• Food Science Communicator Sue Snider, University of Delaware, discussed in the July 26 USA Today the disparity between people listening to and acting upon good health advice. “Advice can be difficult for people to put into practice,” she said. “Sometimes it relates to whether people are ready to change. [Other times,] the messages get mixed up.” Health care professionals need to offer consumers practical and simple advice, she noted, providing realistic ideas for adopting healthy habits.
• Steve A. Mitchell of Certified Analytical Group and Communicator Michael P. Doyle, University of Georgia, discussed the microbiological risks of salad bars in the Aug. 25 New York Times. “One of the major [health] concerns is the length of time food is on a salad bar,” Doyle said, noting that food left out too long may be re-refrigerated for serving the next day. In addition, many employees refill food containers without washing them first, he added. “And who knows where hands have been prior to touching food? I don’t eat at [salad bars] because of all of these things,” Doyle said, noting that he would particularly avoid alfalfa sprouts. Mitchell added that “food loaded with bacteria, not necessarily pathogenic bacteria, could cause gastrointestinal problems, especially for the immune-compromised. The greater the [number] of bacteria, the greater the opportunity for pathogens to grow” if present.
• Communicator Paul A. Lachance of Rutgers University discussed his “alternamid” to the Food Guide Pyramid in the August 1999 issue of New Woman. He said that people should eat more fruits and vegetables and fewer cereals and grains than the current pyramid recommends in order to stay trim and reduce risk of chronic disease. “Hundreds of studies prove that eating produce reduces the risk of certain cancers and other diseases,” he noted. “Fruits and vegetables—not cereals and grains—should be in the place of honor at the pyramid’s base. ”He advised readers to eat three to five servings of vegetables, two to four servings of fruit, and one to two servings of nuts and beans each day.
• Communicator Christine M. Bruhn of the University of California at Davis noted the benefits of food additives in the Aug. 4 Chicago Tribune. She said they are used to augment nutrition, such as adding vitamin D to milk; to maintain freshness and texture, such as emulsifiers to keep food mixtures from separating; to help leaven baked goods, such as yeast and baking powder; and to enhance the visual appeal and taste of foods. “Because consumers associate strawberries with a reddish tint, manufacturers will tint ice cream pink and sometimes add a flavor enhancer,” Bruhn said. “Industry makes what consumers buy, and successful products stay on the market.” Though many people are put off by the idea that chemicals are added to their foods, she noted that all foods are made up of chemicals, such as acetone, which is naturally occurring in ripe strawberries. However, the chemical names are almost more frightening to consumers, she added, suggesting that food manufacturers use more common words for them on ingredient labels, such as listing baking soda instead of sodium bicarbonate.
• Communicator Val N. Hillers, Washington State University, said in the June 27 Los Angeles Times that increased reports of foodborne illness in the summertime are due to higher temperatures that enhance the growth of bacteria and greater consumption of picnic foods, which may be left outside too long. “Cooking conditions at campgrounds or city parks are sometimes substandard, too,” Hillers said, and there are fewer handwashing facilities.
• Communicator Manfred Kroger, Pennsylvania State University, answered reader questions about washing fresh produce and storing canned goods in the Aug. 1 issue of Prevention. In order to reduce risk of exposure to Escherichia coli O157:H7, Kroger advised thoroughly washing fresh produce under running water, using a brush to scrub harder foods, such as carrots, and hands to create friction on softer produce. He also advised discarding the outer leaves of lettuce before washing the rest of the leaves. Regarding the storage temperature of canned goods, Kroger said it does not matter if it is 30°F or 120°F because “there is enough ‘head space’ within the can to allow for some expansion.”
• Joe M. Regenstein, Cornell University, dispelled the myth that kosher foods are healthier than non-kosher foods in the Aug. 14 Philadelphia Inquirer. “There is a perception that kosher means cleaner and healthier,” he said. “In actuality, the way most people define these words, [this perception] is a lawyerly argument and distinction.”
• Communicators Barry G. Swanson of Washington State University and Donald V. Schlimme of the University of Maryland noted in the Sept. 15 issue of Natural Health that rinsing canned beans effectively rids them of salt without leeching out all of their nutrients. Swanson estimated that canned foods retain at least half of their original nutrients after rinsing. Vitamins, such as C, are bound to proteins in the bean’s cell tissues and won’t leach out of whole, undamaged beans as quickly as salt will. Schlimme said that the best way to eliminate salt in the beans is to briefly rinse away the canning liquid, then let the beans soak for about five minutes in at least a quart of water. This will allow enough time for the salt to diffuse from the beans into the water.
• Communicator Pat Kendall, Colorado State University, commented on the herbal food ingredient boom in the July 14 Denver Rocky Mountain News. She noted that despite the increasing availability of foods containing botanical ingredients, there is not enough data on herbs to answer the basic questions, such as what herbs do, what amounts are beneficial, and what their long-term effects are. “I wouldn’t purchase them for health benefits,” Kendall concluded.
• Clare M. Hasler of the University of Illinois and Communicator Fergus M. Clydesdale of the University of Massachusetts noted in the Aug. 4 Cape Cod Times the hype and potential healthfulness of functional foods. Hasler said that research on garlic shows that it may lower cholesterol and high blood pressure, fight cancer, and ward off harmful bacteria. However, Clydesdale noted that “hype is ahead of science” regarding food research at this time. It appears that certain foods can significantly reduce chronic disease risk, he said, but the proof just isn’t there yet. “There’s no quick fix,” he added. “Sometimes the media and the public latch onto research and make it a fact.”
by ANGELA L. DANSBY
Media Relations Specialist