KAREN NACHAY

Ethnic Food Sales Rise
Sales of ethnic foods will set a record of $2.2 billion in 2009, according to market research company Mintel.

Climbing steadily since 2004, the sales of these foods are expected to grow 20% from 2010 to 2014. Mexican/Hispanic foods make up nearly two-thirds (62%) of sales. Nearly six in 10 respondents to a Mintel research report said they have cooked Mexican food in the past month. This popularity of Mexican food led Mintel to declare that it really is not considered ethnic anymore. What ethnic foods will continue to drive sales growth? Asian and Indian foods will, with 11% and 35% growth, respectively, from 2006 to 2008.

The growing diversity of the population, rise in international travel, increasing popularity of cooking shows, and a willingness on the part of consumers to try new flavors and foods are among the factors contributing to the ethnic food sales surge, Mintel reported.

“Since 2005, there are over one million foreigners becoming legal permanent residents in the U.S. each year,” said David Browne, Senior Analyst at Mintel. “This escalating group is influencing the American palate and piquing Americans’ interest in new cuisines.”

To meet mounting consumer demand, food manufacturers have introduced such ethnic food products as sauces, seasoning blends, pre-made meal kits, and others, Browne added.

Microwave sterilization receives FDA okay
The Food and Drug Administration has approved a new food processing method that uses microwave energy for producing prepackaged, low-acid foods.

Juming Tang, a Professional Member of IFT and a professor at Washington State University, led a team of university, industry, and U.S. military scientists in developing the technology, which is said to increase the shelf life and improve the nutritional value and flavor of foods compared to other food processing methods.

The process, called microwave sterilization, involves immersing the packaged food in pressurized hot water while heating it with microwaves at a frequency of 915 MHz, which penetrates food more deeply than the frequency of 2450 MHz used in home microwaves. The researchers stressed the importance of this combination of pressurized hot water and microwaves in eliminating food pathogens and spoilage microorganisms in 5–8 min.

“New processes for producing shelf-stable, low-acid foods must pass rigorous reviews by FDA to ensure that the technology is scientifically sound and the products will be safe,” Tang said. “Our team patented system designs in October 2006 after more than 10 years of research. We spent another three years developing a semi-continuous system, collecting engineering data, and microbiologically validating the process before receiving FDA acceptance.”

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FDA extends comment period
The Food and Drug Administration has extended to Jan. 4, 2010, the comment period on its draft guidances to improve the safety of tomatoes, leafy greens, and melons.

Submit written comments to the Division of Dockets Management (HFA-305), Food and Drug Administration, 5630 Fishers Lane, Room 1061, Rockville, MD 20852. Submit electronic comments to www.regulations.gov. All comments should be identified with the docket number listed in the notice of availability, as published in the Federal Register. The docket number is FDA- 2009-D-0348. Visit http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/2009/E9-26637.htm for the Federal Register notice. For questions, contact the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition at 301-436-1700.

UC Davis debuts Web site
The University of California, Davis, has launched a new Web site for its Functional Glycobiology Program, an integrative, multi-disciplinary program that brings together experts from food science, nutrition, chemistry, and microbiology.

The Web site at http://fgp.ucdavis.edu describes the program, which is a spinoff of the Milk Bioactives Program, funded by the California Dairy Research Foundation to discover new bioactive ingredients in milk. It also provides links to affiliated projects, programs, institutions, and funding agencies. The information is expected to generate new collaborations with researchers in different science-related fields.

Glycobiology is a new field in the life sciences that combines expertise in carbohydrate biology, analytical chemistry, and molecular biology. The university’s program in functional glycobiology was established to translate breakthroughs in the structure-function relationships of bioactive glycosilated ingredients in human milk into products to improve human health.

Improving yogurt texture
People throughout the world enjoy yogurt not only for its flavor but also for its health benefits. During yogurt processing, quality concerns such as poor texture and separation due to low solids content arise, so milk solids often are added to improve viscosity and texture. Researchers at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, showed that several types of casein-based milk proteins affect the rheological properties of yogurt differently, and that yogurt fortified with sodium caseinate had the best textural results.

The researchers fortified yogurt base with one of four milk proteins—skim milk powder, milk protein isolate, micellar casein, and sodium caseinate—and then fermented these mixes at 40°C with a commercial yogurt culture until they reached pH 4.6, and finally measured the storage modulus, loss tangent, yield stress, and permeability of gels. The results showed that sodium caseinate improved rheological properties the best, while milk protein isolate and skim milk powder increased the gel strength of yogurt, though not as much as sodium caseinate. The researchers concluded that differences in how well the milk proteins improved texture and other properties might be due to the difference in the micellar state of casein in skim milk protein, milk protein isolate, and micellar casein, and the nonmicellar soluble form of caseins present insodium caseinate.

The study, “Effect of Fortification with Various Types of Milk Proteins on the Rheological Properties and Permeability of Nonfat Set Yogurt,” was published online early in Journal of Food Science, doi: 10.1111/j.1750-3841.2009.01350.x.

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Senators introduce Dairy COOL Act
U.S. Senators Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, Chair of the U.S. Senate Agriculture Subcommittee on Food, Nutrition, and Family Farms, Russ Feingold, D-Wis., and Al Franken, D-Minn., have introduced the Dairy Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) Act, which would extend mandatory country-of-origin labeling to dairy products.

In March 2009, the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture’s current COOL law went into effect. It requires county-of-origin labels on ground and muscle cuts of beef, lamb, pork, chicken, and goat; fruits and vegetables; ginseng; and peanuts, pecans, and macadamia nuts. The Dairy COOL Act would require country-of-origin labeling for dairy products (milk, cheese, yogurt, ice cream, and butter).

The three Senators said in a statement that consumers have a right to know the origin of dairy products.

Phasing out ‘Smart Choices’ logo
The Smart Choices Program, which includes a group of top food producers that feature a uniform front-of-package nutrition logo on many of their products, has voluntarily suspended the use of the logo.

The decision is in response to Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Margaret Hamburg’s statement that FDA plans to develop standardized front-of-package nutrition labeling criteria because the current array of logos may be confusing to consumers.

While the program’s nutrition criteria “are based on sound, consensus science,” those involved in the program support FDA’s announcement and believe it is appropriate to stop using the logo, according to Mike Hughes, Chair of the Smart Choices Program and Vice President for Science and Public Policy at the Keystone Center.

The Smart Choices Program logo is one of several used by individual or groups of food companies. FDA issued a statement (“Guidance for Industry: Letter Regarding Point of Purchase Food Labeling,” www.fda.gov/ FoodGuidances) in October 2009 emphasizing that each of these logo programs has different nutritional criteria, and that FDA will work with the food manufacturers and nutrition experts “to develop an optimal, common approach to nutrition-related front-of-package and shelf labeling that all Americans can trust and use to build better diets and improve their health.”


What’s new with food companies

ADM has acquired ViaChem Group’s oilseed processing facility in the Czech Republic.

AOI Tea Co. has acquired a tencha (freshly harvested tea leaves used to make Matcha, a powdered green tea) processing facility in the tea-growing region of Kyoto, Japan.

• The Food and Drug Administration has approved the use of 12 structural health claims on AlgatechnologiesAstaPure® astaxanthin.

Burcon has received a notice of allowance from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for its Puatein® canola protein isolate.

Dairy Management Inc. has updated its Web site at www.InnovateWithDairy.com.

Danisco has created a new Web site, www.daniscosupplements.com, that highlights its probiotics ingredients.

Hilmar Ingredients was named 2009 Exporter of the Year by the U.S. Dairy Export Council.

NSF International has acquired seafood quality specialist Surefish Inc.