Sara Langen

Consumers want more convenience, health information
While American shoppers are taking more responsibility for their health and that of their families, a new white paper shows they would like to do more.

This finding is included in “Healthy Lifestyles: From Parents to Kids,” a white paper from the Food Marketing Institute (FMI). The paper highlights one section of the 2003 Shopping for Health report that will be jointly released by FMI and Prevention magazine this month. It cites convenience as the major driver behind food purchases made by families with children. It also states most consumers would like more information about eating a balanced diet. The new survey found that 74 % of households with children and 63% of households with no children admit that their diets could be somewhat or a lot healthier. Survey participants offered five primary reasons they are challenged to maintain a healthy diet:
• Too busy to eat healthily—Many consumers believe that healthy meals must be fixed at home, and they do not have the time to prepare them. One-third of working women and 27% of families with children cited this issue.

• Friends/family/fellow diners don’t care—Educating friends and family members about nutrition and eating balanced meals is essential to accomplishing dietary objectives.

• Healthy fast foods are hard to find—One-third of shoppers said they would like to see a greater variety of healthy menu options at fast-food restaurants. This is an even greater concern for time-pressed single parents, with 44% making this claim.

• Healthy foods cost too much—Consumers generally believe that healthier foods cost more than less healthy ones. This is especially true among single parents with children (41%), who are more sensitive to food costs because of their dependence on one income.

• Confusion about health claims—What qualifies as a “healthy” product? Consumers remain confused and uncertain about what they should be eating. Survey participants view home-cooked meals prepared from scratch, particularly dinner, as the most nutritious meal option (96% believe these meals are very or somewhat healthy). However, fewer than half of these shoppers (46%) report that their families eat dinner together every day and 32% eat together fewer than five days a week. Single parents with children are even less likely to eat together.

For more information, visit www.fmi.org/media/mediatext.cfm?id=565. FMI is based in Washington, D.C.

IFT hosts 3rd International Food Safety & Quality Conference in November
IFT will hold its 3rd International Food Safety & Quality Conference and Expo November 5–7, 2003, at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Fla.

The conference focuses on the science of food from producer to consumer. It will address each facet of food safety from farm to table, provide a powerful forum for analysis of the issues, and promote dialog about safety and quality among food-related professionals. Changes in government standards, growing awareness of food safety issues, and challenges facing the food industry on a global scale all highlight the urgent need for real-world solutions to the unrelenting demand for a safe, abundant food supply. A two-day Expo will feature exhibits designed to protect and ensure food safety and quality.

For more information, visit www.iftfoodsafety.com.

USDA dedicates new research facilities
The United States Dept. of Agriculture dedicated new research facilities in August in Beltsville, Md. The two buildings will house research on the role of food and its components in improving human health and reducing the risk of nutritionally related disorders.

The new buildings will add more than 100,000 sq ft of high-quality research space to the Beltsville Human Nutrition Research Center (BHNRC), which is part of the Agricultural Research Service’s (ARS) Henry A. Wallace Beltsville Agricultural Research Center. ARS is USDA’s chief in house scientific research agency. The new buildings include seven research labs and a human studies facility. BHNRC had been located in four buildings. Constructed for $25 million, the new facility will house about 121 workers.

BHNRC laboratories conduct multidisciplinary basic science and applied human nutrition research that impacts scientists, food producers, policy-makers, educators, and consumers seeking a better understanding of the relationship between diet and health. BHNRC also conducts national surveys of food consumption by Americans and maintains the National Nutrient Database, which is the foundation for most food labeling in this country.

Processed flavonoids add healthful benefits
Research out of Penn State University shows that adding heart-healthy flavonoids during processing can produce tastier food products.

Increased consumption of flavonoids, which occur naturally in plant foods, has been associated with reduced risk for cardiovascular disease. However, flavonoids are often removed in processing because they are bitter. The Penn State research shows that the presence of flavonoids at heart-healthy levels does not automatically increase bitterness but can actually promote good flavor development and palatability in some food products.

“Our research has shown that in food and beverage products that are heated for safety or preservation, flavonoids can limit the generation of off-flavors, such as the scalded or cooked taste of ultrapasteurized milk,” Devin Peterson, Assistant Professor of Food Science and Director of the study, said. “We’ve also found that it may be possible to enhance some good flavor pathways while limiting others, including less desirable smells, by the addition of flavonoids.”

For more information, visit www.psu.edu/ur/2003/flavonoids.html.

by SARA LANGEN
Assistant Editor