Mintel identifies recession-proof foods
As economic growth slows during this recession, many consumers are finding it difficult to part with their money, which has resulted in declining sales and revenue for most, but not all, business sectors. Certain food and beverage markets are actually improving during this recession, according to new research from Mintel.

The research firm has reviewed forecasts from its Oxygen Reports from 2007 and 2008 due to the recession and found that sales of bread, sweet spreads, frozen meals, side dishes, and coffee are growing, and Mintel reports that it expects these increases to continue through 2013. These “recession-proof” products share commonalities, as they often fall into the comfort/simple food categories that are purchased at supermarkets for a somewhat low price and easily prepared at home, says Bill Patterson, Senior Analyst.

When Mintel originally forecast sales growth for these product sectors in 2007 and 2008, it anticipated small increases. But after re-forecasting the reports, the firm is predicting more-substantial sales growth. For example, Mintel originally predicted sales of peanut butter (sweet spreads category) to increase 12% from 2008 to 2013. Because peanut butter is an economical protein source, Mintel reports that sales are now expected to grow 26% by 2013.

Senators seek better school nutrition
Citing the need to provide more nutritious food to school children and reduce rapidly rising healthcare costs, two U.S. Senators on April 30 introduced legislation that would update decades-old nutrition standards in schools.

Senators Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, and Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, co-sponsored the bill, S.934, which seeks to establish appropriate school nutrition standards for foods and beverages offered in school vending machines, stores, a la carte lines, and other venues outside of the school meal programs.

Currently, more than $11 billion in federal money is invested annually in student health through the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs; however, the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture has little authority over what can be sold to students outside of these programs. The senators said newly introduced legislation will improve the health of America’s children by allowing the Secretary of Agriculture to establish common-sense nutrition standards for the foods and beverages that are sold in school vending machines and similar outlets.

Harkin and Murkowski have proposed similar versions of the legislation in prior years. Later this year, the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry will undertake a periodic reauthorization of the federal food assistance programs, including the National School Lunch Program, School Breakfast Program, Special Supplemental Program for Women, Infants, and Children, and the Child and Adult Care Food Program.

Improving shelf life of MREs
Oxygen within a sealed package can reduce the quality of liquid-based food products with high oil content such as hot-filled meal-ready-to-eat (MRE) cheese spread found in military rations. So researchers at Texas A&M University and the U.S. Army Research–Natick tested the effectiveness of a novel oxygen absorber containing laminate material on maintaining or extending the shelf life of a hot-filled cheese spread MRE item.

An iron-based oxygen absorber (ABSO2RB®) activated by moisture was incorporated into the laminate on the package. Accelerated shelf-life tests of these packages and packages without the oxygen absorber were conducted at various intervals—for 3 mo at 125°F, 6 mo at 100°F, and 12 mo at 80°F (control).

The tests measured oxygen concentration, microbiological activity, and physicochemical quality characteristics, including color, texture, moisture, free fatty acid, pH, water activity, and vitamins A and C.

The overall results showed reduced rancidity of the cheese in packages containing the oxygen absorber. There was a reduction in headspace oxygen concentration and an increased retention of vitamin C. The sensory characteristics of cheese from these packages had high sensory characteristic acceptability scores.

The researchers received funding from CORANET II (Combat Ration Network for Technology Implementation) as Short Term Project STP2021.

The study, “Effect of Oxygen-Absorbing Packaging on the Shelf Life of a Liquid-Based Component of Military Operational Rations,” appeared in the May 2009 issue of Journal of Food Science.

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Deflating inflammation
Phytochemicals found in foods, beverages, and spices can reduce inflammation. As a result of doing this, these compounds may help reduce the risk of diseases associated with chronic inflammation such as cancer and diabetes.

Daniel H. Hwang, a research molecular biologist with the U.S. Dept.of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service, investigates the probable ways in which phytochemicals reduce inflammation. Research conducted so far has shed light on the mechanisms of phytochemicals from a wide range of food products, including red wine, green tea, garlic, curcumin, and cinnamon.

One of the discoveries is that phytochemicals can interfere with the normal flow of certain chemical signals in the form of proteins sent to and from cells involved in chronic inflammation. When these proteins move uninterrupted, they reach and activate genes responsible for triggering inflammation.

The research appeared in the April 2009 issue of Agricultural Research,

Improving starter culture
Researchers with Victoria University, Melbourne, Australia, learned that supplementing yogurt with soy protein isolate improved the performance of yogurt starter culture and yielded some promising health benefits.

In the supplemented yogurt, lactose metabolism by the yogurt starter culture, including Lactobacillus delbrueckii ssp. bulgaricus ATCC 11842 and Streptococcus thermophilus ST 1342, significantly ATCC 11842 and ST 1342, significantly increased. The researchers also reported that although the supplementation of soy protein isolate altered the ratio of lactic acid to acetic acid by decreasing the lactic acid content and increasing the concentration of acetic acid in the yogurt, it promoted the metabolism of lactose by the yogurt starter during storage. While the viability of both L. delbrueckii ssp.bulgaricus and S. thermophilus decreased, and decreased, their concentrations remained high.

Another important point is that in the supplemented yogurt, the yogurt starter culture was able to convert 72.8% of total inactive isoflavone glycosides (IG) to active isoflavone aglycones (IA), increasing the IA content from 1.35 to 15.01 mg/100 g sample.

IAs—forms of IGs that are freed from beta-glycoside molecules—are said to provide health benefits such as anticancer benefits and estrogenic effects. Both IAs and IGs are phytochemcial compounds found in soy protein. Betagalactosidase breaks the linkage to convert IG to IA, and the yogurt starter culture produces high levels of this enzyme.

The study, “Performance of Starter in Yogurt Supplemented with Soy Protein Isolate and Biotransformation of Isoflavones During Storage Period,” appeared in the May 2009 issue of Journal of Food Science.

Anti-microbial wash receives license
The University of Georgia Research Foundation recently licensed a new anti-microbial food wash that kills dangerous pathogens on food at home and in restaurants, grocery stores, and beverage manufacturing and food processing facilities to HealthPro Brands Inc. It will be part of the company’s FIT Fruit and Vegetable Wash™ range of products.

The food wash, invented by scientists from the University of Georgia Center for Food Safety, can kill significant numbers of Escherichia coli and Salmonella in less than one minute; however, the scientists recommend that the wash be applied from one to five minutes.

What is most important is that the wash has no effects on smell, taste, or appearance of the foods that are treated and it does not affect the shelf-life of foods, said Mike Doyle, Director of the Center for Food Safety, a Professional Member of IFT, and—together with microbiologist Tong Zhao—one of the wash’s inventors.

“The re-formulated FIT food wash will kill more harmful microbes faster,” said Doyle. “The new anti-microbial food wash is orders of magnitude more powerful and twice faster.”

The wash uses a combination of two components that the company said is safe for humans and the environment and does not contain chlorine.

Food companies collaborate on new ventures
Around the world, food companies continue expansion of business opportunities.

Burcon NutraScience Corp. has filed for further patent protection for additional functional attributes of its Clarisoy soy protein isolate.

Fleischmann’s Yeast and Innovative Cereal Systems, which are both parts of AB Mauri Food Inc., will align under the new corporate banner of AB Mauri Fleischmann’s, effective Sept. 1, 2009.

Ingredients International and LSI Specialty Products have merged operations.

InterMed Discovery GmbH and Axxam SpA have formed a joint research agreement for the identification of novel functional ingredients.

International Flavors & Fragrances Inc. has opened its new Flavor and Fragrance Creative Center in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Nestlé has opened its largest ready-to-drink aseptic products factory in Anderson, Ind.

Safe Quality Food Institute has launched a new Web site——that organizes content according to the needs of the diverse community of users.

Senomyx Inc. and Ajinomoto Co. Inc. have extended their collaborative research, development, commercialization, and license agreement.