agency is also in the process of studying and exploring the development of a symbol that manufacturers could use to show that their product meets the “healthy” claim criteria. The updated “healthy” claim, and potential symbol, together would act as quick signals to help consumers identify healthier food choices more easily, according to the FDA.

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