A federal judge has terminated the supervised release for a former construction group executive who was involved in a failed Mississippi beef plant and illegal campaign contributions to a former Mississippi governor. Nixon Cawood Jr. was charged in the federal investigation into Mississippi Beef Processors LLC, which closed three months after it opened in 2004, costing 400 jobs and sticking Mississippi taxpayers with $55 million for state-backed loans, reports the Associated Press. He was sentenced in 2009 to eight months in prison and three years of supervised release.

Cawood was an executive at The Facility Group of Smyrna, Ga. The company managed the beef plant's construction. Prosecutors said that Facility executives first raised $70,000 for former Mississippi Gov. Ronnie Musgrove. When it became clear there were problems with the plant, Cawood and Robert Moultrie, Facility Group's former chairman and chief executive, talked about giving Musgrove another $25,000 to influence and reward him "should his assistance be needed on the potential problems with the project," court records said. Moultrie was sentenced to 16 months in prison.

In asking for his early release from supervision, Cawood’s attorney said that he was a model prisoner and has held good jobs since his release. He is now a vice rpesident for Fifth Street Management, a real estate management company in Atlanta.

Source: Associated Press; www.sunherald.com

Bell & Evans wins Consumer Reports wings battle

Consumer Reports' taste tasters sampled seven frozen buffalo chicken wings to find the best bunch to please the crowd. The full report appears in the February issue ofConsumer Reportsand online atwww.ConsumerReports.org.

Consumer Reports found that while many of the wings were quite tasty none of them had enough fried crispiness to be excellent, but Bell & Evans, $6.99, topped the list for the best overall quality. The wings had a pleasant broiled/roasted taste and were quite spicy with a hint of cumin, paprika, and red pepper. They also had a nice texture and had less sodium and tasted less fatty than most. The other wings rounding out the top three included T.G.I. Friday's, $9.25, that had a bit too much vinegar and the somewhat saltier Perdue Lightly Breaded, for $7.70.

"Chicken wings are a crowd pleaser while viewing a big sporting event, especially football," said Maxine Siegel, manager of Food and Sensory Sciences at Consumer Reports. "Our recent tests reveal that there are satisfying brands available, but be sure to check the ratings to see which deliver the best taste and price."

Other brands tested did reveal a few flaws: The Tyson Any'tizers Buffalo Style Hot, $7.31, had slightly rubbery skin. Weaver Flats, $5.93 had an artificial butter flavor, while Great Value Chicken, available at Walmart for $6.59, were chewy in addition to having a rubbery skin and an uneven coating.

Source: Consumer Reports

Bilinski's receives SQF certification

Bilinski’s Sausage Mfg. Co., an award-winning upstate New York producer of chicken sausage, ready-to-eat chicken entrees and other gourmet meats and sausages, received a Safe Quality Food (SQF) 2000 certification for its operation.

SQF certification is a benchmarked standard for the Global Food Safety Institute (GFSI) for safe and high quality of food. GFSI is a collaborative effort of the world's leading food safety experts including retailer, manufacturer and food service companies, as well as service providers associated with the food supply chain. The program is coordinated by The Consumer Goods Forum, the only independent global network for consumer goods retailers and manufacturers worldwide that reaches out to 400 members in more than150 countries.

”Bilinski’s has always taken food safety very seriously. Bilinski’s undergoes regular federal inspection by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Also, when we earned our Certified Organic designation, our processes, the factory and our team came under additional intense scrutiny. The SQF audit process holds companies to a more rigorous level of food safety and is the common standard of comparison for companies around the world,” said Stacie Waters, Bilinski’s president. “Bilinski’s has always held ourselves to a high standard because at the foundation of our business philosophy is our desire to serve our customers the same high quality products that we serve our families at home.”

Bilinski’s earned high marks for both the onsite visits and the administrative reviews and qualified for Level 2, which means that Bilinski’s has an effective food safety plan in process in place that demonstrates “a sound foundation for the production and manufacture of safe foods” and the completion and documentation of “a food safety risk assessment of the product and process using the HACCP method, and an action plan to eliminate, prevent or reduce food safety hazards.”

“We’re very proud that as a small family business, we earned our certificate on our first attempt,” said Waters. “Because we are a smaller manufacturer within the field of industrial meat producers, we don’t have the luxury of a dedicated compliance officer to usher the company through the process. We entered into the year-long audit process while maintaining regular manufacturing and food safety operations to meet our customers’ needs.”

The entire staff stepped up to learn and put GSFI standards into operation. SQF requirements put the responsibility back on us. We audit ourselves. With more strict internal procedures, we are able to identify, manage and control problems before they leave the plant,” Waters continued. “This type of vigilance is needed in all areas of food safety and manufacture.”

Once certified, a manufacturer can use this distinction to inform consumers that its products have been produced, processed, prepared and handled according to the highest possible standards, at all levels of the supply chain. Because of the high marks Bilinski’s earned during the audit process, they will seek renewal at the one-year mark, during the summer 2011. For companies that don’t score as well or fail, additional audits may be conducted throughout the year based on the level of risk and audit results.

“We took on the challenge of an additional annual audit because we stand by the need for transparency for all food producers. We made capital improvements to the factory, tweaked some of our procedures and invested in additional training for the entire Bilinski’s team,” said Steve Schonwetter, Bilinski’s CEO. “Bilinski’s products are distributed across the country. In the Northeast, Price Chopper is one of our largest and most loyal customers of Bilinski’s products. We’re very proud to have been out in front of the crowd to become one of Price Chopper’s first local suppliers to earn the SQF certification.”

Source: Bilinski’s Sausage Mfg. Co.

Summit proposes regulated horse processing in U.S.

Dozens of horse ranchers in breeders gathered in Las Vegas for the first Summit of the Horse are making a push to bring horse processing back to the United States. The killing of horses for human consumption was banned by Congress four years ago, yet the high global demand for horse meat has led some American ranchers to sell their horses to Mexico or Canada for processing.

Sue Wallis, Vice President of United Horsemen, says over-breeding has become a major problem. She insists the horse population should be kept under control, reports KTNV.

"If you get too many deer, elk they take measures to limit these animals. Horses are no different."

Protestors of the event argue that the slaughter of horses is inhumane. They argue that there is enough federal land available for horses.

"They like to say that they are all for the horses and want to help them, give them a humane death," says a protestor. "But that's not what they are about. They are all about making money."

Source: KTNV