Ionizing device eliminates bacteria
Over the past several years, people have become sickened or have died from eating contaminated spinach, jalapeño peppers, and peanut butter. A newly developed method to eliminate bacteria in certain packaged foods promises to help keep consumers safe.

Kevin Keener, Associate Professor of Food Science at Purdue University and a Professional Member of IFT, designed an ozone generation device consisting of a set of high-voltage coils attached to a small transformer that generates a room-temperature plasma field inside a package, ionizing the gases inside. His research has shown that the process kills harmful foodborne bacteria such as Escherichia coli and Salmonella without cooking the food.

“Conceptually, we can put any kind of packaged food we want in there,” said Keener. “So far, it has worked on spinach and tomatoes, but it could work on any type of produce or other food.”

Ozone kills bacteria such as E. coli and Salmonella. The longer the gas in the package remains ionized, the more bacteria that are killed. Keener has found that successful treatment times range from 30 sec to 5 min. Eventually, the ionized gas will revert back to its original composition.

Keener plans to develop a commercial prototype of the device that can be used on large quantities of food. He received funding for the research from Purdue Agriculture. A patent is pending.

The study, “Safety and Quality Assessment of Packaged Spinach Treated With a Novel Ozone-generation System,” was published online early in LWT–Food Science and Technology, doi: 10.1016/j.lwt.2009.02.011.

Bulking up with fiber
Doctors and nutritionists tell us to eat more fiber. Now, many food manufacturers are making it easier to do so by increasing the fiber content of their processed food products, according to Datamonitor’s Product Launch Analytics.

In the United States, 6.3% of new food products claimed to be high in fiber in 2008, compared with 5.2% in 2006. Large companies that have introduced products that make the claim include PepsiCo, Kraft, Campbell Soup, Kellogg, and Dannon.

Fiber plays a key role in satiety. While many of the new products do not make any direct weight loss or weight control claims, Datamonitor said that this may change in the future.

UC Davis food science facilities in the works
The University of California, Davis, recently announced that construction of the new Research and Teaching Winery and the August A. Busch III Brewing and Food Science Laboratory will begin in June. The new facilities are part of the UC Davis Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science, and will be used for scientific research, student training, and industry collaboration.

“It is a dream come true to have UC Davis’ preeminent wine, food, and brewing programs housed together in a brand new, state-of-the-art complex,” said Clare M. Hasler, Executive Director of the institute and a Member of IFT. “The new winery, brewery, and food processing facility will further advance our teaching, research, and outreach programs.”

The three academic buildings of the institute, which house the departments of viticulture and enology and food science and technology, opened in fall 2008. The 34,000-sq-ft building housing the winery and the laboratory will be completed in 2010.

The August A. Busch III Brewing and Food Science Laboratory will house a food processing pilot plant, a dairy processing facility, and a pilot brewery to be used by the Dept. of Food Science and Technology. The facility’s name recognizes August A. Busch III ’s long-time contributions to the art of brewing. The Anheuser-Busch Foundation gave $5 million toward the project.

“There is no finer facility anywhere for the training of future brewery employees and the ongoing education of existing brewers,” said Charles Bamforth, the Anheuser-Busch Endowed Professor of Malting and Brewing Sciences at the university and a Professional Member of IFT.

FDA approves new process
The National Center for Food Safety and Technology, Summit, Ill., recently won regulatory acceptance by the Food and Drug Administration for the commercial use of a new food sterilization process.

The pressure-assisted thermal sterilization (PATS ) process is said to significantly improve the quality of thermally processed foods while simultaneously eliminating the food safety risks associated with dangerous bacteria such as Clostridium botulinum. It combines mild heat with high pressure to produce commercially sterile low-acid food products.

--- PAGE BREAK ---

Storage time affects catechins
Catechins—compounds present in green tea that are reported to have health benefits—may decrease during storage of commercial green tea leaves in the dry state, report researchers from the U.S. and Korea.

The researchers used eight different samples of green tea bags and stored them in the original containers in a dark room at 20°C for five time periods: 1 week and 1, 2, 4, or 6 mo. After storage and analysis, the researchers found that the average content of epigallocatechin 3-gallate, the most abundant catechin in the tea varieties, decreased by 28%. Epigallocatechin, the second-most-abundant catechin, decreased by 51%. The average overall loss of total catechin concentrations of all eight teas at the end of the 6 mo of storage was 32%. The researchers concluded that “even in the absence of moisture, quality of teas may degrade with time.” Because of this, “consumers may benefit from knowing the storage history of teas sold at retail.”

The study, “Stability of Green Tea Catechins in Commercial Tea Leaves During Storage for 6 Months,” was published in the March 2009 issue of Journal of Food Science.

Prep methods reduce AOs
Water is not a cook’s best friend when it comes to preparing vegetables, according to research published in Journal of Food Science.

Researchers at the University of Murcia and Complutense University of Madrid examined the effects of home cooking methods (boiling, microwaving, pressure-cooking, griddling, frying, and baking) on the radical-scavenging activity and antioxidant activity of 20 vegetables (artichokes, asparagus, beetroots, broad beans, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, carrots, cauliflower, celery, eggplant, garlic, green beans, leeks, maize, onions, peas, green peppers, spinach, Swiss chard, and zucchini).

The results showed that, in general, griddling and microwaving produced the lowest losses of radical-scavenging activity and antioxidant activity while pressure-cooking and boiling led to the greatest losses. The researchers hope that the results “encourage the food industry to recommend particular cooking methods to help maintain the antioxidant properties of the vegetables that we eat.”

The study, “Influence of Cooking Methods on Antioxidant Activity of Vegetables,” appeared in the April 2009 issue of Journal of Food Science.

Smaller is better for detecting toxins
Nanotechnology—the study of materials measuring 100 nm or less—may have usefulness in various food-related applications such as food safety, quality, product traceability, nutrient delivery systems, packaging performance, and food processing, said researchers from the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture and University of Georgia. They discussed their research at the American Chemical Society National Meeting in March.

The researchers presented a newly developed method to quickly detect food toxins at the nano and sub-nano scale using single-molecule interaction recognition with an atomic force microscope–based fast single-molecule recognition system. This is important because, according to the researchers, current technologies, which are not nano-based, do not offer the speed and specificity that is needed to detect many fast-acting toxins.

They emphasized that nanotechnology can revolutionize the food industry and that nanobiosensors used to detect food toxins can be particularly important in food safety and biosecurity. Low doses of food toxins can adversely affect humans so the detection systems need to have high sensitivity, specificity, and speed.

Firms continue innovation
Here is a look at some recent company activity focusing on ingredient development and business transactions.

Barentz Europe BV has opened an ingredients distribution facility in Belgrade, Serbia.

Barry Callebaut will grant Hershey Co. a perpetual, exclusive license of its Van Houten brand name and related trademarks in Asia Pacific, the Middle East, and Australia/New Zealand for consumer products.

Cognis has exclusively licensed active ingredients for weight management and heart health from InterMed Discovery.

DSM Nutritional Products has introduced its Vida line of specialty nutrition ingredients.

Frutarom Industries Ltd. has acquired American Company Flavors Specialties Inc.

• GTC Nutrition has been named the exclusive distributor of NuMega® Ingredients’ line of DHA-rich refined tuna oil and microencapsulated high omega-3-containing powders.

PureCircle has partnered with Cerilliant Corp. for development and supply of certified reference materials for stevia-based sweeteners.