KAREN BANASIAK

Fruit enzyme affects allergen
The enzyme that turns apples and other fruits brown when sliced also helps to reduce a peanut’s allergenic potency, according to scientists at the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service. Nut allergies can be life threatening, causing anaphylactic shock or death in people who are highly sensitive, so ARS scientists have been working on discovering or developing a safer peanut.

When apples and some other fruits are sliced, the action releases the enzyme polyphenol oxidase from cells. The enzyme mixes with compounds in the fruit’s other cells and oxygen from surrounding air. As a result of this oxidation, the fruit turns brown.

Peanuts do not contain this enzyme, but the enzyme does help to start the oxidation process when added to ground-up peanuts. Researchers have found that the oxidation yields many volatile molecules and causes peanut proteins that were once independent and pure to link in different ways. These are the same proteins that cause an allergic response in some people. When polyphenol oxidase alters the original structure of the proteins, it also affects their allergenic properties.

The scientists said that animal studies must be conducted to truly confirm the enzyme’s effect on peanuts’ allergy-causing proteins. They will also test whether the enzyme affects the flavor and shelf life of peanuts.

Kellogg uses low-linolenic oil
Kellogg Co., Battle Creek, Mich., has said that it plans to reduce or eliminate trans fatty acids and minimize the saturated fat content of its products. It will become one of the first food manufacturers to use low-linolenic soybean oil, through an agreement with Monsanto, which will provide its Vistive® low-linolenic soybean oil.

“Our goal is to make use of the most innovative ingredients possible and to encourage the accelerated production and adoption of low-linolenic oils so the public will benefit from this breakthrough technology,” said David Mackay, Kellogg’s President and Chief Operating Officer.

Kellogg plans to introduce some products formulated with this soybean oil early this year but noted that there is a shortage of it in the market. The company said that it will work with the Bunge/DuPont Biotech Alliance to increase the production of Nutrium®, a low-linolenic soybean oil, and will also work for better cooperation among farmers, seed producers, and food manufacturers to help ensure that a reliable supply of soybean varieties with a low-linolenic acid profile is available.

U. of Maryland receives donation
The University of Maryland College of Agriculture and Natural Resources recently received a $1.2 million gift from alumnus Robert Facchina, President and CEO, Johanna Foods Inc. The university plans to use the money to establish a Center for Food System Security and an endowed chair in the Dept. of Nutrition and Food Science. The center will fund research in food safety, novel food processing technology, risk assessment and cost benefit analysis, and other policy and regulatory issues related to food systems security.

Kraft meets label deadline
Kraft Foods Inc., Northfield, Ill., recently announced that it has met the voluntary Food and Drug Administration deadline for on-pack trans-fat labeling. Additionally, the company said that it has reduced or removed trans fatty acids from its products, although FDA does not require this of food manufacturers.

“Reformulating a single product can be challenging on its own,” said Jean Spence, Executive Vice President, Global Technology & Quality. “With this initiative, we were reformulating across our entire U.S. portfolio, with roughly 650 products needing new formulas or manufacturing solutions, or both. In some cases, we even had to develop proprietary blends of oils to help meet our goal of ensuring that the combined level of saturated fat plus trans fat did not increase as a result of the reformulation.”

The company’s research and development teams spent more than 100,000 hours on the projects.

Now that Kraft’s reformulation efforts are complete, fewer than 2.5% of the products in its portfolio covered by the FDA rule will be required to have labels that declare the presence of trans fat. These include products where trans fat is naturally occurring, such as cheeses and products containing meats or cheeses, and products where reformulation efforts would have negatively altered the taste and quality of the product.

And yes, the iconic Oreo® cookie is one of the reformulated products.

Senomyx patents taste receptor use
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has issued U.S. Patent 6,955,887 to Senomyx Inc., La Jolla, Calif. The patent covers the use of the human sweet taste receptor to screen for compounds that can be used to modulate sweet taste.

The patent has broad-based claims that cover novel technologies for using the human sweet taste receptor as the basis for assay systems that are more efficient than traditional flavor discovery procedures.

Job growth ahead for food scientists
Will food science-related jobs in industry decrease, increase, or stay about the same in the next 5 years? About 55% of the 155 respondents to a November 2005 Food Technology/IFT poll said jobs will increase, while 28% believe they will stay about the same. About 17% feel that jobs will decline.

Among the most cited reasons for the increase include the growing concerns about food safety and bioterrorism, the retirement of Baby Boomers, and product development in “better-for-you” and functional foods. Those who think that jobs will decline noted the consolidation of the industry and food company mergers, the paltry amount of R&D spending as a percent of sales, and the continued outsourcing of R&D-related services.

Milk consortium Web portal debuts
The International Milk Genomics Consortium, a corporate and academic partnership, recently launched the beta version of its Web portal. Associated with the International Milk Genomics Research Project at the University of California at Davis, the portal will provide relevant research data and serve as a conduit between public and proprietary databases. This will allow authorized users to create or view the annotation of publicly known genetic information with proprietarily generated expression data.

In addition to providing a framework for mapping relevant public genomic resources, the portal will allow for results from consortium-sponsored microarrays to be uploaded for quick annotation. It also creates an online venue for related education for training future dairy scientists, dairy nutritionists, and bioengineers.

A limited-access version is available for review at http://lactoknow.ucdavis.edu.

Arla’s space products approved
Arla Foods, Viby, Denmark, has developed products for space travel that have recently been approved by NASA under Arla’s Lacmos project.

Among the Arla products that astronauts will have available to them on board spaceships are five different yogurts; a powder-based chocolate milk with vitamins, probiotics, and fiber; and Milkbites, small chocolate balls with the nutritional value of a glass of milk.

The company will now focus on using the knowledge derived from the Lacmos project to develop and launch new products for use on Earth that have some of the properties of the food products developed for use in outer space.

“We’ll simply move the project back to earth,” said Carsten Hallund Slot, Project Manager. “After all, the number of potential customers is much greater down here, including those billions of people with little or no access to chilling facilities. Milkbites, for instance, can be used as a nutritious snack for children. As the space products are designed for extreme conditions, they may also be useful in connection with disasters or expeditions to remote areas of the earth.”

The word lacmos is derived from the Latin words lac for milk and mos for cosmos.

ISU NASA Center closes
After six years of contributing to the development of foods and food processing technologies that enhanced space missions and advanced commercial food products, the NASA Food Technology Commercial Space Center at Iowa State University has closed. NASA’s budget restructuring to fund a new exploration initiative and the formation of the Exploration Systems Mission Directorate led to the facility’s closing.

The center has worked with 30 commercial partners, which have been recognized for their contributions to space food and space food technology. Two companies—Triple “F” Inc. and Arla Foods—recently developed foods for space missions.


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: What changes has your company made in response to the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act? (Please select only one.)

Labeling changes to declare allergens

Formulation changes to remove or avoid allergens

Processing changes to remove or prevent allergens

Combination of changes (Please list the changes)___________________________________________________________________________________

Other (please specify)__________________________________________________________________________________

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]