FDA to ensure seafood safety
The seafood industry along several Gulf Coast states was not spared the wrath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, as many of the boats used by fishermen, fish farms, docks, and other seafood industry–related facilities were damaged or destroyed by the storm. While federal, state, and local governments will provide assistance to the seafood industry, the Food and Drug Administration is working to ensure that the seafood being sold at grocery stores and restaurants is safe.
FDA has said that all seafood exposed to flood waters or that has spoiled due to lack of refrigeration must be destroyed. For information about the disposal of contaminated food, contact FDA’s Office of Compliance, Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, at 301-436-2359; FDA’s Nashville, Tenn., District Office at 615-781-5388; or FDA’s Atlanta, Ga., Regional Office at 404-253-1171.
The agency continues to work with seafood processors, packagers, and transporters to ensure that seafood caught and processed in the areas affected by the hurricanes are safe for consumption. Much of the commercial fishing waters and shellfish beds are closed but will continue to reopen as the region recovers. FDA requires processors of processed seafood to have controls in place to prevent contamination of the product. Any food processing facility or equipment exposed to waste and petroleum products or chemical, biological, or other hazards during the storms must be brought into compliance before processing begins.
For additional information, visit www.cfsan.fda.gov.
Smart card logs meal choices
Researchers at the Institute of Food Research, Norwich, UK, have completed a 2-year study of food choices made at a North London school that tested the viability of using smart card technology to monitor students’ food choices.
In England, one in five secondary schools uses some type of basic smart card system for meal payment. The system used at Haberdashers’ Aske’s Boys’ School was upgraded for the study. For more than a year, a full electronic audit was made of every transaction that took place, and each food chosen was converted to its nutrient composition.
“No questionnaires were required, not an army of researchers, but the system succeeded in objectively recording food choice with 99% accuracy,” said Nigel Lambert, Project Leader. While the aim of the project was to test whether smart card technology could be used in this way, it also produced a wealth of data on the foods selected.
One of the trends that the researchers observed from analyzing the data is that the children are generally purchasing food and beverage products that are high in sugar and fat. This occurred even though the caterers and school operate a healthy eating policy and make healthier products readily available.
Funding for the research came from BBSRC Eating Food & Health LINK Programme.
The researchers have sent a proposal to the National Prevention Research Initiative to establish a network of similar smart card systems across four mixed state schools in England and to use this network primarily to monitor the effectiveness of a Dept. of Health–sponsored dietary intervention. It will also explore the moral and ethical issues raised by the technology.
White meat or dark?
A University of Georgia food scientist has developed a way to turn dark poultry meat into white meat.
Daniel Fletcher said that Americans prefer white meat and that the dark meat is now a byproduct of the chicken industry. Its fat content and color make it less attractive to some people, and it is also more difficult to mold into different shapes.
To create white meat, Fletcher removes dark meat’s fat and color, first by grinding the meat and adding excess water to create a slurry and then centrifuging the slurry, which helps to break up the meat and causes layers of fat, water, and extracted meat to form. When this meat is cooked—in this case, thigh meat—it looks very much like white meat, whereas the unmodified dark meat is much darker in color.
One of the goals of his research is to teach students how to break foods down and create new ones. He said that this is important because even though there might not currently be the need for the type of research like his poultry meat project, there could be food shortages occurring again in areas where the people would benefit from this research.
Curcumin blocks cancer growth
A potent spice is found in laboratory tests to block the growth of melanoma. Researchers from the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center have discovered that curcumin, the pungent yellow spice found in turmeric and curry powders, blocks a key biological pathway required for the development of melanoma and other cancers.
Researchers say that curcumin shuts down nuclear factor-kappa B (NF-kB), a powerful protein known to promote an abnormal inflammatory response that leads to a variety of disorders, including cancer and arthritis.
“Curcumin affects virtually every tumor biomarker that we have tried,” said one of the researchers, Bharat B. Aggarwal, Professor of Cancer Medicine, University of Texas. “We and others previously found that curcumin down regulates EGFR activity that mediates tumor cell proliferation and VEGF that is involved in angiogenesis,” he said. “Besides inhibiting NF-kB, curcumin was also found to suppress STAT3 pathway that is also involved in tumorigenesis. Both these pathways play a central role in cell survival and proliferation.”
Ground from the root of the Curcuma longa plant, curcumin is a member of the ginger family. It has been used in India and other Asian nations as a food preservative, coloring agent, folk medicine to cleanse the body, and spice to flavor food.
The study was funded by the National Cancer Institute and the U.S. Dept. of Defense.
Skinner design competition open
Applications are being taken for the 2nd Annual Elaine Skinner Memorial Sensory Design Competition. This year’s competition, “Feed the Hungry in Your Town,” challenges student teams to design a food product for a charitable organization that meets daily nutritional requirements and includes local foods or food styles from the team’s region. The deadline is January 1, 2006. For more information, visit www.sensoryspectrum.com.
Wine institute breaks ground
More than 450 people early this summer attended the groundbreaking ceremony for the Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science at the University of California-Davis.
The institute, which is scheduled to open in 2008, will house the university’s departments of viticulture and enology and food science and technology and will consist of a 129,600-sq-ft academic building, 46,000-sq-ft teaching and research winery, and 14,000-sq-ft brewing and food science laboratory.
The groundbreaking celebration is a historic occasion, not only for the institute and UC Davis, but also for the state of California, said Clare M. Hasler, Executive Director, RMI. “In a very tangible way,” she said, “we are taking the first step toward drawing together the people, ideas, and resources that will position the RMI as the global innovator in university-based wine and food programs.”
Construction of the buildings is made possible by a combination of state funds and private donations. For time-lapse photos of the construction progress, visit the RMI Web site at www.rmi.ucdavis.edu.
Liner helps keep produce fresh
A packaging technology is helping to maintain field freshness of selected fruit and vegetables during extended periods of storage and shipping.
The moisture control technology developed by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation in Australia can help reduce moisture loss during storage and long-term shipping, which will help to maintain product quality and saleable weight.
The MCT liner is a bag that fits inside a carton or box. It keeps humidity high, thereby reducing moisture loss. Trials of the liners have shown that the liner’s design helps to prevent any condensed moisture that may have formed inside the bag as a result of temperature fluctuations during transport from migrating onto the produce. Keeping free moisture off the surface of fruits and vegetables is one way to reduce the potential for product degradation and spoilage due to pathogens.
Zinc may zap prostate cancer
Studies led by USDA’s Agricultural Research Service geneticist Liping Huang are providing new details about how zinc in the foods we eat might keep prostate cancer cells from growing and spreading.
She and her colleagues are examining the roles of zinc transporter proteins, which move zinc in and out of cells in tissue. They have compared levels of zinc and zinc-transporter proteins in certain cancerous and noncancerous human prostate cells of the same genetic background.
After exposing the cells to a solution of zinc, they found that the cancerous cells accumulated lower levels of zinc than the normal cells and the cancerous cells had lower levels of a zinc-transporter protein known as ZIP1. Another zinc-transporter protein, ZIP3, was present in the cancer cells but was not in the correct location.
Huang’s results suggest that reduced levels of ZIP1 and the mislocation of ZIP3 may play a role in progression of prostate cancer. The findings are said to be the first to provide direct evidence of the difference in levels and locations of zinc-transporter proteins in healthy and cancerous prostate epithelial cells.
The American Cancer Society estimates that prostate cancer is the second-most common cause of cancer-related death among American men. Foods rich in zinc include chicken, eggs, cheese, oysters, beef, and peanuts.
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by Karen Banasiak,