Protein use in ice cream
Unilever recently filed an application with the Food Standards Agency, London, UK, to approve an ice-structuring protein preparation as a novel food ingredient.

Ice-structuring proteins naturally occur in many living organisms, including fish, plants, and insects. They help to protect these organisms from tissue damage in very cold environments by lowering the temperature at which ice crystals grow and changing the size and shape of the ice crystals.

FSA said that Unilever wants to use ice-structuring proteins in ice creams and similar products to manipulate the formation of ice structures during the manufacture of these food products. Unilever wants to use an ice-structuring protein made by the fermentation of a genetically modified food-grade yeast, Saccharomyces cervisiae, since obtaining these proteins from nature is said to be quite expensive and not sustainable. According to FSA, no genetically modified material would be present in the final product and the level of the protein in the product would not exceed 0.01% by weight.

New food products must be tested before being introduced in the European market. In the UK, FSA appoints an independent committee of scientists to assess novel foods for safety.

Dairy award nominees sought
The California Dairy Research Foundation is accepting nominations for the 2007 William C. Haines Dairy Science Award, which honors individuals who work in support of dairy science.

Scientists from around the world who have made a significant contribution to dairy science and the dairy industry through research and development in the fields of chemistry, biochemistry, microbiology, technology, nutrition, or engineering are eligible for the award.

Nominations are due September 22, 2006. The nomination forms are available at

Established in 2004, the award is named for Bill Haines, the former Vice President of Product Innovation for Dairy Management Inc., in recognition for his contribution to and support of the field of dairy science. The award includes a plaque, cash prize of $1,000, and travel expenses to and the opportunity to speak at a dairy industry event cosponsored by CDRF.

Choices logo debuts
To help consumers around the world identify packaged foods and beverages that are said to offer healthier choices, Unilever has launched its own version of a front-of-pack logo. According to the company, the "Choices" logo will help consumers choose foods that contain limited amounts of trans fatty acids, saturated fats, sodium, and sugars.

Unilever developed the Nutrition Enhancement Programme based on international dietary guidelines and its own nutrition research. This program has established nutritional benchmarks that products identified with the logo must meet.

Unilever is part of a Netherlands government–supported coalition of food and beverage manufacturers, major retailers, and caterers that will start applying the front-of-pack logo to products that meet certain criteria. The company plans to include the logo on products that will be sold globally within the next 18 months.

Cerestar migration complete
Cargill Inc.’s Cerestar business, the European starch manufacturer that Cargill acquired in April 2002, recently completed a four-year period of migration of Cerestar brands to Cargill.

The former Cerestar companies will use the name "Cargill" instead of "Cerestar," although the C* product brand will continue in limited cases. Cargill said that Cerestar customers will not experience any changes in their relationships with the company.

Nestlé acquires Jenny Craig
One of the world’s largest food manufacturers is buying a weight-loss company. Nestlé S.A., Vevey, Switzerland, has announced plans to acquire Jenny Craig Inc., Carlsbad, Calif.

Jenny Craig offers branded nutritional products and services, including 600 Jenny Craig centers, in the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. Its current management team will continue to run the business and will report directly to Nestlé Nutrition. Nestlé will integrate weight management into its current nutrition business, which includes infant nutrition, healthcare nutrition, and performance nutrition.

Recently, Nestlé acquired Uncle Toby’s cereals and nutritional snacks business in Australia, which the company says shows its commitment to nutrition, health, and wellness.

USDA funds E. coli research
The U.S. Dept. of Agriculture awarded $1.2 million to a collaborative research effort to identify sources and risk factors of Escherichia coli O157:H7 contamination in fresh produce.

According to USDA, there have been 16 outbreaks of E. coli illness associated with fresh lettuce or spinach since 1995. Several of these were associated with preharvest contamination.

USDA’s Agricultural Research Service, University of California College of Veterinary Medicine, and California Dept. of Health Services Food and Drug Laboratory will conduct the research and focus on three key questions: Are vertebrate populations the sources of E. coli contamination of watersheds? Do climate, landscape attributes, and irrigation management practices correlate with an increased risk of contamination? Is in-field contamination of lettuce with E. coli associated with management production practices and environmental risk factors? The results of the study will inform produce growers about strategies to prevent preharvest microbial contamination.

"Consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables is increasing in the United States, highlighting the importance of scientific research that enhances safe growing practices," said Mike Johanns, Secretary of Agriculture. "This research will help to ensure that our farmers can continue to deliver safe and wholesome products from the farm to the dinner table."

USDA’s Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service’s National Research Initiative funded the grant.

Danisco highlights food protection
Danisco, Copenhagen, Denmark, recently opened a new food protection center in Brabrand, Denmark. Scientists will focus on meat and dairy products but will also conduct research on baking, culinary, and beverage products. The company’s food protection research includes shelf life of food products, how taste and quality are maintained, and the reduction of pathogenic risk by eliminating undesired bacteria such as Listeria, Salmonella, and others. Danisco reports that it will close its laboratories in Beaminster, UK, and Niebüll, Germany.

Tomato database debuts
Information about research conducted on the genes responsible for tomato ripening and nutritional content is available on the Tomato Expression Database (TED) Web site.

Part of the National Science Foundation’s ongoing Tomato Genomics Project, the site provides data that researchers can use to develop new theories on tomato genetics and learn what is already known about tomatoes.

James Giovannoni, a molecular biologist with the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service, created and maintains the four sections on the site in collaboration with Cornell, the University of Florida, and Virginia Tech University’s Virginia Bioinformatics Institute. He has led research at ARS and other institutions that identified key genes that control the ripening of tomatoes. The site contains large-scale tomato gene expression data generated from microarrays, which are collections of microscopic DNA samples on glass chips that allow scientists to assess thousands of genes in an organism. Some of Giovannoni’s research is included in the site.

Included in TED is a tomato microarray data storage "warehouse," which provides downloadable raw research information; a microarray expression database that contains information about gene expression related to fruit development and ripening; and data that can be used for genetic comparisons between normal and mutant tomatoes. Also available on the site is the tomato metabolite database that contains information on the chemical composition of tomatoes and comparative gene-expression data to help researchers develop and test hypotheses on how flavor and texture attributes of tomatoes are regulated.

Visit to access TED. The site is produced by Cornell University and funded by USDA/ARS and NSF.

Treatment reduces pathogens
A mixture of lactic acid bacteria that can reduce foodborne pathogens in processed beef and poultry by as much as 99.99% recently passed GRAS status review by the Food and Drug Administration.

Researchers at Texas Tech University developed this treatment, which will be sold under the name Bovamine Meat Cultures™. It is said to be one of only a few post-production treatments that protects meat and poultry during long-term storage. During the processing phase, meat is treated with the bacteria mixture, which works along with other intervention measures to reduce foodborne pathogens and provide additional protection for consumers against foodborne illness.

"Illness rates associated with E. coli O157:H7 have declined steadily over the past ten years," said Mike Engler, Chairman of the Joint Beef Safety Research Committee and a Texas beef producer. "Each sector of the beef production chain has developed and implemented best practices aimed at reducing foodborne bacteria, and this lactic acid mixture is another great example."

Mindy Brashears, Associate Professor and Director of the International Center for Food Industry Excellence at Texas Tech, led the development of the lactic acid bacteria mixture. She said that while the concept of using lactic acid bacteria to reduce the levels of foodborne pathogens is not new, her team has developed new applications for the bacteria’s use.

The mixture was tested in meat products under conditions that simulated meat storage and transfer to and from supermarkets. Results showed that in meat treated with the mixture, Salmonella was reduced by 99.9% and E. coli O157:H7 by 99%.

Labels will be placed on meat and poultry products that contain this lactic acid bacteria mixture.

According to the results of sensory tests, the mixture did not affect the flavor of the meat.

The Beef Checkoff Program, Texas Beef Council, and Nutrition Physiology Corp. funded the research.

by Karen Banasiak,
Assistant Editor
[email protected]