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Monthly Archives: January 2013

Science + Law = New Breed of Business Challenge

Business challenges wax and wane – sometimes stiffer, sometimes less tough. They come in many forms and from different sources. After all, they’re part of, well, business.

For coffee, though, there’s a new breed of challenge that’s upping the ante. It’s a hybrid of sorts, kind of a cross between food safety and product liability.

Like most consumables, coffee comes from an agricultural product that must be processed into a safe and wholesome product. The process involves import/export, transportation, cooking, packaging and delivery. Problems can arise in one or more of these areas, and each step attracts government oversight and action in the interest of protecting public safety and health.

Recently, however, steady advances in scientific methods are fueling new legal and regulatory attention and action, giving rise to the new breed of business challenge. Science and law are becoming flip sides of the same regulatory coin, creating new potential liabilities and more complex compliance demands.

This conflation of law and science is putting serious pressures on coffee companies. They are getting sued under California’s Proposition 65 for a previously undetectable substance, acrylamide, which is naturally formed in the cooking process. They are struggling to comply with unfolding new federal regulations under the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) to prevent foodborne illness, taking them into the weeds of food science and technology. And, with advancing techniques, scientists continue to “chase zero” to find minute molecular structures that happen to spell out still new chemical compounds in many foods.

Law & Science Symposium
It’s a mounting issue that will only get bigger over time. How can industry members prepare? By gaining at least a working knowledge of the science and the law, and how these two otherwise disparate disciplines overlap to challenge business. An MBA alone will no longer go the distance without at least some a little Ph.D. and Esq. blended in.

NCA works hard to keep its members and the entire U.S. coffee industry up to speed and ahead of the curve. That’s why we’re prefacing the 2013 NCA Convention with a special Symposium to help bridge the gap. Coffee at the Crossroads of Science and Law will bring together prominent industry scientists and attorneys to help attendees understand the essentials of science and law for navigating the new challenges.

Coffee at the Crossroads of Science and Law will cover challenges arising from California’s Proposition 65 and its application to acrylamide as well as other heat-formed toxicants already uncovered and still others yet to be detected and regulated. The symposium will also detail the complex new requirements of the Food Safety and Modernization Act, such as recently released draft regulations on hazard assessment and preventive controls that many say go beyond the original statutory mandate. The symposium will also cover how and to what extent health claims run afoul of legal and regulatory dictates.

Coffee at the Crossroads of Science and Law will be held on Thursday, March 21, 2013 at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco. The 2013 NCA Convention carries on from March 21 to 23 also at the Palace. Registration is now open.

Knowledge as Guide
The challenges posed by science-based legal and regulatory action will only increase over time. Scientists will inevitably uncover more heat-formed toxicants and other chemical traces in foods, and public policy will undoubtedly keep pace with laws and regulations to uphold food safety and integrity. For coffee companies and other food manufacturers finding their way around the crisscrossing maze of compliance, knowledge will be their most sure-footed guide.

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The World’s First Online Coffeehouse

What can’t you do online these days? You can buy new shoes. Pay your bills. Order the week’s groceries. Watch old sitcoms and new movies. Maybe even meet a spouse.

So what about your coffee? While sip-cams would be the stuff of science fiction, soon you will be able to enjoy the coffee experience on your desktop or mobile device.

That’s right. The world’s first Online Coffeehouse will soon be launched by the National Coffee Association. NCA’s new© will be a celebration of the coffee culture, lifestyle and experience within the interactive frame of an online coffeehouse environment.

While the coffee experience revolves around America’s favorite beverage, it’s also much more. Coffee’s a staple not only of our daily diets, but also of our daily lives. It’s a multi-faceted beverage that improves life in many distinct and complementary ways. It fills many roles – cultural icon, conversation starter, social vehicle, taste sensation, healthful food choice, companion to artistic expression, driver of good times, socioeconomic provider, and many others.© is designed to capture and celebrate coffee’s multi-faceted contributions to an active, committed, fulfilled and enjoyable life as they echo in the culture and lifestyle that revolves around the beverage. The site will evoke the flavor and experience associated with the coffeehouse setting – the coffee, the company, the environment, the occasion.

Presented in a crisp, compelling writing style, the site will feature the many compelling attributes that make up the overall experience – conversation, shared interests, specially licensed music, coffee-centric quizzes and contests, recipes and recipe contests, steals and deals on coffee-related paraphernalia, cause-related information and discussion, and all types of “coffeeana©” – like blend and flavor favorites, facts and figures on coffee research, coffee history and trivia, brewing techniques and equipment, cultural icons, and much more.

So, next time you stay in to do your shopping, don’t forget to take a break and enjoy your coffee, too. Stay tuned for the grand opening of MyVitrualCoffeehouse.

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Federal Food Agency Tests Waters on FSMA Food Safety Plans

The wheels of government often grind slowly, but can still deliver a hefty pinch. After a yearlong delay, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued draft regulations that put significant new responsibilities on manufacturers for ensuring food safety.

Last week, the FDA issued a “proposed rule” to implement the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) provision for “preventive controls,” essentially a series of backstops against potential contamination. Generally speaking, the 680-page document is the regulatory equivalent of an operating manual, spelling out proposed regulations implementing the statutory provision.

FSMA, which became law in January 2012, introduced a requirement that manufacturers of food for consumption in the U.S. develop a formal safety plan to prevent foodborne illness. However, just what compliance would entail is left up to the FDA to craft in accompanying regulations. The law provided for an automatic trigger of the preventive controls provision on July 3, 2012, but without the rules in place, the FDA had adopted temporary “discretionary enforcement” of the provision.

The newly issued proposed rule is now open to a 120-day public comment period. Following receipt and analysis of comments, the FDA will issue a final rule. Thereafter, the Agency says, it would make the preventive controls provision effective after one year. Small business are expected to be given additional time.

NCA will study the proposed rule carefully and consider filing formal comments if appropriate to advocate for the best interests of the U.S. coffee industry. NCA has already filed comments with the FDA on prior FSMA rulemaking proposals.

Preventive Controls
The FSMA preventive controls provision will require domestic or foreign manufacturers of food for sale in the United States to develop a formal plan to prevent foodborne illness. The provision also requires food makers to conduct analyses of reasonably foreseeable hazards, including acts of terrorism, and deploy preventive controls to minimize those risks. The proposed rule also requires food makers to put plans in place for correcting any problems that may spring up.

Preventive controls are one of many new provisions deployed by FSMA to improve U.S. food safety. FSMA itself signaled a fundamental shift in the nation’s approach to creating a safer food supply. Rather than the prior approach of remediation of problems after they arise, FSMA adopts an approach focused on prevention. The statute also emphasizes accountability for domestic and foreign food producers throughout the supply chain.

The first major revamp of federal food safety laws since the 1930s, FSMA grants new powers to the FDA and imposes added responsibilities for food safety throughout the supply chain. Passed by Congress in late 2010, the statute also calls for more frequent inspections of domestic and foreign facilities, re-registration by food companies, presumptive liability that companies that pack, receive or hold foods “knew or should have known” of problem conditions, a reduced threshold for administrative detention of food, and protections for whistleblowers.

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California Here We Come: The 2013 NCA Convention

Happy 2013 from the National Coffee Association!

With each new year comes eager anticipation for NCA’s annual convention. This year, the Association heads to San Francisco for its 102nd annual meeting. To many, it’s the coffee’s industry’s premier meeting, where senior executives interact with coffee professionals from every industry segment and all corners of the global supply chain.

Like NCA itself, the convention is unique in its embrace of the entire coffee community – traditional and specialty, roaster and retailer, barista and importer, cause-coffee certifier and equipment manufacturer, producer and packager, and more. While NCA membership accounts for over 90% of U.S. coffee commerce, a majority of members are small and mid-sized companies.

The NCA convention is where the coffee community connects. Top executives are on hand to network with attendees from companies, large and small, that provide products and services of all types to the industry. A table-top exhibit brings entrepreneurs into direct contact with senior managers who hold decision-making and purchasing authority. A curriculum of educational sessions, led by the industry’s top thought leaders, gives attendees the competitive edge that only real-time, top-flight knowledge can deliver.

This year, NCA is also adding new dimensions to that emblematic educational program. For the first time, the convention will offer a pre-meeting scientific and legal symposium. The pre-meeting event, Coffee at the Crossroads of Law and Science, is designed to equip attendees with the knowledge they need to meet science-based legal and regulatory challenges that are ramping up as a significant challenge to business as usual. Gary Kushner, Esq. of Hogan & Lovells in Washington DC will be the moderator, and members of the National Coffee Association’s Scientific Affairs Committee will be among the presenters. Later in the Convention program, Committee members will speak in a general session entitled “Busting Popular Myths about Coffee.”

NCA is also hosting the annual International Women’s Coffee Association (IWCA) luncheon. The group’s mission is to “empower women in the international coffee community to achieve meaningful and sustainable lives and to encourage and recognize the participation of women in all aspects of the coffee industry. Delivering the luncheon address will be American philanthropist, actress and singer Grace Hightower De Niro, who says of her efforts on the Grace Hightower & Coffees of Rwanda website: “Inspired by the spirit of the Rwandan people, I have created these coffees as a way to celebrate and support the coffee farmers of Rwanda. Through direct sourcing, fair trade, ethical practices and environmental stewardship, our dedication to the coffee farmers of Rwanda will allow them to create a sustainable business that can be passed from one generation to the next.”

  • Other Sessions
    Additional speakers and topical sessions scheduled for the NCA convention include:
    Michelle Stacy, President, Keurig, Inc., opening with a General Session address
    G. Scott Clemons, Chief Investment Strategist, Wealth Management, Brown Brothers Harriman, presenting his popular and highly-rated annual economic update
    Fernando Vega, Ph.D., U.S. Department of Agriculture, covering the history of coffee and the danger of the coffee berry borer to the coffee industry worldwide
    Susie Spindler, Executive Director, Cup of Excellence, offering a coffee tasting of Honduran coffees designed for both beginning and more advanced cuppers
    Oscar Schaps, Managing Director, INTL FCStone, and Kellee James, founder of Mercaris Co., presenting the findings of the Coffee Futures Working Group, an NCA task force looking into the merits of developing an additional contract to manage differential risk
    Dr. Tim Schilling, Executive Director, World Coffee Research, the research and development program funded by the global coffee industry and managed by the Borlaug Institute at Texas A&M University, and Carlos Brando, Director and Partner of Coffee Consulting, P&A International Marketing, on international approaches to sustainability
    Paul Rice, President, Fair Trade USA, Melanie Rutten-Suelz, Executive Director, 4C Association, and Robert Waggwa Nsibirwa, Chairman, 4C Association, on their organizations’ certification programs
    • Other topical sessions covering the Food Safety Modernization Act, the NCA’s 2013 Consumption Promotion Campaign, Proposition 65, How to Develop a Digital Strategy, Climate Change and Adaptation, and new NCA market research for 2013
    • Additional sessions to be announced.

The 2013 NCA Convention takes place on March 21-23 at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco. Registration is now open. Accommodations at the special event rate are available at the Palace Hotel by calling 888-627-7196 or 415-512-1111 and mentioning the National Coffee Association or NCA.

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