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Connected Insights: Weekly Top Headlines

Mar 11, 2016


Less than a year ago, Denver-based fast-casual chain Chipotle was seen as the future of the restaurant industry. An endless supply of listicles jockeyed to anoint which nascent chains might become “the next Chipotle” or “the Chipotle of ___.” Of course, in the wake of Chipotle’s food safety crisis that began last summer, that’s not happening anymore. In an attempt to recover its lost reputation, Chipotle has hired crisis PR firm Burson-Marsteller.



Food Safety

When a business is found responsible for sickening people with a foodborne illness, the new normal is the filing of criminal charges. The latest to find that out is Delaware’s Roos Foods Inc., which pleaded guilty to the federal criminal misdemeanor of food adulteration; a federal judge imposed a $100,000 fine. Taking it to the next level, a federal judge has sentenced two men involved in a 2014 nationwide meat recall following a scheme to bypass federal inspections, and processing diseased and condemned cattle at Rancho Feeding Corp. in Petaluma, CA. Prison sentences are becoming more common punishments for food safety infractions, even if only for a few months. Last week, William B. Aossey Jr. received a two-year federal prison sentence in his case for mislabeling Halal beef and exporting it from unapproved facilities.


The U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA's) Deputy Commissioner for Foods and Veterinary Medicine Michael Taylor announced this week that he is leaving the agency on June 1, 2016. As part of a succession plan that ensures both continuity in the program and strong new leadership for the future, Dr. Stephen Ostroff will become the second Deputy Commissioner for Foods and Veterinary Medicine upon Mr. Taylor’s departure.


While the Food Safety Modernization Act doesn’t require transparency, consumers are increasingly demanding traceability. “Companies are under pressure from consumers, as trust is the lowest it’s ever been,” said John Keogh, president and principal advisor, Shantalla Inc., Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. “Trust can be lost at the click of a mouse due to online conversations.” In the age of social media, food manufacturers have to be doubly cognizant of how their brands are perceived by consumers.



IoT


IoT is getting more automated, but not everything can be done by machines. An engineer who's been working with a system for decades has insights that machines can't grasp, so sometimes it's a human making the tough calls.


The team at Microsoft Research is deploying a balloon in the stratosphere loaded with sensors and cameras, which is connected to the Azure IoT platform. The balloon will send real-time telemetry along with live flight video. This is not the first time Microsoft has experimented with this idea. In February 2015, it successfully sent a balloon that streamed real-time data to the cloud.


Robert Bosch is taking on U.S. technology rivals by launching its own cloud computing network to connect everything from cars to dishwashers via the Internet. Traditional German industrial companies like Bosch are looking to transform themselves from manufactures of equipment to service providers using data generated by their machines.


Two companies that help enterprises deploy and manage Internet of Things devices are coming together to expand their global reach and scale. Kore Wireless will acquire Wyless for an undisclosed price, the companies announced Wednesday. The all-cash transaction is expected to close in the next few weeks.



Vaccine Safety + Zika Virus


A Zika vaccine could be ready for human trials later this year, according to the man in charge of the US government's research program. Dr Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, hopes to start testing a DNA vaccine by September. BioCryst Pharmaceuticals Inc said on Monday a dose of its experimental antiviral drug improved survival rates in mice infected with the Zika virus in a preclinical study. French drugmaker Sanofi has also slammed its foot on the gas since announcing the launch of a Zika vaccine program a month ago. Nicholas Jackson, who heads up the effort, said on Thursday he had now assembled a team of more than 80 in-house experts who would start preclinical tests of a potential vaccine in animals this spring.


Sanofi SA and Merck & Co Inc said on Tuesday they were ending a 22-year-old joint venture to sell vaccines in Europe, arguing they would do better by managing their product portfolios independently. The Sanofi Pasteur MSD venture, which is owned 50/50 by the French and U.S. drugmakers, had sales of 824 million euros ($908 million) in 2015 but its revenues have been relatively flat recently. The decision marks a further step by Sanofi's new Chief Executive Olivier Brandicourt to reshape the group, following a $20 billion deal to swap Sanofi's animal health unit for Boehringer Ingelheim's operations in consumer health.




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