KAREN BANASIAK

McDonald’s plans nutrition labeling
McDonald’s Corp., Oak Brook, Ill., will soon include nutrition information on its food packaging to help promote balanced, active lifestyles among customers around the world.

The company recently announced the plans to include what it calls an easy-to-understand icon and bar chart format that displays nutrition information on the majority of its product packaging. The new packaging will debut in the first half of 2006 in restaurants in North America, Europe, Asia, and South America, and by the end of the year the company plans to have nutrition information featured on packaging in more than 20,000 of its restaurants.

Each product’s nutritional value and how it relates to daily nutrient recommendations will be displayed in bar charts and icons. The icons represent calories, protein, fat, carbohydrates, and sodium. Additional information will be available on the company’s Web site and in the restaurants to help customers become familiar with the new format and how they can apply the information to their lifestyles. The Web site and restaurants will also provide information for products such as short-term promotional items and multiple products that cannot feature product-specific nutrition information on the wrappers and containers.

McDonald’s received input on its new packaging format from consumer tests and outside experts in government, academia, and the health and nutrition professions.

WHO addresses bird flu and food safety 
The World Health Organization has issued an International Food Safety Authorities Network Information Note on the implications of H5N1 avian influenza on food safety. The report discusses how infected birds can affect the food supply and ways that governments, owners of poultry, farmers, and consumers can help to limit the spread of avian influenza from bird to bird and from bird to person by taking some extra precautions in handling live birds and birds prepared for consumption, as well as eggs.

The report, “Highly Pathogenic H5N1 Avian Influenza Outbreaks in Poultry and in Humans: Food Safety Implications,” contains links for additional information and is available at www.who.int/foodsafety/fs_management/no_07_ai_nov05_en.pdf.

Polyphenols influence aroma
The amount of polyphenols present during the roasting or baking of oats influence the development of toasty aroma. Penn State University researchers, who conducted tests on the formation of the aroma, said that this finding might be used to limit off-flavors in oat products.

The researchers divided a batch of rolled oats into two samples. They increased the levels of polyphenols in one of the samples to an amount that can be found in nature and then they roasted both samples. The sample with the added polyphenols developed a lower level of Maillard-type aroma compounds, which were measured using gas chromatography and trained human sniffers.

Deven Peterson, Assistant Professor of Food Science and Director of the study, said that the research showed that polyphenols help the formation of aroma and flavor in oats during the Maillard reaction. In the past, polyphenols, he adds, have not been identified as major flavor producers or associated with the Maillard reaction.

The Maillard reaction produces a golden brown color and toasty aroma but can sometimes cause off-flavors or stale odors. The results of this test suggest that controlling the levels of polyphenols might prevent the undesirable results of the Maillard reaction. A grant from the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service supported this study.

Group promotes low-linolenic soybeans
Qualisoy™, a collaborative effort of industry, agriculture professionals, farmers, and trade associations is offering to food processors, product developers, and chefs solutions to the trans-fat conundrum: How do you reduce or eliminate trans-fats in foods but still have the foods taste great?

The group is spreading the word about the availability of soy-based trans-fat alternatives, including newly developed soybeans and soybean oils. Some of these soybean oils that have low-linolenic acid content do not require hydrogenation, which produces trans-fatty acids, but still function and have the same flavor characteristics of traditional soybean oils. Additionally, these oils are said not to oxidize as much as traditional soybean oils when exposed to high-heat applications like deep frying.

This is good news for food manufacturers and chefs who are trying to eliminate or reduce the use of partially hydrogenated oils to reduce the amount of trans-fatty acids in food products.

At a recent news conference at an Iowa farm that grows these trait-enhanced soybeans, some of the members of Qualisoy, including Chairman Jim Sutter, Cargill Inc., explained that in addition to working with those in the agricultural and food industries to develop trait-enhanced soybeans, thereby fostering cooperation between these industries, Qualisoy also recently established its own seal of quality.

The seal will appear on products marketed by Qualisoy that meet certain standards for trait-enhanced soybeans: a maximum linolenic acid content of 3% (normally, 7% occurs in soybeans), a minimum oleic acid content of 50%, and a maximum saturated fatty acids content of 7%. Vistive™ from Monsanto, Advantage™ from Cargill, Asoyia™ from Iowa State University, and Nutrium™ from Bunge and Pioneer are soybeans that meet these standards.

Parents should watch kids’ diets
About one-third (33.5%) of our 403 respondents to the IFT/Food Technology survey on childhood obesity believe that greater parental oversight of children’s diets will have the greatest impact on reducing the incidence of childhood obesity. The poll appeared in the September issue of Food Technology.

Nearly 17% of respondents believe that exercise and physical activity are keys to reducing childhood obesity. An equal number of respondents (16.9%) think public education about healthful eating will have the greatest impact on decreasing the number of obese kids. Other results from the survey include: reformulating products with less fat, sugar, and calories (9.7%), banning sales of “ junk” food in schools (8.7%), and regulating food advertising and marketing to children (7.9%).

Compounds help make meat juicier
Juiciness of meat is determined by how much marbling fat is contained within the muscles. One method that can increase marbling fat by 3.5% is to add a certain class of compounds as a feed supplement for swine, according to researchers at the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service and the University of Georgia.

Some of the compounds, called thiazolidinediones, are approved by the Food and Drug Administration for use in diabetic people to control glucose levels; however, none of these compounds are approved by FDA for use in livestock with the intent of changing food composition.

Researchers say that enhanced marbling fat would increase carcass value, thereby benefiting the livestock industry and possibly increasing profits for producers. There are other technologies for increasing marbling fat, but they are said to be costly and vary in their effectiveness.

High-fat diet may promote overeating
New research has shown that rats fed a high-fat diet were less sensitive to a hormonal “stop eating” signal than rats on a low-fat diet when they were given access to a high-calorie, high-fat snack.

Researchers at Penn State University administered doses of the hormone cholecystokinin (CCK) to rats on either a low-fat diet or a high-fat diet; the rats on the low-fat diet significantly reduced their intake of the high-fat, high calorie snack, while the rats on the high-fat diet did not.

CCK is released by cells in the small intestine when fat or protein is present. The hormone’s release activates nerves that connect the intestine with the brain, where the decision to stop eating is made.

“These results suggest that a long-term high-fat diet may actually promote short-term overconsumption of highly palatable foods high in dietary fat by reducing sensitivity to at least one important feedback signal which would ordinarily limit eating,” said Mihai Covasa, Assistant Professor of Nutritional Sciences and leader of the research.

This study was supported by a Penn State College of Health and Human Development research grant. 

The researchers said that previous studies with human subjects have shown that those on a high-fat diet have more CCK in their bloodstream but are less responsive to it. The subjects typically report feeling increased hunger and declining fullness and eat more.

Food safety training for exporters to U.S.
The Joint Institute for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (JIFSAN) of the University of Maryland recently announced a new food safety training program designed to improve the quality of food entering the United States.

The JohnsonDiversey International Food Safety Initiative is designed to identify and train local trainers in the food industry in exporting countries. Using the knowledge and materials provided in food protection and safe handling, trainers will go on to train agricultural and aquacultural workers, food processors, exporters, regulators, and educators. A training program being developed for the seafood industry will be held in Asia next year.


YOUR OPINION COUNTS

Please participate in our informal online survey of topical issues of interest to food formulators, technologists, and scientists. To answer the question below, please go to www.ift.org.

Q: In the United States, do you think there should be a single government agency in charge of food safety versus the current system involving both the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)?

Yes, there should be a single agency

No, keep the current USDA and FDA agencies

Please briefly explain your answer____________________________________

________________________________________________________________

The single-question survey will be posted on www.ift.org  for approximately 2 weeks after the issue is distributed. The poll results will appear on our Web site and be published in a future issue of Food Technology.

by Karen Banasiak,
Assistant Editor
[email protected]