Sweeteners inhibit sweetness?
Researchers at the Monell Chemical Senses Center, Philadelphia, Pa., have reported that certain artificial sweeteners, including sodium saccharin and acesulfame-K, actually inhibit sweet taste at high concentrations. They also found that sweet taste is perceived when these high concentrations are rinsed from the mouth with water. This aftertaste experience is known as sweet "water taste."

They say that sweeteners used at lower concentrations activate the sweet-taste receptor by attaching to a high-affinity binding site, which leads to the perception of sweetness. High concentrations of saccharin and acesulfame-K inhibit the cellular responses to other sweeteners by binding to a second, low-affinity inhibitory site that causes the receptor to shift from an activated to an inhibitory state. A water rinse removes sweet-taste inhibitors from the inhibitory site, reactivating the sweet receptor, which causes the perception of sweetness to return. Researchers also found that any sweetener that causes sweet "water taste" also acts as a sweet-taste inhibitor.

"The phenomenon of sweet ‘water taste’ is the direct result of releasing the receptor from inhibition," said Veronica Galindo-Cuspinera, Postdoctoral Fellow at Monell and lead author of the research paper. "It is rare to find so complete a molecular explanation for a complex perceptual phenomenon. We can now use sweet ‘water taste’ as a predictor for potential sweet inhibitors."

The food industry uses sweet inhibitors to counteract the undesirable high sweetness that results from replacing fats with sweet carbohydrates in reduced-fat products. The National Institutes of Health and the German Science Foundation funded this research.

Almonds inspire students
Students from food science and culinary programs honed their creative product development skills to formulate single-serve baked goods for the Almond Board of California’s 4th Annual Almond Innovations Contest.

A panel of food technology professionals, pastry chefs, food writers, and almond industry representatives evaluated the teams’ products on sensory attributes, such as taste and flavor, as well as marketability, originality, feasibility of product development, use of almonds, packaging, and nutrition.

The Gold Prize winner was the team from Washington State University for its Almond Dingers, a microwavable, gluten-free cake frosted and topped with a crunchy almond topping. The product is ready-to-eat in five minutes and is an excellent source of protein, dietary fiber, phosphorus, manganese, calcium, and vitamin E.

The team from Penn State University won the Silver Prize for A+ Bars, a creamy, nutty, crispy cereal bar with a yogurt and soy filling. The crust is made from almond meal and almond butter.

The Bronze Prize winner was the team from the University of Georgia Gwinnett Campus for its Almond Mocha Jaconde, a roll of ribbon-thin almond-chocolate sponge cake with thin white stripes of almond-vanilla sponge cake spiraling down the side. The cake was topped and filled with almond-coffee mousse.

The Gold Prize-winning team will showcase its product at the IFT Annual Meeting + FOOD EXPO® in Orlando, Fla., June 24–28, 2006.

Soft drink gets makeover
The original lemon-lime soft drink, 7UP®, is being reformulated and will now be made from 100% natural ingredients.

Cadbury Schweppes Americas Beverages, which produces 7UP, said that all of the ingredients in 7UP come from natural sources. They include filtered carbonated water, high-fructose corn syrup, citric acid, natural flavors, and potassium citrate. All artificial ingredients, such as the flavor preservative calcium disodium EDTA, have been removed. And sodium content has been reduced from 75 to 40 mg—nearly 50%—in the 12-oz can.

The company said that it reformulated the 77-year-old brand in response to rising consumer demand for natural products, citing a January 2006 IRI Times & Trends report stating that natural products have reached a 94% household penetration.

Virginia Dare opens new lab
Virginia Dare recently opened a new product development laboratory complex at the company’s Brooklyn, N.Y., headquarters. The 5,000-sq-ft complex includes labs for sweet goods and beverage applications development, a beverage pilot plant with a UHT beverage processing installation, and more space for the newly expanded staff of food technologists and flavorists.

Quest citrus lab opens
Quest International, Naarden, Netherlands, has opened a new Citrus Ingredient Development Lab at its North American headquarters in Hoffman Estates, Ill.

The lab will service markets around the world. It features cold extraction technology to enable the selective separation of isolates in citrus oils for the development of more-authentic and more-stable citrus ingredients and flavors. According to Scott May, Global Product Director, researchers will also test new flavor systems in applications and use their expertise to work with customers to develop flavors that will improve consumer acceptance.

FPA and GMA to merge
The Food Products Association (FPA) and the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) have announced plans to merge effective January 1, 2007. The merger will be fully ratified when GMA’s board of directors considers and votes on the terms of the agreement this month and the general membership of FPA and GMA approve the merger.

FPA President and CEO Cal Dooley will be named head of the merged organization if the merger is approved. Manly Molpus will continue as GMA President and CEO until his previously announced retirement date of December 31, 2006. Dooley will serve as President and CEO of the merged organization beginning January 1, 2007.

"FPA’s board [of directors] believes this merger will create a powerhouse association working on behalf of large and small food and non-food companies, while preserving the science mission of FPA that has been the core of its existence since the association’s founding in 1907," said Reid MacDonald, Chairman of FPA’s board of directors and President and CEO of Fairbault Foods.

The combined organization will be known as GMA/FPA for the first year, after which it will be known as GMA.

Saturated fat cut in chips
Frito-Lay Inc., Plano, Tex., recently announced plans to reduce the amount of saturated fat in its Lay’s and Ruffles potato chip brands by 50%. The company will replace corn oil with NuSun™ sunflower oil, which will also help to increase the amounts of mono- and polyunsaturated fats in the products. The entire Frito-Lay snack chips line will continue to have 0 g of trans fatty acids.

Lay’s with 100% sunflower oil is now available in the northeastern United States and will be available nationally by the end of the year. The company said that the use of sunflower oil will not affect the taste of the potato chips.

Compound lowers cholesterol
Scientists from the University of Nebraska are conducting tests on a new cholesterol-lowering food additive made from soybeans and beef tallow.

The compound was developed by Tim Carr, a nutrition scientist in the university’s Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources. A patent for the compound is pending.

Carr conducts research on the roles of fat in the development of heart disease, and he has tested the soybean–tallow-based compound in animal studies.

Scientists have shown that sterols, which are found in soybeans and other plants, reduce cholesterol. Tallow contains stearic acid, which Carr has shown lowers cholesterol levels. He then created a way to blend plant sterols with stearic acid.

Carr said that the animal studies have shown that the compound blocks cholesterol absorption in the small intestine, helping to prevent excess cholesterol from moving into the bloodstream. The compound was tested against commercially available plant sterol-based food additives.

"The beauty of this is that our compound passes right through the gastrointestinal tract and takes cholesterol with it," said Carr. "It’s a dietary supplement, not a drug, and it’s never absorbed into the body so there are no toxicity issues or side effects."

Human clinical trials will be conducted to test the compound’s effectiveness and initial results are expected later this year.

Danisco opens new headquarters
Danisco recently opened its new North American Headquarters and Innovation facility in New Century, Kan.

The site houses offices for Danisco’s North American management and other departments.

Additionally, a culinary kitchen; innovation labs for fats and oils development, food protection and analytical testing, fruit preparation, and meat, bakery, confectionery, dairy, and beverage product development; and a full-scale pilot plant are located at the facility.

Web site deciphers nutrition labels
Health Canada’s Office of Nutrition Policy and Promotion recently introduced its Interactive Nutrition Label, a Web-based tool to help consumers understand the nutrition information found on food product labels.

The goal of the Web site is to teach consumers how to use the information on labels to make more informed and educated food choices.

The Canadian government mandated nutrition labeling regulations for food manufactured by large companies, which had until December 12, 2005, to comply. Smaller companies have until December 12, 2007, to comply. Under the regulations, labels on most prepackaged foods must show a Nutrition Facts table that lists calories and 13 nutrients in a specified amount of food. For the first time, five health claims on diet–health relationships are permitted to made on the package.

For more information, visit www.healthcanada.gc.ca/nutritionlabelling.

by Karen Banasiak,
Assistant Editor
[email protected]