• Food Science Communicator John B. Allred, Ohio State University, demystified genetically modified (GM) foods in an editorial in the Jan. 21 Columbus Dispatch. “While there are many issues surrounding GM foods, safety and nutrition are not among them,” he wrote. “The soybean and corn varieties differ from their conventional parents in two ways: each has an extra gene and each makes a protein that otherwise would not be made ... We digest [these extra proteins] like we would any other protein. The FDA used this same logic to reach the conclusion that modified soybeans and corn are substantially equivalent to their conventional counterparts.” Moreover, Allred noted that GM crops increase yields, while reducing the need for chemical pesticides and herbicides. “That lowers production costs and decreases the addition of chemicals to the environment,” he wrote. “If the use of molecular biology is done with as much care as it has been up until now, our food supply should remain abundant and safe long into the future.”
• Communicator Mark A. Kantor, University of Maryland, commented in the Jan. 17 Los Angeles Times on the FDA’s decision to ease up on its policy regarding dietary supplements and health claims. “I’m surprised,” he noted. “I would have thought that the FDA would have taken the opposite direction and cracked down.” Kantor fears that the shift in policy—allowing supplement manufacturers to make health claims associated with life stages, such as adolescence—may create confusion over what is a disease as opposed to a condition. For example, he noted, acne is considered a condition by the FDA, but considered a disease by dermatologists. “[Acne] is caused by an organism. It has symptoms. There are treatments. It seems to me it follows a lot of criteria for disease,” Kantor said. “And I’m not sure you can compartmentalize some conditions to certain life stages. What about adults who get acne?”
• Jozef L. Kokini, Rutgers University, discussed the development of food for astronauts in the November 1999 issue of Contact Kids. Since “it costs about $10,000 to send a can of soda into space,” Kokini said, the goal is to find ways for astronauts to grow their own plants and create foods from them. For example, wheat, rice, soybeans, potatoes, carrots, tomatoes, and a few other crops may be grown on a “space farm” in artificially lit greenhouses with controlled temperatures and hydroponic conditions. “Humans like to grow things,” Kokini said. “It will help make the astronauts feel more comfortable in a strange, hostile environment.” Kokini is also researching ways that an extruder in space could produce a variety of foods from a small number of plants. By varying the extruder’s temperature and pressure settings, scientists can actually change the size of the molecules in food ingredients, creating new foods, he said. “It’s a thrill to think that our work can help people to explore Mars. If [NASA] were going to allow a food scientist on the mission, there would be a big fight among us [the researchers].”
• Communicator Stanley Segall, Drexel University, got to the meat of the matter regarding Philly cheesesteak in the Jan. 1 Philadelphia Daily News. While Mayor John Street is promoting the vegetarian version in his cheesesteak capital, Segall noted that the real McCoy with meat is fine in moderation. “There is no food that you totally have to stay away from,” he said. “Like everything else, you have to do things in reason ... you want balance.”
• Lynn V. Ogden, Brigham Young University, and Lance H. Williams, Tillamook County Creamery Association, discussed the art of “chewing and spewing,” better known as taste-testing, in the Dec. 29 Associated Press. Odgen, who coaches a student dairy product evaluation team, said that the students have to inspect, smell and taste products for defects in appearance, taste, and texture in a national competition. He noted that dairy product tasting is not taught in a class, therefore, students on the team develop a marketable skill. Few people know if Gouda, for example, is really good, he said. Williams, a former team member, said that this training has helped him in his job as quality assurance manager.
• Madeleine Sigman-Grant of the University of Nevada, Rhona Applebaum of the National Food Processors Association, and Communicator Carl K. Winter of the University of California gave healthy tips in the February 2000 issue of Men’s Health. Sigman-Grant found through research that people do need a little fat in their diets to stay healthy. The biggest problem, she said, is that people often cut valuable foods from their diets to trim fat. “Meat is our main source of zinc, and dairy products are our main source of calcium,” she said, recommending lean meats and reduced-fat cheese, rather than avoidance of these foods, for those looking to trim dietary fat. Applebaum noted that organic is not synonymous with microbiological safety. In fact, people should handle organic produce just like non-organic, which includes thorough rinsing, Winter said. A brush and running water work well on produce, he said, noting that peeling is unnecessary.
• IFT Director of Science and Communications Rosetta L. Newsome addressed the regulatory status of cyclamates in the Jan. 18 Chicago Tribune. She noted that they remain banned from food in the United States due to their link with the formation of bladder tumors in rats in 1970. However, cyclamates are sanctioned in food in Europe and Canada.
• Catherine E. Woteki of the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Communicator Dean O. Cliver of the University of California at Davis discussed food safety in the Feb. 1 issue of Family Circle. Woteki noted the importance of properly handling raw and prepared foods. She said that “an increasing amount of food prepared away from home is then taken home to be eaten, which creates new opportunities for mishandling.” In addition, she said, the number of federally inspected meat-processing plants has decreased from 10,000 ten years ago to 6,000 today. “If contamination occurs at one plant, there is a much larger amount of product that could potentially be affected.” Cliver added that irradiation may enhance the safety of meat without affecting its taste or appearance after cooking.
• Communicator Paul A. Lachance, Rutgers University, noted in the Jan. 21 New York Daily News that an apple a day may indeed keep the doctor away. He said that apples contain antioxidants, which ward off disease by combating oxygen’s damaging effect within the body.
"There is no food that you totally have to stay away from. Like everything else, you have to do things in reason ... you want balance."
- Communicator Stanley Segall, Drexel University
by ANGELA L. DANSBY
Media Relations Manager