KAREN NACHAY

Irradiation affects sprouts
Broccoli sprouts contain a high amount of vitamin C, antioxidants, phenolic compounds, and pytochemicals believed to have anticarcinogenic properties. Unfortunately, the sprout seeds are often a source of foodborne illness. The Food and Drug Administration has approved the use of irradiation at doses up to 8 kGy to control pathogens in the seeds. Previous research has shown that irradiation at this level killed all Escherichia coli O157:H7 from alfalfa seeds but resulted in a decrease in the yield of sprouts. FDA recommends only a 5-log reduction of the population of foodborne pathogens.

Researchers at Kyungpook National University in Korea wanted to learn if these same levels of irradiation that reportedly affected sprout yield also affected nutrient composition of the sprouts.

They exposed broccoli sprout seeds to varying levels of electron beam and gamma irradiation up to 8 kGy and then analyzed germination, yield, and growth of the seeds. The researchers also measured levels of ascorbic acid, carotenoids, chlorophyll, and total phenol content of the sprouts.

The researchers observed high germination percentages (>90%) in seeds irradiated at ≤4 kGy, but found that the yield ratio and sprout length decreased with increased irradiation dose. Irradiation hindered the growth of seeds, resulting in underdeveloped sprouts with decreased ascorbic acid, carotenoid, and chlorophyll contents. It did not adversely affect the total phenol content of sprouts. Additionally, the decrease in functional content of sprouts was more substantial in samples grown from high-dose (5 kGy) irradiated seeds than that of the low-dose (1 kGy) treated ones.

The researchers concluded that to achieve FDA ’s recommended reduction in pathogens while having minimal effects on the quality of sprouts, a combination of low-dose irradiation and other treatments may be required.

The study, “Seed Viability and Functional Properties of Broccoli Sprouts during Germination and Postharvest Storage as Affected by Irradiation of Seeds,” was published in the June/July 2009 issue of Journal of Food Science.

Feds may require more labels
Some cities (New York City; Seattle, Wash.; Portland, Ore.; Nashville, Tenn.; Philadelphia, Pa.) and the state of California require restaurants to include nutrition information on menus. Now the federal government wants to get into the act by creating a federal requirement stating that restaurants with 20 or more business locations must provide consumers with information on calories, sodium, saturated and trans fats, and carbohydrates.

Introduced on May 14 by Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., and Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, the Menu Education and Labeling (MEAL ) Act would close a loophole in the Nutrition Labeling Education Act passed in 1990, which required most retail food packages to provide nutrition information, but exempted restaurant food from these requirements.

The lawmakers have introduced similar legislation in the past three Congresses. For more information, visit www.house. gov and search for H.R. 2426.

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Private label sales up
Some news reports indicate that recent economic problems have been anything but problematic for private label food and beverage manufacturers. But increasing sales of these products is not a recent event, according to market research company NPD Group. In fact, last year, 24% of all foods and beverages served in American homes were store brands, up from 18% in 1999, NPD states in a new report, Private Label Perceptions, Usage Patterns, & Intentions.

“There is no question that private label foods have become an integral part of American life,” said Harry Balzer, Chief Industry Analyst at NPD and author of Eating Patterns in America. “Furthermore, we do not hide private label foods as an ingredient or as an additive to another dish. Today, over half of all store brand food eatings are the end dish.”

More consumers are viewing private label food products favorably. While consumers cite price and value as important drivers in purchasing these products, they also say that the quality of private label products is often equal to, or in some cases better than, name brands, according to an NPD survey of grocery store shoppers. Additionally, consumers of private label products are from all income levels and demographic profiles.

Compound enhances glucose uptake
Boiling guava leaves in water and drinking the extract is a traditional folk remedy for diabetes in parts of Asia. Researchers at the National Taiwan University, Taipei City, conducted a study to pinpoint the active compound in the extract thought to affect glucose uptake.

Through a series of column chromatography tests, the researchers separated the guava leaf aqueous extract and found that high-polarity fractions of the extract enhanced glucose uptake of rat clone 9 hepatocytes, which are functional cells in the liver. They isolated quercetin and identified it as the major active compound that may play a role in the hyperglycemic effect of guava leaf extract. In addition, the compound promotes glucose uptake in liver cells, and contributes to the alleviation of hypoglycemia in diabetes, according to the researchers.

The study, “Effect of Guava (Psidium guajava L.) Leaf Extract on Glucose Uptake in Rat Hepatocytes,” was published in the June/July 2009 issue of Journal of Food Science.

Filtration eliminates pathogens
Pasteurization removes heat-sensitive pathogens from eggs, but some heat-resistant spoilage microorganisms can survive. Scientists with the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service have developed a technology that is said to eliminate more pathogens than pasteurization.

The scientists showed that the technology, called crossflow microfiltration membrane separation, removed about 99.9999% of inoculated Salmonella enteritidis from unpasteurized liquid egg whites without affecting the eggs’ ability to foam, coagulate, and emulsify. It can also be used to remove Bacillus anthracis spores from egg whites. This microfiltration has proven effective at removing 99.9999% of B. anthracis spores inoculated into fluid milk.

The scientists stress that while this technology is effective on its own, it works best when used in addition to pasteurization, rather than in place of it.

The research appeared in the May/June 2009 issue of Agricultural Research, www.ars.usda.gov/is/AR/archive/may09/food0509.htm.

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Universities merge food science departments
Washington State University and the University of Idaho are merging food science departments to create a bi-state School of Food Science.

The partnership, which has been approved by both universities’ governing bodies, will benefit the Northwest’s $17-billion food processing industry, students, and consumers through expanded cooperation. The school’s combined faculty will number about 25; enrollment at the newly merged institution will total about 75 undergraduate and 35 graduate students. Students will take required food science courses at each institution. Their diplomas will be awarded by their home universities.

Faculty members will work together on issues important to both states and the nation. The faculty’s strengths include food safety, microbiology, processing, and chemistry, with a focus on dairy products and wines. Washington State University facilities include a commercial-scale creamery, a state-of-the-art sensory evaluation laboratory, a well-equipped food processing pilot plant, and a research winery. University of Idaho facilities provide a certified commercial kitchen for entrepreneurs who want to develop specialty foods, and a pilot plant to assist established companies with research and development.

For more information, visit http://sfs.wsu.edu.

OSU offers online program
To help train and educate qualified food science professionals, Ohio State University’s Dept. of Food Science and Technology offers an online series of five courses leading to a Certificate of Proficiency in Food Science.

One certification course is offered per quarter. Courses can be taken in any order, so professionals can sign up at any time. The courses are designed for people who have jobs in the food industry but who do not have degrees in food science. In addition, the courses use online discussion tools so participants can share with each other during weekly live chats.

For more information, contact Jeff Culbertson, a professor of food science at the university and an IFT Professional Member, at 614-688-4219 or [email protected] osu.edu, or visit http://fst.osu.edu/Certificate_in_Food_Science.htm.

Infrared spectroscopy detects melamine
Melamine is a synthetic chemical used in plastics and other products. High doses of it may cause cancer, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Federal guidelines allow for only one part per million of melamine in infant formula and up to two-and-a-half parts per million in other products, but much higher levels of it have been detected in baby formula and other milk-based products imported from China.

Melamine is a synthetic chemical used in plastics and other products. High doses of it may cause cancer, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Federal guidelines allow for only one part per million of melamine in infant formula and up to two-and-a-half parts per million in other products, but much higher levels of it have been detected in baby formula and other milk-based products imported from China.

Using infrared lasers and light spectroscopy methods, Lisa Mauer, an associate professor of food science at Purdue University and a Member of IFT, was able to detect trace amounts of melamine in baby formula at one part per million in about five minutes. 

Mauer measured samples of unadulterated powdered formula using near- and mid-infrared spectroscopy techniques. Infrared laser beams reflected off the sample and toward a detector, which calculated how much of the laser’s energy was absorbed by the sample and created an absorbance spectrum that was unique to the sample.

She used the same method to collect data on pure melamine. When the formula was mixed with melamine and analyzed, the new spectrum was compared to that of the unadulterated formula, showing the concentration of melamine in the sample.

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“The melamine structure is very different than the formula, so you can see differences in the spectrum,” said Mauer. “Because they are so different, we can detect down to one part per million of melamine.”

The study, “Melamine Detection in Infant Formula Powder Using Near- and Mid-Infrared Spectroscopy,” was published in the May 27, 2009, issue of Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

New assay more sensitive
Food poisoning is a constant concern of food safety researchers. Because of this, they continue to develop new and more-efficient tests for detecting foodborne pathogens.

One such newly developed test is used to detect what is known as “serotype A” of the botulism toxin, and researchers with the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service are currently developing assays for detecting serotypes B and E. For years, scientists have used an assay that requires laboratory mice to test for the botulism toxin. The assay takes at least four days to complete. The ARS researchers developed an assay that relies on laboratory-built molecules known as monoclonal antibodies, which can bind to the serotype A toxin. While this assay is not new, the one that the researchers developed may be the most sensitive one produced—about 10 times more sensitive than the mouse assay and capable of detecting the toxin in small amounts, according to ARS.

The researchers and Safeguard Biosystems Inc., San Diego, Calif., have collaborated to package two of the sertotype A antibodies into a dipstick-style test kit intended for testing liquids such as beverages.


What’s new with food firms
Recent activity shows how food companies are forging new relationships and opening new facilities.

Barry Callebaut will provide its chocolate products and trend and technical expertise to culinary students at Kendall College.

• The Food and Drug Administration has confirmed Cargill’s Xtend® sucromalt as GRAS.

Earthoil, a subsidiary of Treatt plc, has received Institute for Marketcology Fair for Life status for its Indian mint growing project and commitment to ethical trading.

Farbest Brands, ZMC-USA, and ZMC China have partnered to market ZMC’s line of beta-carotene products in the United States.

FoodLogiQ and rtech Laboratories have partnered to integrate rtech’s lab testing services into FoodLogiQ’s traceability and food safety software.

Genencor, a division of Danisco, recently launched a blend-to-order system at its Beloit, Wis., Manufacturing and Applications Center.

IMC Licensing will develop a portfolio of new brand-building licensed food and non-food products for Pinnacle Foods.

Reser’s has opened its new Customer R&D Center in Beaverton, Ore.

Sara Lee Corp. recently opened its new North American innovation campus, The Kitchens of Sara Lee, in Downers Grove, Ill.