Mary Helen Arthur

• IFT President-Elect Mary Schmidl, NFNC, and Jill Hollingsworth, Food Marketing Institute, recently discussed biotechnology and the IFT Annual Meeting and FOOD EXPO® with Gannett News Service. Schmidl predicted, correctly, that the discussion of genetically modified organisms at the Annual Meeting would not include demonstrators dressed as 8-foot Monarch butterflies. “We’re usually a quiet crowd. We welcome the opportunity to address the issues as professionals,” she said. Noting that “it is an exciting technology,” Schmidl said IFT recognizes that biotechnology “is on the American radar screen” and “we can’t ignore the consumer.” However, she said IFT members believe the public can be won over if researchers focus on the scientific underpinnings and benefits of biotechnology and explain their findings to the public. Hollingsworth said she regarded IFT as a repository of expertise that the food industry can tap, adding that the IFT Annual Meeting and others like it have taught the food industry a valuable lesson: “Science alone is not good enough if you can’t make it understandable to the public.” The article noted that biotechnology did not dominate the Annual Meeting, with panels tackling issues such as obesity, food safety, labeling of foods, and new food products.

Susan Harlander, Biorational Consultants Inc., spoke with the Gannett News Service for another article about the biotechnology sessions and the IFT Annual Meeting. Her conclusion: “I think we will see continued turmoil for several years.” The U.S. sugar beet industry has put on hold plans to expand planting of genetically modified beets because of concerns the crops would be difficult to sell. It is not yet clear whether wheat farmers will make a similar decision next year when genetically modified wheat becomes available, Harlander said. “Farmers would not be as aggressive in adopting GMO crops if they didn’t offer significant improvements,” she said, citing pest resistance, herbicide resistance, drought tolerance, and increased productivity as potential benefits.

• Food Science Communicator Christina Stark, Cornell University, helped identify “the seven best foods we never eat” in the July-September issue of Health & You. The seven foods: avocado, sweet potato, soybeans, dried figs, lentils, kale, and barley.

• Communicator Paul Lachance, Rutgers University, explained in the July issue of Prevention why concentrated vegetables in a pill are not likely to have the same benefits as fresh vegetables. Although they may provide some of the phytochemicals and nutrients found in fresh vegetables, the extensive processing required to pack food into a pill could damage some of these compounds, Lachance said. Using vitamin C as an example, Lachance said after vegetables have been dehydrated, extracted, and concentrated there’s unlikely to be any vitamin C left behind. In addition, “no way can you condense vegetables down enough to get a substantial amount in a pill,” he said. The article referenced one product on the market that requires 56 capsules to equal a serving of spinach and 72 capsules to equal a medium carrot.

• Communicator Dean Cliver, University of California at Davis, made news once again when information about his research into cutting boards surfaced in the Food Briefs section of the May 24 Sun-Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.). Cutting boards of close-grained woods, such as hard maple, stand up better against germs than plastics, Cliver and his colleagues found. On plastic boards, knives leave tiny scars that provide a safe haven for bacteria, while with wood, the cuts actually trap the germs in the grain and prevent them from resurfacing. Of course, with either type of board, proper washing and an occasional wipe-down with a mild bleach solution is necessary.

Richard Handel, a consultant in New Jersey, discussed fat substitutes in the April 27 edition of the Prince George’s (Md.) Sentinel. Handel explained the role fat substitutes may play in rising obesity rates at a time when people are eating less and dieting more. “It’s the fat substitutes themselves,” he said. “Many of them are made from sugar and other ultra-refined carbohydrates. Too many empty calories in the diet can be as bad as or worse than too much fat,” Handel noted. “In moderation, fat in the diet helps slow down the absorption of calories. It also stimulates the hormone CCK, which signals the brain that you are full,” he said.

Faye Dong, University of Washington, discussed the safety of sushi May 23 on KCPQ-TV in Seattle. “There are some food safety concerns we should really keep our eyes on,” Dong said. “If the fin fish has been caught [in] cold water and has not been frozen for the appropriate amount of time, it can have worms in it.” Her advice? “I would ask where the salmon came from. If the salmon is wild salmon and came from around here, I think you should assume it has worms in it. . . . Stick to tuna if you have to have the raw fish,” Dong suggested.

Information Specialist