More about Tetra Pak history
Aaron Brody’s article, “Thinking Outside the Box: Tetra Pak’s Past and Future” (November 2002, p. 66), took me back 45 years, when I first became acquainted with the Tetra Pak tetrahedral-shaped half-pint-package. I was a student at Cornell University at that time when a group of graduate students were experimenting with the Tetra Pak carton and filling machine. We were told that the machine had come from Sweden and that Cornell was trying to get United States Public Health approval for the machine and the package.

After I graduated from Cornell with a Food Science degree, I went to work as the assistant plant manager at New Jersey Quality Chekd Farms (NJQCF), in Whitehouse, N.J. In 1959, two New Jersey dairy processing companies had joined hands to form NJQCF. They were Sunrise Dairies, Union, N.J., and Durling Farms, Whitehouse, N.J. The owner of Sunrise Dairies was Bo Adlerbert, a native of Sweden who had graduated from Cornell many years prior. He was instrumental in getting the Tetra Pak introduced in the U.S. NJQCF was the first dairy to produce the Tetra Pak in both the 8-oz size and the “creamer” size.

My memory fails me somewhat, but I believe the main reason for Tetra Pak’s demise was because of the tetrahedral shade and because both packages (half-pint and creamer) required a knife to open the one end of the package. Two fingers were required to hold the package while opening it. This forced the milk or cream to spill all over the person’s clothing. NJQCF had to pay many a dry-cleaning bill for our valued customers. Because of this problem (and cleaning cost), we went back to the American Can square half-pint container. I did not follow the future development of the Tetra Pak tetrahedral container because I got involved in the ice cream manufacturing business in the Boston area.

I hope this little early history adds to your knowledge of the Tetra Pak.

—Theodore Evangelides, Hingham, Mass.

Editor’s note: For more information about Tetra Pak’s history, see Gordon Robertson’s article, “The Paper Beverage Carton: Past and Future,” on p. 46 of the July 2002 issue.

Coverage of botanicals inconsistent
Two columns about botanicals in foods appear in the January 2003 issue of Food Technology. They differ greatly in the level of scientific responsibility.

The Regulatory Impact column, “Regulating Botanicals in Foods” by lawyer Anthony Anscombe (p. 18) describes the incomplete nature of the scientific evidence concerning efficacy of botanicals, evidence that would be necessary for the health-based marketing of many botanical ingredients. Anscombe points out that the Food and Drug Administration “prohibits claims that the botanicals diagnose, mitigate, treat, cure, or prevent a disease.” He notes that consumer interest will drive scientific research, and “the safety and efficacy of botanicals will become more clearly established or refuted. . . .” This carefully written work carefully lays out how science and the regulatory framework are related.

Elsewhere in the same issue, in the Nutraceuticals & Functional Foods article, “Botanically Speaking” (p. 65) by Contributing Editor Linda Milo Ohr, the Vice President of Scientific and Technical Affairs of the American Herbal Products Association, Steven Dentali, is quoted extensively throughout the piece. Ohr fails to clearly convey a distinction between the ideas of Dentali and her own perspective. After a long quotation from Dentali in paragraph three, Ohr writes (apparently her thoughts, not his, as quotation marks are not used), “As more botanicals become popular with consumers, more clinical work will evolve showing their potential.” Reference is then made to Table 1, which is titled “Conditions or Diseases that May Be Prevented or Treated with Herbs.” Bias is evident in the assumption that the results of new science will be positive; worse yet, the title of the table is in conflict with what Anscombe has written. In the context of foods or food supplements, not only is it scientifically irresponsible to imply that conditions or diseases may be prevented or treated with herbs, but also this implication is legally prohibited on the food label.

Each of the next few sections of Ohr’s column begins with a paragraph that is a statement attributed to Dentali (the phrase “said Dentali” [my quotation marks] is used), but now Dentali’s ideas are presented without the quotation marks. As a result of this stylistic indiscretion, it is impossible to tell whether the subsequent sentences in that section should be attributed to Ohr or to Dentali. From the text, the reader has little or no reason to infer that Ohr has used critical scientific judgment in relaying the ideas of Dentali. The net result is that this column reads as an indirect sales pitch by Dentali, through Ohr as a mouthpiece.

I find it inconsistent that IFT, which according to the new Strategic Plan (see Food Technology, September 2002, p. 62) aspires to be “the ‘go-to,’ authoritative and credible resource worldwide for food science and technology” and a “champion of sound science,” could endorse this column by publishing it in Food Technology. At best, the piece is a scientifically naïve presentation. I would hope that the editorial policy of Food Technology would be more congruent with the admirable ideals of the Institute.

—Donald B. Thompson, Professor of Food Science, Penn State University, University Park, Pa.

Linda Milo Ohr replies:
It was not my intention in the article to provide a one-sided view of botanicals, nor to promote the use of botanicals as remedies for diseases. The objective of the article was to point out that consumers do in fact use botanicals, both in pill form and in functional foods, for their reported beneficial health properties. Although the food industry cannot and does not include any label statements referring to botanicals and diseases or ailments, consumers do in fact take botanicals to benefit their health.

I wrote the article to point out which botanicals are most commonly sought out by consumers and to discuss the reasons why they are taking them. Stephen Dentali was interviewed to provide insight and information as to why consumers are taking the botanicals that were discussed. The table from the American Botanical Council was included not to promote the use of botanicals to cure remedies, but to provide the reader information on what some of these botanicals are believed to be linked to.

I apologize if the article appeared one-sided, and understand that it should have included information on adverse side effects of these botanicals to make it more balanced. I will keep Donald Thompson’s comments in mind for future articles and will continue to try to uphold IFT’s position as the authoritative resource for food science and technology.