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September 28, 2006
Sioux City Journal
Nicole Paseka

SADEX Officials Defy E.coli Bacteria
After irradiation, spinach is tasty and healthy

Popeye the Sailor Man would have approved of the green, leafy spinach gobbled up by SADEX Corp. officials early Wednesday morning.

Popeye definitely would not have approved of the spinach if he could have seen it under a microscope before it underwent irradiation -- the spinach contained 5 million colonies of E.coli bacteria per gram.

"You would have been better off to have a cow come and dump on it," said David Corbin, chairman and chief executive officer of the SADEX Corp.

Officials at the SADEX Corp. irradiated the highly contaminated spinach at the Sioux City plant, 2650 Murray St.

Then they ate it like candy.

"It was very good," Corbin said. "I didn't notice any difference."

Harlan Clemmons, president and chief operating officer of the SADEX Corp., agreed with Corbin.

"It had a good crunch to it," Clemmons said. "I didn't even have to put much dressing on it."

Although the spinach started the day at 5 million colonies of E.coli bacteria per gram, after irradiation, it had 50 to 70 colonies per gram -- not enough to make humans sick.

"That's why Harlan and I were highly confident in our spinach-eating ability," Corbin said.

The SADEX officials performed this spinach-eating feat to demonstrate their confidence in electronic pasteurization (irradiation) technology for ready-to-eat foods. Electron-beam irradiation works on the same principle as a giant television set. Electrons ride across a radio frequency in two beams aimed at the product, killing dangerous microbes.

Irradiation could have prevented recent infections of E.coli bacteria linked to contaminated spinach, executives said.

SADEX officials want the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to approve the application of irradiation for use on ready-to-eat foods such as spinach.

Irradiation technology is used in about 40 countries worldwide. In the United States, the only obstacle preventing irradiation of ready-to-eat foods is the FDA, Sadex officials said.

"Irradiation is a well-known and FDA-approved technology used on animal feed, meat and poultry," Corbin said. "This technology can prevent food-borne illness, and we believe it is a great way to protect the nation's food supply. Had the nation's supply of spinach been irradiated, the most recent E.coli scare could have been minimized."

Paul Driskell, managing director of government and regulatory affairs for the SADEX Corp., said the FDA has not approved of irradiation for ready-to-eat foods simply because of "bureaucratic inaction."

There are also consumer misconceptions about irradiation -- that it is not safe or that it zaps the nutrition out of food.

That is simply not true, SADEX executives said, and they have mountains of independent research to back up their claims.

As of Wednesday afternoon, neither Corbin nor Clemmons were sick, proving they had as much brains as Popeye had buff.


March 19, 2006
Sioux City Journal
Nicole Paseka

SADEX Corporation uses Electronic Pasteurization to Safeguard Food

There are only two plants nationwide that specialize in food irradiation. One is located in Mulberry, Fla.

The other plant calls Sioux City home.

"This is a safe technology that makes food products a whole lot safer because it gets rid of all the bad bacteria," said David A. Corbin, chairman of the SADEX Corp.

Food irradiation is a complicated process that typically requires three engineers and a translator to explain. It is best to think of irradiation as a huge television that zaps bacteria and prevents disease, Corbin will tell you.

"Basically, the device works almost like a giant television set. It's about a million times more powerful than your television set," he said, grinning. "A product runs under a beam of electrons, and those electrons kill all the bacteria that causes most food-borne illnesses."

The beam destroys common disease-causing bacteria such as E. Coli and Salmonella and preserves the food without altering its taste.

The SADEX plant, 2650 Murray St., revived its cutting-edge electronic pasteurization technology in December. It had been suspended two years ago when the SureBeam Corp. went bankrupt.

"We bought this facility from the main creditor of SureBeam -- I should say we acquired the lease and equipment and trademark to the SureBeam brand name," Corbin said.

Corbin, who lives in Fort Worth, Texas, was quick to point out new equipment while walking around the modernized factory floor in Sioux City.

Without warning, an alarm screamed, and red lights flashed.

"That thing will wake the dead," Corbin said, noting numerous safety precautions that have been added to prevent humans from being exposed to radiation.

The alarm sounds whenever the radiation beam warms up.

The factory accepts a diversity of products.

"Our business plan is to have about 45 percent of what we do here animal consumables, so that would be all sorts of animal feeds and plasmas and things like that," Corbin said. "And then 35 percent would be human consumables, and that's primarily things like ground beef, ground pork, products such as that."

The remaining products range from bee's wax to doggie treats to veterinary supplies.

"It's whoever shows up with something and we can help them out," Corbin said.

A company can expect to pay SADEX about 7 to 10 cents per pound for a product to be irradiated.

"All the product comes packaged up, so there's not bloody carcasses or anything like that," Corbin added, looking around the factory, which is kept as neat as a pin.

In the next year, Corbin said he would like to add a second shift to the workday and hire more employees.

"We want to have enough product coming in so that we can fill up an eight-hour workday and then add a second eight-hour workday," he said. "So it's really to fill up one shift and then start another, which means we're going to employ more people here at the Sioux City facility."

There are six employees and temporary workers at the factory now. The business could eventually employ up to 25 people.

"Our goals are to fill up the plant here and make money doing it. If you don't make money, you're not going to be in business forever," Corbin said.

Corbin said he also wants to be an "additive solution" for companies in the Midwest.

"My goal is to work with those people who are probably companies that you haven't heard of," Corbin said. "Not the Excels and the IBPs and the Swifts, but really on that next level down, to produce an irradiated premium product that's going to be sold in grocery stores and through food service."

The SADEX plant is at an ideal location in Sioux City, Corbin said.

"I appreciated all the things Sioux City has to offer. I appreciate the family-type environment that Sioux City has. I appreciate the can-do attitude people have around here. I appreciate the Midwestern work ethic," Corbin said. "And then the other thing that is real important is Iowa has one of the best-educated work forces in the entire country."


January 8, 2005
The Wichita Eagle
Phyllis Jacobs Griekspoor

Food Irradiation May Start To Take Off: The Process, Which Can Kill Most Bacteria In Ground Beef And Poultry, Is Still Not A Widespread Food Treatment

Last year, more than 5,000 people in America died because the food they ate was contaminated. And more than 75 million Americans will miss at least one day of school or work this year because of contaminated food.

These statistics concern Ron Eustice, executive director of the Minnesota Beef Council, and researchers at Kansas State University, Iowa State University and Arkansas State University, who make up the national Food Safety Consortium. That's because they know the technology to virtually wipe out bacterial contamination -- irradiation -- has been around since the 1960s.

It has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But it is rarely used to treat the nation's mainstream food supply. That includes ground beef, the primary culprit in E. coli O157:H7 infections, and poultry, the primary source of salmonella.

"It's an absolute shame it's not used," Eustice said. "It would save human suffering, protect human lives and significantly reduce the risk of liability."

Not Widespread for Food
Irradiation is widely used to treat medical instruments and devices and to prolong the shelf life of some fruits and vegetables. It was poised to become a major player in the sterilization of ground beef and other meats until the primary provider of food irradiation services, Surebeam, went bankrupt in 2004.

The major suppliers of ground beef -- Cargill, Tyson and ConAgra -- all had pilot programs with Surebeam. Smaller companies, including Omaha Steaks and Schwan's Fine Foods, also used SureBeam. Omaha Steaks and Schwan's continue to irradiate all of their ground beef at other facilities. But they are the exception. More than three years after the USDA approved the use of irradiated food in the school lunch program, a survey conducted by the Food Safety Consortium found 95 percent of school food service directors weren't serving it because their distributors don't offer it.

The Wichita school district does not use irradiated ground beef. Vicki Hoffman, food services director for USD 259, said the district receives most of its food already cooked, including many poultry products and ground beef. "We don't handle raw ground beef at all," she said.

The Food Safety Consortium was also disturbed by a response from food service directors who said they thought parents would be concerned if irradiated food was on the menu. That concern is a reflection of a lack of public knowledge about the process, researchers say. Irradiation uses energy waves -- not radiation -- to kill bacteria.

Sean Fox, a researcher at K-State, conducted a survey two years ago that showed consumer acceptance of irradiation was tied to how much they knew about the process. Those who were given little information tended to be fearful, while those given a brochure with answers to common questions supported it.

Gaining Traction
Researchers who support irradiation say use of the process may increase because of some recent developments. SADEX, a Texas-based investment firm, purchased the assets of the defunct SureBeam Corp. in June 2005 and began updates on its Iowa irradiation plant. In late December, the plant began processing about 40,000 pounds per day of animal feed for mills in the Midwest.

David A. Corbin, a former SureBeam investor, is manager of the plant. SureBeam technology exposes food to an electron beam for a few seconds. Other irradiation technologies expose food to energy waves from Cobalt-60 or X-rays. Corbin hopes SADEX will resume processing ground beef and other food products for many of the same companies that once used Surebeam, including Wichita-based Cargill Meat Solutions.

Cargill spokesman Mark Klein said the company is still interested in irradiation technology. "Our retailers told us there was a very loyal customer base for the product," Klein said. "If it becomes economically feasible, we will likely resume our pilot project and offer it again." The demise of SureBeam left only one other primarily food irradiation plant: Food Technologies in Mulberry, Fla., which mostly treats strawberries.

Detractors Remain
Some consumer groups, including Public Citizen, insist that irradiation reduces the nutritional quality of the food treated. They also contend that the process provides the food industry an incentive to sidestep cleanliness procedures and sell contaminated food.

Studies by government agencies, however, maintain nutrition is not affected. While the food industry has made major gains in reducing bacteria through packing and processing efforts, some still remain. The goal of irradiation is to eliminate the remaining bacteria, researchers say. "It's impossible for packing operations to be clean enough to kill every bacterium," Eustice said.

Corbin, the CEO of SADEX, expects the future of irradiation to include many food products in addition to ground beef and poultry. In particular, he sees it as a substitute for the chemical fumigant methyl bromide, which is being phased out by the Environmental Protection Agency because of the health and environmental dangers it poses. "As we see more and more phasing out of chemical fumigants, we think the demand" for irradiation will grow, he said.

September 28, 2006
Fort Worth Star Telegram
Maria M. Perotin

Businessman a true believer in irradiation

Fort Worth businessman David Corbin put his mouth where his money is Wednesday.

The chief executive of Sadex Corp., a company that provides food-irradiation services, believes that his technology can help eliminate food-borne illnesses like the recent deadly E. coli outbreak. So he used the radiation treatment on bacteria-laden spinach, and then ate a bowlful of the stuff.

"It was really, really good - a fine American product," Corbin said. Corbin is also president of the investment firm Corbin & Co.

Sadex, which is based in Fort Worth and has an irradiation plant in Iowa, is pushing federal regulators to allow its treatment on bagged produce and other ready-to-eat foods.

Currently, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration permits irradiation of raw meat, poultry, fresh produce and spices. But it's prohibited for hot dogs, deli meats, packaged salads and other processed foods.

"It could've helped greatly reduce the spinach crisis, not only for the American consumer, but for American farmers," Corbin said.

Irradiation, which exposes food to energy beams to destroy bacteria and boost the food's shelf life, doesn't make the food radioactive. Critics contend that it poses health risks and makes food less nutritious.

Ontario's health ministry Wednesday confirmed the first Canadian case of E. coli infection from contaminated spinach linked to the U.S. outbreak.

The victim ate spinach purchased at a grocery store in Renfrew County, about 93 miles northwest of Ottawa, said John Letherby, a spokesman for the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care.

Spinach contaminated with E. coli bacteria has sickened 183 people in 26 U.S. states and killed one person.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency issued recall orders and shut the border to U.S. spinach after learning of the outbreak, spokesman Marc Richard said in an interview.

In separate developments, Ohio and Illinois became the fourth and fifth U.S. states Tuesday to isolate E. coli bacteria from bags of fresh spinach.

Both states are conducting further tests to link the strains with the outbreak.

The FDA late last week scrapped an outright ban on eating fresh spinach, saying that fresh spinach grown outside of the California counties Monterey, Santa Clara and San Benito is safe. Fresh spinach began reappearing in supermarket shelves this week.

The FDA investigation has focused on Natural Selection Foods LLC, which produces spinach for distribution across the U.S. and to Canada and Mexico under a number of different brand names.


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