• Food Science Communicators Fergus Clydesdale, University of Massachusetts, and Manfred Kroger, Pennsylvania State University, discussed the future of food on Cable News Network on Dec. 6, 11, 12 and 28. Clydesdale predicted that foods will be designed to help prevent specific chronic diseases and health problems. “[Foods will] have different types of fats [or] carbohydrates, proteins and amino acids [and/or] have phytochemicals added to them,” he said. “But each [food will] be specific for what your genotype is to reduce your risk of disease.” Kroger asked, “Could we cultivate insect colonies and shovel out the maggots, the brood? It’s just a futuristic idea because insects breed faster than beef cattle do.”
• Clydesdale and Kroger also predicted food trends in the Jan. 3 Los Angeles Times. Clydesdale forecasted “grocery store shelves lined with functional foods that target people at risk for specific health problems.” Kroger predicted “vending machines that allow you to program in your health profile and then obtain a pill with the optimal nutrients that you need.” He also added: “Insects and worms are good sources of protein and widely available. Why not put them on pizza or add them to snack foods?”
• Kroger noted in the Dec. 31 Wall Street Journal that other underutilized resources, such as acorns and “trash fish” like hake, might become edible through genetic modification.
• Joyce A. Nettleton discussed genetically modified foods on Cable News Network on Nov. 19 and Dec. 16. “There isn’t a food producer in the world that has anything to gain by developing and bringing to market a product that has health risks,” she said.
• Guy H. Johnson of Kellogg USA, David B. Schmidt of the International Food Information Council, and Communicator Paul A. Lachance of Rutgers University discussed functional foods in the Dec. 12 New York Times. “People want positive things in their diet, but taste is number one,” Johnson noted. “Functional foods will prosper because they are convenient and taste good. Our soy cereal will taste so great that people will want to eat it just for that reason.” Campbell’s Intelligent Quisine frozen meals did not prosper, the article reported, and in fact, were taken off the market last November. “The problem was that most people didn’t have enough freezer space to store the meals,” Lachance said. Schmidt added, “When it comes to buying foods, [Americans] always seem to go for the cheaper price as long as the item meets their standard of quality.”
• Communicator Mark A. Kantor of the University of Maryland published a letter to the editor about the Atkins Diet in the Dec. 7 Washington Post. “If Dr. Atkins has truly discovered a diet that leads to permanent weight loss while promoting health, he would have won the Nobel Prize by now for solving the extremely complex problem of obesity,” Kantor wrote. “The truth is that hundreds of studies exist showing that a carbohydrate-rich ‘pyramid-type’ diet that is rich in fiber and antioxidants has numerous health benefits and can lead to weight loss if one eats moderate portions. In contrast, the high-protein diet gurus have never published a single study or produced any credible evidence (testimonials don’t count) showing that their diets are safe and effective. People following the Atkins diet will be shortchanging themselves of many key nutrients found in carbohydrate-rich foods, and therefore will be at increased risk of heart disease, cancer, and other diet-related chronic diseases,” he concluded.
• Communicator Fredric Caporaso, Chapman University, commented in the Dec. 22 Los Angeles Times on the potential for IncrEdibles, microwavable push-up meals, to succeed in the marketplace. Although some people might feel queasy about eating push-up food that isn’t ice cream, “this is so unique it might hit a market niche,” he said. For example, college students rely heavily on microwave ovens for cooking, so they might like the convenience of IncrEdibles, he noted, plus people in their late teens to early 30s tend to be more adventurous about trying unusual foods. “But the bottom line is, if it doesn’t taste any better than the package it came in, it isn’t going anywhere,” Caporaso concluded.
• Communicator Tom A. Zinnen, University of Wisconsin, discussed genetically modified foods on Dec. 14 on KWAB-AM (CNN), Boulder, CO. “Is rDNA technology riskier than other methods used to breed crops?” he asked. “The fact that conventional breeding is familiar to us doesn’t tell us at all whether it too may have long-term, unseen consequences. Familiarity per se does not reduce risk—it may in fact just inure us to a risk.” Zinnen also noted that gene-spliced crops have one or two new genes in them; they don’t look like exotics or have an altered identity. “If you want to worry about exotics,” he said, “you ought to worry about the weedy relatives of potatoes that botanists would . . . use in breeding programs, moving 10,000 or 20,000 genes around. That’s exotic.” A transgene can transfer to a related plant in nature, Zinnen continued, however, “it’s not the movement, it’s the function of the transgene when it moves—that’s the risk. And that risk goes with genes transferred by conventional breeding.” Regarding labeling genetically modified foods, Zinnen pointed to the Economic Justice argument, which says that labeling information beyond composition and nutrition should be considered an economic service or good; therefore, people who value the extra service (labeling information on process, as with kosher) should have to pay for it, and people who don’t value it should not.
• Communicator Bruce A. Watkins, Purdue University, said in the Dec. 22 Associated Press that Purdue’s new Center on Enhancing Foods to Protect Health is studying phytochemicals and other nonstandard nutrients to learn how foods may be enhanced to optimize health. For instance, the center is looking at “how we can change the genetics of plants so, for example, the tomato can be grown with more lycopene” to possibly lower the risk of certain cancers, he said. “If we can eat foods that help reduce chronic disease and compress [it] until the last few years of life, the quality of life would be much better in adults, and we’d be spending less on health care.”
Michael P. Doyle, University of Georgia, was misquoted by the Sept. 13 U.S. News & World Report, which was covered in the November 1999 column. He clarified that a hydrogen swell, not sulfur dioxide, may be produced in canned soup over time due to the interaction between the acid in the soup and steel lining in the can.
by ANGELA L. DANSBY
Media Relations Manager