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Sea to Sea LLC: Promoting New Technologies in Food Safety

Steven Richter has been in the seafood imports business for 38 years; after graduating with a bachelor’s degree in biology he went to work with his uncle at a company now known as Chicken of the Sea. Richter later began his own company, Sea to Sea LLC (C2C), which has been importing aquatic delicacies for six years.

C2C broke away from Icelandic Seafood Inc. after the company bought out Ocean to Ocean Seafood Sales (Ocean to Ocean), where Richter had worked for nearly two decades. The mixed management, Richter says, “just didn’t mesh.” So, after a three-year contract, Richter decided not to renew.

Richter took on as many Ocean to Ocean employees as he could when starting C2C, along with a $3 million start-up fund. The new team picked up components of the seafood import industry that Ocean to Ocean wasn’t servicing.

C2C is not just about buying and selling shrimp, though. “I have joined in with a company that has discovered a new technology,” Richter beams. Rayfresh Foods Inc. (Rayfresh) has hired Richter by contract to act as a consultant in the seafood sector, and he couldn’t be more excited. A new technology, the Rainbow Process, uses photons to kill bacteria in foods. “This machine is actually the solution to the food-safety problem,” Richter says. “And it’s safe.”

A Safer Process

Similar technology using gamma rays has been used in international food packaging around the world since it was patented in the U.S. in 1918. Certain foods are approved for irradiation at certain doses; the FDA requires Radura labeling, with the fine print reading “treated by irradiation.” According to Richter, although the FDA requires labeling, it is believed that products imported to the U.S. are sometimes irradiated without being labeled.

Gamma irradiation has been heavily protested. Although irradiated food is not actually radioactive, some researchers have found links between the consumption of gamma irradiated food and varying degrees of physical and biochemical abnormalities.

Photon irradiation, Richter explains, “is like going to the dentist and getting an x-ray, only you don’t even need shielding. Shielding is required. The difference between x-ray irradiation and gamma/electron beam irradiation is that you do not need an entire facility. You can install our process into existing production lines rather than shipping the product to a separate distant facility. That’s how light it is.”

As a comparison, Richter details the varied irradiation processes of oysters. “When oysters are irradiated using an electron/gamma process, you put these thick rubber bands around them, because it kills them.” In contrast, oysters that are run through the Rainbow Process come out alive. The process adds no heat, and Richter says, “Because there’s no shielding necessary, you can install these machines right in the plant.”

Richter stumbled across Rayfresh on the Internet. “I import shrimp from Bangladesh,” he says. “Giant prawns, six to eight inches long. These shrimp have naturally occurring salmonella, and I was looking for a safe way to remove this bacteria. We just had so many FDA rejections.” That is when Richter discovered the Rainbow Process.

The Rainbow Process was created by Peter Schoch and a partner, and was developed with the help of a bio-lab at Michigan State University. The team of scientific developers, Richter says, “is a group of Ph.D.s.” The scientists were eager to promote the new technology, but Richter found that the group was not exactly versed in international business. On top of that, the new innovation is expensive.

“Although the machine is half the cost of a gamma/electron beam facility, you can’t just hand out brochures for a several-million-dollar machine and expect people to take it seriously,” he says. Through Richter’s experience in international business, Rayfresh is becoming better versed in trade and marketing.

The group is targeting large meat, seafood and produce operations worldwide. Rayfresh is also taking the technology to Washington, D.C., in hopes of landing expanded FDA approval – the Rainbow Process has already been endorsed for use on hamburger meat, fish and oysters – as well as subsidies. “The government is really willing to subsidize businesses that export right now, especially businesses that are developing new technologies,” Richter explains. Richter is confident that the Rainbow Process is a game-changer in the food industry.

Extending the Shelf Life and Saving Lives

The Rainbow Process extends the shelf life of food, even seafood, indefinitely by removing up to 100 percent – according to Richter this is explained by reducing pathogens and is stated as eliminating 99.999 percent – of bacteria from food. When Richter signed on with Rayfresh, he wanted to take these products for a test run. The group ran some fish through the machine and waited for it to get stinky.

“It completely dried out before it went bad,” Richter recalls. “We wondered what we should put down as the expiration date, and nobody knew. I figured we’d better not put down more than double right now because nobody would believe it.”.

The Rainbow Process is highly applicable with produce as well, because it kills insects and halts the ripening process. “When you buy a mango at the grocery store, it comes from Mexico,” Richter elaborates. “That mango has been picked way before it ripens, then they boil it for a few seconds to kill the insects, and it has to be flown in from Mexico. Mangoes from the supermarket are terrible.”

Richter has traveled the world and attests that ripe mangoes, fresh from the tree, are the absolute best. The Rainbow Process changes the way fruits travel. Mangoes can be picked, already ripe, run through the Rainbow Process machine, crated up and shipped for as long as a company wants to bounce them around in the back of a truck, and still arrive at the grocery store perfectly ripe and delicious. No more boiling processes and no more waiting for the mangoes to reach that perfect red-golden hue.

While the new technology is very exciting to Richter and could mean higher profit margins for C2C, he is equally excited about the Rainbow Process’ ability to bring fresh protein to areas where it is scarce. “I want to see this help people,” Richter explains. “We could buy 2 million pounds of fish from Uruguay at 31 cents per pound. If it goes through the Rainbow Process to remove 100 percent of bacteria, it will stay fresh for an extra couple weeks – and that’s without refrigeration. We can get proteins to countries that don’t normally have access to proteins.”

The partnership between C2C and Rayfresh is promoting an economical and safe way to process food products for distribution around the world. “We have been in talks with Indonesian-based PT. Indokom Samudra Persada producers of shrimp, crab and coffee for the purchase of up to seven new machines,” says Richter. “If concluded, Indokom would be the first company oversees to actually put the new process in place.”

The Rainbow Process extends shelf life without adversely affecting the taste or texture of goods. From naturally tree-ripened mangoes to fresh protein sources for developing countries, the Rainbow Process is making enormous strides in eliminating food-borne illness and delivering fresh quality food products all over the world, with the Sea to Sea LLC and Rayfresh Foods Inc. team right behind.