Helping probiotics survive
Probiotics are a hot topic among health-conscious consumers, so much so that product developers continue to introduce foods and beverages that contain these beneficial bugs. The problem is that intrinsic and extrinsic food properties may reduce the viability of probiotics. One particular challenge to the survival of probiotic bacteria is the high acid content of the stomach. Various qualities of cheese suggest that it may be a successful carrier of probiotics through the high acid environment of the stomach. So researchers with Utah State University examined how well cheese delivered the probiotic bacteria Lactobacillus casei 334e.

They exposed samples of yogurt and low-fat Cheddar cheese to phosphoric acid and found that the survival of L. casei 334e was greater in the cheese compared to the yogurt. This suggests that the cheese would be better at delivering L. casei 334e because it allows the probiotic’s cells to better withstand low pH conditions that are present in the stomach, reported the researchers.

The study, "Comparative Evaluation of Yogurt and Low-Fat Cheddar Cheese as Delivery Media for Probiotic Lactobacillus casei," appeared in the September 2008 issue of Journal of Food Science. For more information, visit, and click on "Publications."

USDA examines label use
The U.S. Dept. of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service has published a report that details consumer use of nutrition and ingredient labeling when making food purchases. The report tracks the time period from 1995—just after nutrition labeling became mandatory under the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act—to 2006. One important finding was that while a majority of consumers report using nutrition labels when buying food, use has declined for most label components, including the Nutrition Facts label and information about calories, fats, cholesterol, and sodium.

The report, "The Decline in Consumer Use of Food Nutrition Labels, 1995–2006," is available at

ConAgra reduces waste
For the past several years, there has been a heightened awareness of becoming more "green," increasing recycling efforts, and making overall lifestyle changes in the name of environmentalism. Industry is evaluating environmental initiatives as a way to remain competitive. So it is no surprise that ConAgra Foods, Omaha, Neb., has decided to incorporate post-consumer recycled plastic in most of its frozen meal trays, a move that may help eliminate approximately 8 million lb of plastic from landfills.

Most frozen meal trays used by food manufacturers are made of crystallized PET plastic, which is made from newly produced plastics and takes more energy to produce. ConAgra is using 30–40% post-consumer recycled plastic. The company teamed with Associated Packaging Technologies to apply a new technology that cleans recycled plastic for use in the trays. The Food and Drug Administration has approved the trays as direct food contact materials.

ConAgra, which reports that it is the only company in North America to use post-consumer recycled plastic in frozen meal trays, began transitioning to the new trays in June 2008 and is currently rolling them out in stores.

Reducing allergic reactions to milk
Milk allergy is a common childhood food allergy. According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, 2–5% of children experience allergic reactions to milk in the first year of their life. While many of these children outgrow the allergy by age 3, some remain allergic throughout adulthood.

Extensively heating cow’s milk may help children with milk allergies to tolerate it, according to research published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. Researchers from Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, N.Y., reported that high heat mostly destroys certain milk proteins recognized as foreign by the immune system. Thus, the researchers believed that some children with milk allergy would be able to tolerate extensively heated (baked) milk products. They gave 100 children with milk allergy heated milk products. Those who tolerated the heated milk were then given unheated milk. From there, they gave heated milk products for 3 mo to subjects who were heated milk–tolerant and unheated milk–reactive and then re-evaluated them. Out of the 100 children (age range 2.1–17.3 years), 68 tolerated extensively heated milk only, 23 reacted to heated milk, and nine tolerated both heated and unheated milk.

The study, "Tolerance to Extensively Heated Milk in Children With Cow’s Milk Allergy," appeared in the August 2008 issue of Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.

Bill addresses food safety
Responding to recent recalls as well as to cases of foodborne illnesses, U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL), Judd Gregg (R-NH), and Richard Burr (R-NC) recently introduced a bipartisan bill to reform the way the Food and Drug Administration protects the safety of the nation’s food supply.

The bill, The FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (S.3385), authorizes new science-based standards for the safety of produce; increases the frequency of inspections of all food facilities; establishes a new pilot program for tracking and tracing back fruits and vegetables in the event of a foodborne illness; and gives FDA mandatory recall authority in the event a company fails to recall a product at FDA’s request.

For more information, visit or

FDA schedules meeting
The Food and Drug Administration has scheduled a public meeting to discuss product tracing systems for fresh produce. The purpose of the meeting is to stimulate and focus a discussion about mechanisms to enhance product tracing systems for fresh produce and to improve FDA’s ability to use the information in such systems to identify the source of contamination associated with fresh produce-related outbreaks of foodborne illness.

The meeting will be held on Nov. 13, 2008, in Oakland, Calif. More information about the meeting (docket no. FDA-2008-N-0513) is available at

Food companies expand, explore new ventures
Food and beverage companies continue to expand, innovate, and collaborate. Here is an update on some recent activity.
• Balchem Corp., New Hampton, N.Y., announced its Food, Pharma, and Nutrition segment has launched a new Web site to provide information on its food-grade choline product line, Memor-C, for food fortification. The site is available at

• Barry Callebaut, Zurich, Switzerland, has opened its Chocolate Academy in Chekhov, Russia, as part of its commitment to increasing its business in Eastern Europe and strengthening its relationships with chocolatiers and chefs in Russia. The company also recently opened its first Chocolate Academy in Mumbai, India. At the facility, courses taught by master chocolatiers will allow professionals to exchange technical expertise in the area of chocolate.

• Cargill Inc., Minneapolis, Minn., has announced that its Specialty Canola Research and Production Centre is scheduled to open in November 2008. The facility will be part of the company’s research farm located in Aberdeen, Saskatchewan, Canada.

• ConAgra Foods, Omaha, Neb., has merged two ingredient brands, Gilroy Foods and Spicetec, to create Gilroy Foods & Flavors™. The new brand will feature the same products and services as the two brands did separately.

• Corn Products International Inc., Westchester, Ill., recently dedicated a new central business office in Newark, Del. The facility also houses applications research and technical services laboratories and a product development area for its Corn Products Specialty Ingredients’ polyols product line within the United States and Canada.

• Ecolab Inc., St. Paul, Minn., announced that its food safety and quality assurance business, EcoSure, has earned the status of licensed training center for the Safe Quality Food program, which is a global food safety and quality certification program and management system operated by the Food Marketing Institute.

• FMC Corp., Philadelphia, Pa., has entered into an agreement to acquire CoLiving Food Ingredients, Guangzhou, China. The acquisition will enhance FMC’s leadership position in supplying specialty hydrocolloid products and services to the food ingredient market in China.

• LiquiPur Holdings, Janesville, Wis., announced plans to open two production plants in Janesville next year. One is a hot-fill beverage facility and the other is an aseptic food and beverage plant.

• Ottens Flavors, Philadelphia, Pa., recently purchased a new manufacturing facility in Philadelphia. The 60,000-sq-ft USDA-approved facility will allow the company to expand production of its SavoryPlus™ meat and savory flavors as well as increase encapsulation production capabilities.

• Protient Inc., St. Paul, Minn., has expanded its whey protein isolate manufacturing capacity at its Juda, Wis., plant. Previously, it was a dedicated plant for the manufacture of lactose and whey protein concentrate.

• Silliker, Homewood, Ill., has formed a licensing agreement with Kraft Foods Inc., Northfield, Ill., for a patent-pending in vitro method for predicting the glycemic index of foods. The method, which includes chemical characterization of the food as well as the use of a sophisticated statistical model, produces results that are very tightly correlated with in vivo measures of GI.

by Karen Nachay,
Associate Editor
[email protected]