The Weekly: October 27, 2010

October 27, 2010

Top Stories

 

 

FDA heightens focus on retail food safety

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has called for stepped up efforts to improve food safety practices in retail food establishments, specifically pointing to the need for the presence of certified food safety managers to oversee safety practices. The FDA pledged to work closely with state and local governments and operators of restaurants, grocery stores, and other foodservice establishments to prevent illness from contaminated food.

FDA Deputy Commissioner for Foods Michael R. Taylor cited the retail food industry’s recent progress in key areas as well as room for improvement, based on the findings released from FDA’s 10-year study tracking the retail industry’s efforts to reduce five key risk factors.

“In looking at the data, it is quite clear that having a certified food protection manager on the job makes a difference,” Taylor said. “Some states and localities require certified food protection managers already, and many in the retail industry employ them voluntarily as a matter of good practice. We think it should become common practice.”

A component of the 10-year study, the 2009 retail food report, found that the presence of a certified food protection manager in four facility types was correlated with statistically significant higher compliance levels with food safety practices and behaviors than in facilities lacking a certified manager. For instance, compliance in full-service restaurants was 70% with a manager, versus 58% without a manager. In delicatessens, compliance was 79% with a manager, versus 64% without. For seafood markets, compliance with a manager was 88%, versus 82% without. And in produce markets, compliance was 86% with a manager, versus 79% without.

In addition to calling for certified food protection managers to be common practice, Taylor said the FDA initiative will include:

  • Increased efforts to encourage widespread, uniform, and complete adoption of the FDA Model Food Code by state, local, and tribal regulatory agencies that are responsible for retail food safety standard setting and inspection. The Food Code recommends standards for management and personnel, food operations, and equipment and facilities;
  • Increased efforts for adoption of FDA’s National Retail Food Regulatory Program Standards by state, local, and tribal agencies that enforce the Food Code and other measures to create an enhanced local regulatory environment for retail food operations.

“The key to food safety is prevention at every step from farm to table. Food retail managers, like growers and processors, have a responsibility to reduce the risk of foodborne illness,” Taylor said. “We want to build on past progress through continued collaboration with the retail industry and strengthened partnerships with state, local, and tribal agencies in their standard-setting and compliance efforts.”

Press release

Diabetes may affect as many as 1 in 3 Americans by 2050

According to the USA Today, a new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report shows that cases of diabetes in America are projected to double, even triple, by 2050. According to the report, one in 10 U.S. adults has diabetes now. The prevalence is expected to rise sharply over the next 40 years with as many as one in three having the disease, primarily type 2 diabetes, according to the report, published in Population Health Metrics.

“There are some positive reasons why we see prevalence going up. People are living longer with diabetes due to good control of blood sugar and diabetes medications, and we’re also diagnosing people earlier now,” said Ann Albright, Director of the CDC’s Division of Diabetes Translation.

A more diverse America—including growing populations of minority groups such as African Americans and Hispanics, who are more at risk for the disease—factors into the increase as well. But an increasing number of overweight Americans also is fueling the stark predictions for diabetes, which should be taken seriously, Albright says.

Programs and policies to prevent obesity and diabetes need to be put in place at every level, according to Duke University Medical Center Endocrinologist Susan Spratt, who says schools are a good place to start. Healthful food options in schools and daily physical education classes should be a priority.

“Vending machines should not sell sugar soda or candy bars. School fundraisers should not revolve around unhealthy food,” said Spratt, who adds that cities need to be pedestrian-friendly, bike-friendly, and safe.

A price will be paid if the projections go unheeded, experts say. The CDC estimates the current cost of diabetes at $174 billion annually—$116 billion of which is in direct medical costs. Previous research has suggested that the financial burden may easily double in the next 20 years, says David Kendall, Chief Scientific and Medical Officer of the American Diabetes Association.

Abstract

USA Today article

A snack cake a day keeps the doctor away?

Given the obesity epidemic in the United States, a lot of effort has turned to developing strategies to reduce Americans’ waistlines. Usually, this involves promoting healthy eating and increasing exercise. However, in order to better understand dietary energy and its effect on health outcomes, Mark Haub, Associate Professor, Dept. of Nutrition at Kansas State University, initiated a “diet” made up of foods containing refined grain, added sugar, and solid fats (e.g., grain-based desserts like cookies and cakes). The question being, does it matter where our energy is derived if we meet the recommended daily allowance of essential nutrients? After four weeks on the diet (which also included a few low-calorie vegetables, whole milk, and a multi-vitamin/mineral supplement) Haub provides an update of his progress in IFT’s ePerspective blog. Has his health improved on his “diet”? What are the implications of his diet on the general public? Read Haub’s blog entry and share your opinion.

Mark Haub’s ePerspective

Research �0;D;�0;A;�0;D;�0;A;Briefs

 

 

Fast food restaurants ‘not to blame’ for American obesity

According to the Telegraph, a study by academics from the University of California and Northwestern University shows that fast-food restaurants may not be to blame for America’s obesity crisis.

The researchers found that “the causal link between the consumption of restaurant foods and obesity is minimal at best.” It argued that a tax on high-calorie food, as proposed by many health campaigners in the United States and Britain, may therefore not be an effective way for governments to tackle the problem.

The study analyzed data compiled by the U.S. Department of Agriculture on calorie intake around the country. It found that people living closer to restaurants were not significantly more likely to be obese than people living further away, indicating that easy access to restaurants had little effect.

It also showed that while restaurant meals typically held more calories than home-produced food, many customers often offset this by eating less throughout the rest of the day. Obese people who ate at restaurants, the study indicated, “also eat more when they eat at home.”

The U.S. government estimates that about one in three Americans, or 100 million in total, is obese. In September it was predicted that 75% of Americans would be overweight in 2020. The problem is thought to cost Americans $150–170 billion in annual medical costs.

The study’s authors, Michael Anderson and David Matsa, wrote: “While taxing restaurant meals might cause obese consumers to change where they eat, our results suggest that a tax would be unlikely to affect their underlying tendency to overeat.”

Telegraph article

Study article (pdf)

Sustainable food, drink lovers attracted by perceived superior quality

Consumer demand for sustainable food and drink continues to grow, and companies are increasing the supply, as Mintel Global New Products Database (GNPD) has tracked more than 13,000 new sustainable food and drink products since 2005. While 84% of consumers say they regularly buy green or sustainable food and drink, some are unaware of what the claims actually mean.

“Packaging claims such as ‘recyclable’ or ‘eco- or environmentally friendly’ are fairly well known to consumers, but sustainable product claims such as ‘solar/wind energy usage’ or ‘Fair Trade’ have yet to enter the mainstream consumer consciousness,” said David Browne, Senior Analyst at Mintel. “They may have heard of the terms, but they’d be hard-pressed to define them.”

Of those surveyed, 40% have never heard of the solar/wind energy usage claim. The 37% that have say they’ve never purchased food or drink bearing the claim. Reduced carbon footprint/emissions is another lesser-known claim, as 32% have never heard of it. Thirty-four percent say they’ve never heard of the Fair Trade claim.

So, why do they buy?

According to Mintel research, 45% of sustainable food and drink users cite a perceived belief in superior quality as the reason behind their purchases. Meanwhile, 43% say they buy sustainable food and drink because they’re concerned about environmental/human welfare and 42% say they’re concerned with food safety.

“These reasons vary in importance across different demographics. What’s most important to young adults may not be the primary deciding factor for affluent consumers,” said Browne. “Marketers should consider this in their claims closely; noting that health, welfare, and safety are important for nearly all consumers.”

Press release

Health benefits of walnuts

Walnuts are the oldest tree food known to man, dating back to 7,000 B.C. The Romans called walnuts Juglans regia, “Jupiter’s royal acorn.” Early history indicates that English walnuts came from ancient Persia, where they were reserved for royalty. Today, according to the California Walnut Board, two-thirds of the world’s walnuts are grown in California and with a record crop expected in 2010, they are certainly available for all to enjoy—not just royals.

What’s one main reason for the nut’s long-standing popularity? Besides their taste and adaptability in many recipes, walnuts have long been known for their health benefits. In 2004, walnuts become the only whole food to have a qualified health claim approved by the FDA:

Supportive but not conclusive research shows that eating 1.5 oz of walnuts per day, as part of a low saturated fat and low cholesterol diet, and not resulting in increased caloric intake may reduce the risk of coronary artery disease.

Research from Loma Linda University, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition,was the first study to look at the heart-health benefits of walnuts and fatty fish. In a randomized cross-over study, 25 normal and mildly hyperlipidemic subjects received either a control diet (~30% total fat, <10% saturated fat), a diet incorporating 42.5 g or 1.5 oz of walnuts (per 2,400 calories) on six days per week, or a diet including two servings of salmon (113 g or 4 oz/serving) per week. Each diet provided the same amount of total calories. After four weeks, subjects on the walnut diet showed a reduction in both TC (5%) and LDL (9%) compared to the control diet, but no change in high-density lipoprotein (HDL) or triglycerides (TG) levels. Although the walnut diet did not influence HDL levels, it did significantly reduce the ratios of TC:HDL and LDL:HDL, which are important predictors of coronary heart disease (CHD).

In addition to heart disease, diabetes is a significant health concern for Americans. According to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report, cases of diabetes in America are projected to double, even triple, by 2050. According to the report, one in 10 U.S. adults has diabetes now. The prevalence is expected to rise sharply over the next 40 years with as many as one in three having the disease, primarily type 2 diabetes. Research is finding that including the right type of fats, like those found in walnuts, is particularly important to those with diabetes. A 2009 long-term study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition reported that increasing polyunsaturated fat intake from walnuts significantly improve metabolic factors in overweight study participants with type 2 diabetes. During the study, 50 adults with non-insulin treated diabetes followed either a healthy, control diet or a similar diet including an ounce of walnuts daily. The walnut group consumed significantly more polyunsaturated fats than the control, an outcome attributed to walnut consumption. Both groups demonstrated a consistent weight loss during the first six months; however, the control group experienced a consistent weight increase in the second six months, while the walnut group remained stable. The walnut group also produced significantly greater reduction in fasting insulin levels, particularly in the first three months.

American Journal of Clinical Nutrition abstract

European Journal of Clinical Nutrition abstract

Consuming whole grains may decrease dangerous fat tissue

A study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition shows that people who consume several servings of whole grains per day while limiting daily intake of refined grains may have less of a type of fat tissue thought to play a key role in triggering cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. Researchers at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Researcher Center on Aging (USDA HNRCA) at Tufts University observed lower volumes of visceral adipose tissue (VAT) in people who chose to eat mostly whole grains instead of refined grains.

The researchers examined diet questionnaires submitted by 2,834 men and women enrolled in The Framingham Heart Offspring and Third Generation study cohorts. The participants, ages 32 to 83, underwent multidetector-computed tomography (MDCT) scans, to determine VAT and subcutaneous adipose tissue (SAT) volumes.

Visceral fat surrounds the intra-abdominal organs while subcutaneous fat is found just beneath the skin. “Prior research suggests visceral fat is more closely tied to the development of metabolic syndrome, a cluster of risk factors including hypertension, unhealthy cholesterol levels and insulin resistance that can develop into cardiovascular disease or type 2 diabetes,” said co-author Paul Jacques, Director of the Nutritional Epidemiology Program at the USDA HNRCA and Professor at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts.

The researchers found that VAT volume was approximately 10% lower in adults who reported eating three or more daily servings of whole grains and who limited their intake of refined grains to less than one serving per day. Additionally, the researchers observed that participants who consumed, on average, three daily servings of whole grains but continued to eat many refined grains did not demonstrate lower VAT volume. This result implies that it is important to make substitutions in the diet, rather than simply adding whole grain foods.

The researchers note that because the studies are observational, future research that specifically investigates whole grain intake and body fat distribution in a larger, more diverse study population is needed to identify the mechanism that is driving this relationship.

Abstract

Discovery may help scientists boost broccoli’s cancer-fighting power

A University of Illinois study has shown for the first time that sulforaphane, the cancer-fighting agent in broccoli, can be released from its parent compound by bacteria in the lower gut and absorbed into the body.

“This discovery raises the possibility that we will be able to enhance the activity of these bacteria in the colon, increasing broccoli’s cancer-preventive power,” said Elizabeth Jeffery, Professor of Human Nutrition at the University of Illinois. “It’s also comforting because many people overcook their broccoli, unwittingly destroying the plant enzyme that gives us sulforaphane. Now we know the microbiota in our digestive tract can salvage some of this important cancer-preventive agent even if that happens.”

Although scientists had long theorized that the intestinal microbiota could perform this trick, no one knew it for certain. Now the researchers have proved it by injecting glucoraphanin, the parent compound for sulforaphane, into the ligated lower gut of rats and demonstrating that sulforaphane is present in blood from the mesenteric vein, which flows from the gut to the liver.

According to Jeffery, sulforaphane is an extremely potent cancer-fighting agent. “The amount that you get in three to five servings a week—that’s less than one daily serving of broccoli—is enough to have an anti-cancer effect. With many of the other bioactive foods you hear about, vast amounts are required for a measurable outcome.”

The researchers suggest two ways bacteria in the colon could be manipulated to get a boost out of broccoli. One way might be to feed the desirable bacteria with prebiotics like fiber to encourage their proliferation. Another way would be to use a probiotic approach—combining broccoli with a yogurt sauce that contains the hydrolyzing bacteria, and in that way boosting your cancer protection.”

The study appears in Food & Function.

Abstract

Paying with credit may increase unhealthy food choices

A study published in The Journal of Consumer Research shows that paying with credit or debit cards may lead people more likely to make impulsive, unhealthy food purchases.

In one part of the study, the researchers looked at the shopping behavior of a random sample of 1,000 single-member households who normally shop at chain stores. The researchers looked at what these households purchased over a six-month period on each visit to the store, and how they paid for their items. In this analysis, consumers were significantly more likely to purchase unhealthy foods like cakes and cookies when using a credit or debit card. Interestingly, consumers who shopped with larger baskets were also “more susceptible to impulsive purchase of unhealthy products,” the authors found. In addition, those consumers who shopped on the weekend were less likely to be impulsive.

The researchers also performed several other experiments, including one in which undergraduate and graduate students simulated a shopping trip on a computer. Students were told they would be paying via cash or card, and even though no money actually changed hands in this imaginary purchase, the card condition was again associated with less healthy purchases.

The researchers concluded:

“These results have implications for consumer welfare. In the popular press as well as in academic publications, the growing obesity problem and its economic consequences have been attributed to consumers’ failures to control impulsive urges (Ubel 2009). Further, researchers have identified several factors that make impulse control a challenging goal for consumers. Given this background, the finding that at least some consumers might be able to curb their impulsive urges by paying in cash is of substantive importance.”

Study (pdf)

Company News

 

 

Nestlé to decrease sodium by another 10% by 2015

Nestlé Prepared Foods Co., Solon, Ohio, has announced a comprehensive plan to decrease the sodium content in its products by another 10% from reductions made earlier this decade. This major initiative will carry through 2015 and includes the company’s popular Stouffer’s, Lean Cuisine, Buitoni, Hot Pockets, and Lean Pockets brands which will undergo gradual but steady recipe changes in order to bring down sodium levels without impacting taste.

“We are dedicated to helping people improve their overall wellness by providing convenient, wholesome, and delicious foods. That’s what we mean by ‘Good Food, Good Life,’ the statement that appears on a number of our consumer communications,” said Brad Alford, Chairman and CEO of Nestle USA. “Adjusting our sodium levels is part of our broader effort to create delicious and nutritious options that contribute to healthier lifestyles.”

Press release

Cognis receives EFSA claim approvals for DHA, vitamin E

Cognis has announced that the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has recently published its third batch of article 13.1 health claim opinions. Included in this batch, the EFSA has reported positive opinions on DHA and vitamin E, both submitted by Cognis. The company’s health claims in relation to CLA seem not to have been evaluated yet.

There were three positive opinions on health claims concerning DHA—claims relating to normal brain function, normal vision, and maintaining normal (fasting) blood concentrations of triglycerides were all upheld. In addition, various health claims for vitamin E were also approved, relating to its ability to protect DNA, proteins, and lipids against oxidative damage.

While the EFSA panel rejected some health claims relating to conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), it did not give any specific opinion about the relationship between CLA and body fat reduction. Cognis’ Tonalin CLA is marketed not as a weight loss ingredient, but rather as an ingredient for body fat reduction—a benefit that has been proven in numerous human studies, conducted to the strictest standards and designed using double-blind randomization and placebo control.

“This is why we will review the opinion in detail and raise our concerns with the European Commission to clarify whether our claims will be evaluated in a later batch,” said Arne Ptock, Global Product Line Manager Tonalin, Cognis Nutrition & Health.

Cognis

EFSA press release

USDA-ARS, Ajinomoto launch sodium glutamate research collaboration

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS) and Ajinomoto Co. have announced a joint research project to explore whether the regular inclusion of dietary sodium glutamate (MSG) used to enhance the taste of foods has beneficial effects on eating behavior and body weight management. The trial, which will be conducted by ARS’ Western Human Nutrition Research Center (WHNRC), will assess in overweight women whether adding sodium glutamate to foods facilitates the control of appetite and caloric intake, and prevents body weight rebound following a period of moderate energy restriction and weight loss.

Novel nutrition-based strategies might help people to improve the quality and amount of food they eat while maintaining the emotional and pleasurable qualities of eating. Foods or food ingredients that enhance these qualities of eating might also reduce the drive or motivation to eat, particularly energy dense foods. MSG has long been known to enhance the savory quality of foods and promote a positive emotional response (pleasantness) of eating. Regularly including MSG or foods naturally high in glutamate may help people to improve the quality and amount of their food intake, yet maintain the emotional and pleasurable qualities of eating.

The research is expected to add to the growing base of science around umami, widely accepted as the fifth basic taste in addition to sweet, sour, salty, and bitter. Glutamate, an amino acid naturally found in many common foods such as tomatoes, cheese, and cured ham, is considered the purest form of umami. Recent research has identified umami receptors on the tongue. Providing a savory taste of its own, umami also enhances and balances the sensory experience of other tastes. MSG, the sodium salt of glutamate, improves the palatability of foods and has been widely used as a flavor enhancer for more than a century, initially in Asia and later globally. Significant research documents the potential value of MSG as an aid in reducing dietary sodium. Given the global obesity epidemic and the role of diet as part of the solution, research initiatives such as this are increasingly important for informing and creating solutions that will improve public health.

“The Western Human Nutrition Research Center’s expertise in nutrition and the regulation of food intake and metabolism, combined with Ajinomoto’s demonstrated knowledge and leadership related to umami and MSG, create a powerful partnership as we seek a better understanding of how to improve eating behaviors and human health,” said Masatoshi Ito, President and CEO, Ajinomoto Co.

The trial is expected to be completed in the next two years.

Press release

Northland Labs achieves ISO/IEC 17025 accreditation

Northland Laboratories has officially achieved ISO/IEC 17025 accreditation for multiple microbiological and chemical methods. The scope of the methods Northland is accredited for is one of the more comprehensive in the industry. In order to obtain ISO/IEC 17025 accreditation, a laboratory must demonstrate proficiency in their quality system, standard operating procedures, and laboratory performance demonstrating competency.

“Obtaining this accreditation demonstrates Northland Laboratories’ commitment to our Quality System, and highlights the incredible team we have at Northland Laboratories focused on quality testing,” said D.J. Alwattar, Vice President, Northland Laboratories.

Northland Laboratories is a testing and consulting laboratory with locations in Northbrook, Ill., and Green Bay, Wis. Northland’s range of expertise with specialized experts in each area include food safety/microbiology testing, chemistry testing, sensory research, shelf life, consulting, expert witness, and nutrition labeling.

Northland Laboratories

GLG Life partners with ChemPoint to market stevia

GLG Life Tech Corp. has announced that they have partnered with ChemPoint.com Inc., an e-distributor of specialty and fine ingredients, for the marketing, sale, and distribution of GLG’s portfolio of high quality stevia extracts within the United States and Europe. ChemPoint will provide marketing, sales, and order fulfillment, as well as technical support and expertise. The companies will jointly launch focused campaigns targeting key segments of the food and beverage industry immediately. The agreement involves a three-year initial term with an automatic renewal provision for additional years subject to certain conditions.

“ChemPoint’s innovative technological approach to working with customers is impressive and demonstrates their commitment to effective, professional service. ChemPoint is able to deliver valuable technical solutions, strategic marketing, and customer support which will allow GLG to better service its customers,” said GLG Chairman and CEO Luke Zhan.

Press release

Hartman joins Flavor & Fragrance Specialties

Flavor & Fragrance Specialties has hired Jacqueline Hartman as Food Technologist in the Flavor Business Unit. Hartman holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Nutrition and Food Science from the University of Vermont. She spent her summers interning at Ben and Jerry’s Homemade as well as gaining industry experience in the areas of seasoning development, culinary/savory applications, and bakery and cereal products. Hartman is a member of the Institute of Food Technologists.

Flavor & Fragrance Specialties

Extra Credit Reading

The quest for the Original Health Nut
The California Walnut Board, which works to promote the health benefits of walnuts through publicity and educational programs, is now looking for its own Original Health Nut. They are searching high and low to find the person in America who lives each day to the fullest and goes the extra mile—someone who leads by example and inspires others to make healthy decisions in their everyday choices.

Arylessence reveals nine trend factors driving buying decisions
Sensory touchpoints and the desire for sensuous, emotional experiences are still among the key factors driving U.S. consumer buying decisions, says a new report from Arylessence, a U.S. fragrance and flavor company. But this “emotive edge” is just one of nine significant “deep trends” that reflect how consumers make choices today and predict how marketers will respond in 2011 and beyond.

Chocolate tops the list of most popular Halloween treats
About 5% of all candy consumed for the year occurs on Halloween and the week afterward. The most popular types, in order: chocolate, chewy candies, and hard candy.

Regulatory News

 

 

USP to hold first Food Ingredient Stakeholder Forum

The United States Pharmacopeia (USP), producer of the Food Chemicals Codex (FCC), will hold its first Food Ingredient Stakeholder Forum on Dec. 3, 2010, at USP’s Rockville, Md. headquarters. Chaired by Will Fisher, IFT Vice President of Science & Policy Initiatives, the Stakeholder Forum will address global harmonization of specifications, nomenclature, and nanotechnology applications, as well as FCC activities.

This event is open to all stakeholders of food ingredients and participation is free of charge. Stakeholder Forums are formed to enable an exchange of information and perspectives, with the ultimate goal of improving USP standards and information. The Food Ingredient Stakeholder Forum provides an opportunity to discuss issues related to food ingredients and the FCC in an open forum setting. Individuals wishing to register for the Stakeholder Forum should visit http://events.signup4.net/fisf. For further information, contact Mario Sindaco (mys@usp.org) or Carmel Molloy (czm@usp.org).

Register to attend

EFSA rules probiotic health claims unproven

According to the Guardian, the food industry’s probiotics sector was called in to question today by a new European ruling that its health claims are unsupported by sound science. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) posted its formal assessment of the merit of 808 health claims, including widely used assertions that probiotic products boost the immune system. The claims were submitted to the EFSA by the food industry and member states.

The EFSA’s panel of independent scientists concluded that the evidence the industry had submitted to support its claims that various food additives could strengthen the body’s defenses, improve immune function, and reduce gut problems were either so general as to be inadmissible, or could not be shown to have the claimed effect.

In a separate ruling, the panel examined a dossier of 12 studies submitted by Yakult for its proprietary strain of probiotic bacteria, Lactobacillus casei shirota. The panel found that all were inadequate to support the company’s claim that its products maintained immune defenses against the common cold.

The gradual introduction of new EU regulations was finally agreed on in 2007 as a result of pressure from consumer groups. They wanted food companies to be prevented from using health claims to sell products unless they had proved them first, and unless the products were deemed healthy enough overall to warrant claims of benefits. Under the new rules, member states were asked to submit health claims from manufacturers, along with dossiers of scientific evidence, for independent assessment by the EFSA.

Britain’s Food Standards Agency (FSA) collected more than 4,000 claims from the UK industry; across Europe, some 44,000 claims were submitted. EFSA scientists, who were taken by surprise by the volume of claims, whittled these down to 4,000 for detailed assessment.
The opinions published Oct. 19 were the latest in a series of rulings. The EFSA had already published five opinions on claims relating to probiotics, all negative, although a spokeswoman said EFSA scientists “avoid using the term probiotics,” since it has no proper scientific meaning.

The new EFSA rulings represent a serious blow to the food industry, which has invested heavily in new, so-called functional foods such as probiotics. These typically sell for high margins, and enable manufacturers to differentiate their products from those of competitors in a crowded market. The EFSA did give some health claims favorable rulings, but they relate to vitamins and minerals for which the effects have long been known, such as the ability of iron to relieve anemia.

The industry has complained that EFSA is applying excessively rigorous scientific standards when assessing the new claims. It has asked for a series of meetings to discuss the criteria. Yakult issued a statement saying its rejected claim was just one aspect of its research. “The claim was supported by well-designed, double-blind, placebo-controlled human studies,” it said. “In response to the EFSA opinion, the company wishes to discuss the evaluation process and this outcome with EFSA. With the benefit of further guidance, the company anticipates a positive EFSA opinion in due course.”

Guardian article

EFSA Yakult opinion

Canadian government, FCPC launch nutrition labeling initiative

The Honorable Leona Aglukkaq, Canada’s Minister of Health, and Nancy Croitoru, President and CEO, Food & Consumer Products of Canada (FCPC), have announced the launch of the Nutrition Facts Education Campaign to help Canadians make informed food choices.

Health Canada and FCPC developed the multi-media Nutrition Facts Education Campaign that focuses on increasing Canadians’ understanding of the Nutrition Facts table and, in particular, the % Daily Value.

“We know that many consumers are using the information in the Nutrition Facts table,” said Aglukkaq. “This innovative, national initiative builds on ongoing efforts by our Government to help Canadians better understand and use this information to make healthier food choices for themselves and their families.”

The initiative includes a multi-faceted approach to explain % Daily Value to consumers, through messaging to appear on food packages, in-store, and in national media (print, television, online), directing Canadians to Health Canada’s educational Web site—www.healthcanada.gc.ca/dailyvalue. The site has information and tips on how to use % Daily Value to make healthier food choices.

Together, the Government of Canada and FCPC are working with stakeholders from the health, food retail, and industry sectors to reach Canadians with this important nutrition information.

Press release

Health Canada’s educational Web site

USDA considers limiting potatoes offered to kids

According to the Associated Press, potato growers are fighting back against efforts to ban or limit potatoes in federal child nutrition programs, arguing the tuber is loaded with potassium and vitamin C and shouldn’t be considered junk food. Healthy food advocates said they’re not anti-potato, but they think children need a greater variety of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains to fight a tripling of child obesity rates in the past 30 years.

With that in mind, the Institute of Medicine, the health arm of the National Academy of Sciences, recommended that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) stop participants of the federal Women, Infants, and Children program, known as WIC, from buying potatoes with federal dollars. The institute also called for the USDA-backed school lunch program to limit use of potatoes.

Under an interim rule, the USDA agreed to bar WIC participants from buying potatoes with their federal dollars. Potatoes are the only vegetable not allowed. Next year, the agency will roll out a final rule on the WIC program, which last year served 9.3 million children and pregnant and breast-feeding women considered at risk for malnutrition.

The WIC program is a supplemental food program, and the determination was made that consumption of white potatoes was already adequate, said Christine Stencel, spokeswoman for the Institute of Medicine. “The recommendation was made to encourage consumption of other fruits and vegetables,” she said.

The USDA is expected to release changes to the federal school lunch program by the end of the year. The program subsidizes lunch and breakfast for nearly 32 million needy kids in most public schools and many private ones, and those schools must follow guidelines on what they serve. Whatever the USDA decides, potatoes won’t disappear from school lunches, although they might become less common.

AP article

DSHS orders Sangar Produce to close, recall products

The Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) has ordered Sangar Fresh Cut Produce in San Antonio, Texas, to stop processing food and recall all products shipped from the plant since January. The order was issued after laboratory tests of chopped celery from the plant indicated the presence of Listeria monocytogenes, a bacterium that can cause severe illness.

State law allows DSHS to issue such orders when conditions exist that pose “an immediate and serious threat to human life or health.”

The recalled products—primarily cut fresh produce in sealed packages—were distributed to restaurants and institutional entities, such as hospitals and schools, and are not believed to be sold in grocery stores.

The testing was done as part of a DSHS investigation into 10 listeriosis cases, including five deaths, reported to the department over an eight-month period. Six of the 10 cases have been linked to chopped celery from the Sangar plant. The illnesses occurred in Bexar, Travis, and Hidalgo counties. All of the illnesses were in people with serious underlying health problems.

Health officials said pinpointing a Listeria source is often difficult due to the small number of cases, the illness’ long incubation period and difficulty collecting complete information about what people ate.

DSHS inspectors also found sanitation issues at the plant and believe the Listeria found in the chopped celery may have contaminated other food produced there. The department found a condensation leak above a food product area, soil on a preparation table, and hand washing issues. DSHS food safety personnel are contacting distributors, restaurants, and institutions believed to have received the recalled products to ensure they are taking appropriate action to protect consumers.

DSHS continues to investigate possible sources of contamination and where the products were distributed. Sangar’s customers are advised to discard or return the products. The order prohibits the plant from reopening without DSHS approval.

Press release

U.S. drops appeal over WTO ruling on Chinese chicken

According to Reuters, the United States allowed a World Trade Organization (WTO) condemnation of U.S. restrictions on imports of cooked chicken to stand on Oct. 25 by deciding not to appeal a ruling by experts in a complaint brought by China.

Parties to WTO disputes often appeal initial rulings, dragging out the case for months or years. But in this case the United States already had dropped the measures that China objected to—a ban imposed by the U.S. Congress in a spending bill preventing the U.S. authorities from taking steps to process imports of Chinese chicken.

The dispute was one of several roiling U.S.-Chinese relations. China had responded to the original U.S. ban by imposing duties on U.S. chicken imports, and the two powers are wrangling over their currency exchange rates.

The U.S. had banned imports from China and some other Asian countries after outbreaks of bird flu in 2004, but the spending ban—imposed after a series of food scares in China—meant that Chinese chicken could not enter the United States in practice even after imports formally were allowed.

China argued that the reasons for the U.S. measures were unscientific, a claim backed by a WTO panel of experts.

Reuters article

Meeting News

 

 

Call for nominations: Achievement Awards and IFT Fellow

Through its awards program, IFT honors the many ways the food science and technology field makes a real difference. IFT is now accepting nominations for the 2011 award year for Achievement Awards and IFT Fellow.

Achievement Awards recognize individuals and teams for remarkable contributions in research, applications, and service and are designed for our colleagues in industry, academia, and government. Election as an IFT Fellow is a unique professional distinction conferred for outstanding and extraordinary contributions in the field of food science and technology.

Deadline to submit an Achievement Award nomination is Dec. 1, 2010. Deadline for Fellow nominations is Feb. 1, 2011. Submit a nomination for a deserving colleague today! For further information and a complete listing of IFT awards, visit http://www.ift.org/about-us/awards-and-recognition.asp x.

Final days to register for Food Allergens online course

This course will offer the latest information and technologies regarding allergen identification and control practices. You’ll learn about the impact that current allergen regulations and standards have on product development, food processing, and manufacturing.

Consider using this opportunity to leverage any unused professional development dollars before year-end. Register now so that you can take full advantage of live Q&A sessions with content experts beginning Nov. 5. These sessions will encompass regulations, allergen control in food processing, plant management, and best practices in managing communication to consumers.

Learn more and register today. When registering, please enter this code: 1010EM1974

New research to be presented at IFT Shoppers & Sugars webcast

Shoppers and Sugars: What Consumers Buy and Why
Sponsored by the Corn Refiners Association
Dec. 14, 2010
2:30–3:30 p.m., CST

This webcast is free to IFT members, includes the on-demand recording, and has a capacity of up to 1,000 attendees. Registration is first come, first served.

New research on grocery-shopping women and the factors, especially those that pertain to added sugars such as high fructose corn syrup, that influence their purchase decisions will be explored. Shopper profiles, including interest in added sugars and ingredient labeling, and actual purchasing behaviors will be presented along with a review of the composition, caloric content, and metabolism of added sugars. These data will be highly relevant to food and beverage marketers and product formulators.

This webcast is presented by Sara Martens, Vice President of market research firm MSR Group, and John S. White, caloric sweetener expert and President of White Technical Research. Join us for the lively Q&A session at the conclusion of this webcast.

Learn more and register today. When registering, please enter this code: 1010EM1975

Call for papers: Congress of Food Technologist, Biotechnologist, and Nutritionists

The 7th International Congress of Food Technologist, Biotechnologist, and Nutritionists will be held Sept. 20–23, 2011, in Opatija, Croatia. The organizers of the Congress are Croatian Society of Food Technologist, Biotechnologist, and Nutritionists and Faculty of Food Technology and Biotechnology, University of Zagreb. The theme of the Congress will be “Food—The Challenge and the Need.” The Congress program will include plenary lectures, poster presentations, and sponsored lectures of economic subjects operating in the fields related to the event.

The topics of the 2011 Congress are:

  • Food, Health, and Nutrition
  • Food Quality, Safety, and Regulation
  • Food and Consumers
  • Food Engineering
  • Food Chemistry: Natural Antioxidants and Antimicrobials, Food Ingredients and Functional Food
  • Nutrigenomics and Nutrigenetics
  • Clinical Nutrition
  • Biotechnology and Bioprocess Engineering
  • Medical and Pharmaceutical Biotechnology
  • Wastewater, Treatment, Reuse, Legislation

Participants wishing to contribute to the Scientific Program of the Congress are requested to submit their abstracts before the deadline date of Jan. 31, 2011. All abstracts must be submitted online. The Scientific Committee will review all submitted abstracts and reserves the right to accept or reject any abstract. Selected abstracts will be presented as Oral or Poster presentations. Authors of abstracts accepted for presentation will receive notification and information regarding their presentation, by March 31, 2011. Accepted abstracts will be published in the Book of Abstracts.

Congress information

Food and Environment 2011: Call for papers

The First International Conference on Food and the Environment will be held June 21–23, 2011 in New Forest, United Kingdom. The Conference will focus on a variety of issues affecting food production and distribution including those related to natural and anthropogenic causes. The conference will emphasize the effects of modern food production processes and how they can affect human health. The conference topics will include:

  • Food processing issues
  • Pharmaceuticals in food
  • Pesticides and nutrients
  • Genetic engineering
  • Pathogens
  • Salination problems
  • Transportation problems
  • Traceability
  • Modern farming
  • Changing climate
  • Epidemiological studies
  • Water resources problems
  • Animal welfare
  • Impact of food production on the environment

Papers are invited on the topics outlined and others falling within the scope of the meeting. Abstracts of no more than 300 words should be submitted as soon as possible. Abstracts should clearly state the purpose, results, and conclusions of the work to be described in the final paper.

It is strongly recommended to submit your abstract electronically. Final acceptance will be based on the full-length paper, which if accepted for publication, must be presented at the conference. To be fair to all participants, each registered delegate will only be able to submit one paper. The language of the conference will be English. The paper deadline will be advised after submission of abstracts.

Conference information

Submit an abstract

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