KAREN NACHAY

Cancer-killing chile compound
Capsaicin, the chemical compound that is responsible for the burning sensation when we eat certain chile peppers, can kill cancer cells by directly targeting their energy source, according to scientists at the University of Nottingham. They hope that this discovery will lead to the development of a new generation of anti-cancer drugs that will kill tumors with few or no side effects for the patients.

The scientists showed that the family of compounds to which capsaicin belongs, vanilloids, can kill cancer cells by attacking the mitochondria of the tumor cell. Mitochondria produce ATP, the major energy-containing chemical in the body. By binding proteins in the mitochondria of cancer cells, the compound triggers apoptosis, or natural cell death, without harming the healthy surrounding cells.

"This is incredibly exciting and may explain why people living in countries like Mexico and India, who traditionally eat a diet which is very spicy, tend to have lower incidences of many cancers that are prevalent in the Western world," explained Timothy Bates, the study’s leader.

He also added that capsaicin is used in treatments for muscle strain and psoriasis and that perhaps a topical treatment that contains capsaicin could be used to treat certain types of skin cancer.

The researchers tested the compound on H460 human lung cancer cells and will conduct clinical trials to explore in depth the effects of the compound on cells from various types of cancers.

Altria spins off Kraft
The distribution of the approximately 89% of Kraft Foods Inc.’s, Northfield, Ill., outstanding shares owned by Altria Group Inc., New York, N.Y., will be made on March 30. Altria’s board of directors on January 31 authorized the spin-off of all shares of Kraft owned by Altria to Altria’s shareholders.

According to Altria, several factors motivated the company to move forward with the spin-off, including enhancing Kraft’s ability to make acquisitions to compete more effectively in the food industry, allow the management of Altria and Kraft to focus more effectively on their respective businesses, and improve Kraft’s ability to recruit and retain management and independent directors.

"The forthcoming spin-off from Altria will provide us with additional tools to enhance our growth," said Irene Rosenfeld, Chief Executive Officer. At the end of this month, she will become chairman of Kraft, replacing Louis Camilleri, who will continue to serve on Kraft’s board of directors.

USDA updates database
The first update of the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture’s USDA Database for the Flavonoid Content of Selected Foods, Release 2.1 is now available. It provides analytical values for 26 selected flavonoid compounds in 393 foods.

For the update, scientists with the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service analyzed the flavonoids in nearly 60 representative fruits, nuts, and vegetables taken from a nationwide sampling. Additionally, data from nearly 100 new scientific papers on the flavonoid content of various foods were evaluated for inclusion. Data for many of the food items included in the first release were also updated.

The information is made available to researchers who evaluate associations between dietary flavonoid intake and risk factors for various chronic diseases.

Visit www.ars.usda.gov/nutrientdata/flavonoid to access the database.

General Mills seeks innovators
General Mills is slated early this year to officially launch its new Worldwide Innovation Network (WIN), designed to expand and accelerate the innovation advances already underway inside the company. Through General Mills WIN, the company is seeking patented or patent-pending ideas from inventors and small companies.

Innovation has long been cited by the company as critical to its success and is one of the company’s key growth drivers. To jump-start its external innovation efforts, the company recently partnered with Nine Sigma’s solution-provider network to use the expertise of scientists and engineers around the world to help solve some of the most challenging technical issues. It also joined YourEncore, a network of retirees with scientific and engineering expertise, to accelerate new product development.

Potential partners can contact General Mills online at www.generalmills.com/win. Submissions are evaluated according to several criteria, such as fit for a particular brand or product line, uniqueness, and expansion or growth potential.

Red Arrow opens culinary center
Many ingredient companies are integrating traditional product development methods with culinary arts skills to develop products for customers and present them in a professional foodservice environment.

Red Arrow Products Co. LLC, Manitowoc, Wis., recently opened its Culinary Center near its headquarters to assist food manufacturers in developing customizable flavors and applications. Staffed by research chefs and R&D professionals, the 3,800-sq-ft facility features a research kitchen equipped with industrial appliances, a fully functional bar-style demonstration area, wood-fired pizza oven, product packaging area, large walk-in coolers and freezers, wireless communication capabilities, and a presentation area that can host up to 50 visitors.

McDonald’s adds to snack line
Citing a recent Business Insight report that states that 10% of Americans do not eat regular meals but rather eat snacks and smaller meals throughout the day, McDonald’s USA LLC, Oak Brook, Ill., is now expanding its popular Snack Wrap™ line.

The Honey Mustard Snack Wrap is made with either grilled or crispy chicken breast meat, Cheddar jack cheese, lettuce, and honey mustard sauce and is wrapped in a soft flour tortilla. It joins other snack items on the menu, including Ranch Snack Wrap, Snack Size Fruit & Walnut Salad, Fruit & Yogurt Parfait, and Apple Dippers.

Also, the new item is one of many chicken-containing products offered by the company, which sells more than 600 million lb of chicken each year and is a leading seller in the foodservice industry of chicken strips and chicken sandwiches.

Sara Lee plans new R&D facility
Sara Lee Corp., Downers Grove, Ill., has announced that it will construct its new multi-million-dollar research and development campus—The Kitchens of Sara Lee—at the site of its corporate headquarters.

The 150,000-sq-ft facility, scheduled to open in early 2009, will be home to the product innovation activities for the company’s North American foodservice and retail businesses. This is the first time in the company’s history that all its North American R&D activities will be housed in a single location. Sara Lee relocated most of its current R&D work to Downers Grove over the past year.

Approximately 150 employees will focus on developing new products for Sara Lee’s bakery, meat, coffee, sauces, and dressing product lines. The Kitchens of Sara Lee will include culinary operations; product, packaging, and equipment development and testing; sensory services; a pilot operations facility; analytical and micro laboratories; and product training facilities.

Harris Award nominations sought
Nominations for the 2007 Ohio State University Distinguished Food Science Harris Award are being accepted. It is presented annually to honor a distinguished food scientist for exceptional accomplishments, preeminence in, and contributions to the discipline of food science.

The award includes a $3,000 honorarium, an inscribed Bayre Turkish Horse statue, and all travel expenses to attend the award ceremony at the university.

Nomination letters should be sent by May 1, 2007, to David B. Min. For more information, e-mail [email protected] or visit http://fst.osu.edu/harris/about.htm.

Biorigin, ABAC form partnership
Biorigin, based in Brazil, recently formed a partnership with Swiss-based biotechnology firm ABAC to develop ingredients to be used in foods that promote healthy living.

The alliance has already produced several ingredient solutions. One such solution is Mannovin, a natural flavor enhancer that was developed for use by wine producers. The second, Polysorb, is a mycotoxin binder used for adsorption of aflatoxin, zearalenone, and T-2 in the animal nutrition field.

State bolsters food safety standards
Responding to the food safety issues that arose from the September 2006 contamination of spinach with Escherichia coli, the California Dept. of Food and Agriculture has developed the California State Marketing Agreement to strengthen food safety standards for the handling of fresh spinach and other leafy green vegetables.

The agreement is a step in the legal process to create state-enforced and -administered regulations regarding food safety. It is a legal document and state regulation by which handlers in California agree to accept product only from farmers who follow specific food safety procedures in the growing of leafy greens. Handlers can now sign up to become part of this legal regulation.

The California Dept. of Food and Agriculture will appoint to the Marketing Agreement Board 13 members who will implement the agreement.

Product that is certified by state-authorized inspectors to be grown under the specific food safety Good Agricultural Practices will be designated by an official seal.

by Karen Nachay,
Assistant Editor
[email protected]