Take a spin on the color wheel
Food colorings are used for a variety of reasons, such as enhancing food’s appeal to consumers, intensifying the natural color of a food, and others. While the sources of food colorings and the ways in which food colorings are regulated may continue to change, the use of these colorings continues to grow, reported the author of an article in the October 2009 issue of Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety.

In “Palette of Our Palates: A Brief History of Food Coloring and Its Regulation,” attorney Adam Burrows discusses food colorings from historical and regulatory perspectives by presenting information about the relationship between color and our enjoyment with food; early uses of food colorings; the 1906 and 1938 Food and Drug Acts; regulations beginning with the Color Additive Amendments of 1960; and recent safety and regulatory controversies. He concludes the article by examining the growing popularity of naturally derived colorings.

Food safety Web site debuts
The U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services and U.S. Dept. of Agriculture have unveiled a new food safety consumer Web site at www.foodsafetynet.gov.

The site will feature information from all the agencies across the federal government that deal with critical food and food safety information, including preventive tips about how to handle food safely, alerts on life-saving food recalls, and the latest news from the key agencies.

Consumers can sign up to receive e-mail and RSS alerts on recalled or potentially unsafe food and hear from top government food safety experts. Phases of the site to be launched later will include recall feeds for texting and mobile phones. The site will also feature a foodsafety.gov widget that the public and the media are encouraged to download and promote on their Web sites and social networking sites. The widget will instantly update viewers with the latest food safety recalls and will be a valuable public health and safety tool.

Stevia sales soar, acceptance low
Even though the sales of stevia will top $100 million this year, consumer awareness and acceptance of the sweetener show slow growth, according to market research firm Mintel.

“The FDA’s approval of stevia in food and drink opened the door for this market’s explosion,” said David Browne, Senior Analyst at Mintel. “New product activity has accelerated in recent years, and since most categories with stevia applications remain untapped, we expect many more stevia-infused product introductions in the next few years.”

Mintel reported that sales of stevia reached $95 million by mid-July 2009. This is quite an increase from 2008, when sales of the sweetener were $21 million.

But responses to a Mintel survey show that consumer awareness of stevia is somewhat stagnant. More than six in 10 (62%) say they have no interest in trying stevia, and 11% say they think stevia is unsafe and they plan to avoid it. What’s more, 25% of people say they might be interested in stevia, but they have not tried it yet. Slightly more than one in 10 (11%) say they have tried stevia and plan to continue purchasing it.

To remedy this lack of awareness, Browne suggested that manufacturers offer in-store demos of products that contain stevia as well as free samples.

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Light’s effect on pathogen susceptibility
Exposure to light might help lettuce leaves internalize food-borne pathogens, making them resistant to washing and food sanitizers, according to Israeli researchers at the Volcani Center and Tel Aviv University.

They examined the role that light and photosynthesis might play on the ability of Salmonella bacteria to move below the surface of lettuce leaves via pores called stomata. After exposing sterile lettuce leaves to bacteria either in the light, in the dark, or in the dark after 30 min of being in light, the results showed that the bacteria aggregated around stomata and entered into the inner leaf tissue in leaves exposed to light and pre-exposed to light for 30 min. The bacteria incubated in the dark had a scattered attachment pattern and minimal internalization into the leaves.

The researchers pointed out that these results might be due to the following factors. In the absence of light, the stomata are closed and no photosynthesis takes place. In the light, however, the stomata are open and nutrients produced during photosynthesis attract the bacteria to the open stomata. This does not occur in the dark, according to the researchers.

“The elucidation of the mechanism by which Salmonella invades intact leaves has important implications for both pre- and postharvest handling of lettuce and probably other leafy vegetables,” said the researchers. “The capacity to inhibit internalization should limit bacterial colonization to the phylloplane and, consequently, might enhance the effectiveness of surface sanitizers.”

The study, “Internalization of Salmonella enterica in Leaves is Induced by Light and Involves Chemotaxis and Penetration Through Open Stomata,” was published in the October 2009 issue of Applied and Environmental Microbiology.

FDA offers new Consumer Updates
The Food and Drug Administration has released several food-related Consumer Updates videos on its Web site at www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/default.htm.

The first, “Food Allergies: Reducing the Risks,” provides tips on how to prevent allergic reactions and explains the differences between food allergy and food intolerance. Food allergies can range from merely irritating to life threatening. According to FDA, approximately 30,000 Americans go to the emergency room each year to receive treatment for severe food allergies.

“Fortify Your Knowledge about Vitamins” includes an interview with Barbara Schneeman, Director of FDA’s Office of Nutritional Products and a Professional Member of IFT, and also highlights reasons to consider taking vitamin supplements along with tips for doing so safely. According to FDA, millions of people around the world take supplemental vitamins.

Finally, in “Food 101: Product Recalls,” a member of the FDA Recall Operations Team explains how FDA manages product recalls.

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Improving absorption of polyphenols
The polyphenols found in red wine have potential disease-preventing capabilities, such as helping to prevent Alzheimer’s disease. Polyphenols, compounds found in the skins and seeds of grapes, are thought to prevent the formation of beta-amyloid protein, which creates the plaque in the brain that causes Alzheimer’s disease. In many previously conducted experiments, the absorption of polyphenols was measured after single or sporadic doses, and the results showed very little, if any, of the polyphenols reaching brain tissues. Researchers at Purdue University and Mount Sinai School of Medicine showed that with continuous consumption of polyphenols, some of them actually reach the brain.

The researchers found that the amount of polyphenols from grapeseed extract that can reach the brain is as much as 200% higher on the 10th consecutive day of feeding compared with the first day.

“This shows that reasonable and chronic consumption of these products may be the way to go, rather than single, high doses, similar to drugs,” said Mario Ferruzzi, Associate Professor of food science at Purdue University. “It’s like eating an apple a day, not a case of apples over two days every month.”

Giulio Pasinetti, the Aidekman Family Professor in Neurology and Director of the Center of Excellence for Novel Approaches to Neurotherapeutics at Mount Sinai, said discovering how polyphenols are absorbed and distributed to the brain can lead to a better understanding of the amount of grape products or red wine a person would need to consume to most effectively combat Alzheimer’s disease.

What’s new with food companies
•  ICL Performance Products LP has upgraded its powder handling, milling, and packaging system for food grade phosphates at its Lawrence, Kan., plant.

Lallemand Inc. has completed its acquisition of Lake States Yeast Division from the Wausau Paper Group.

• The Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives has affirmed lycopene from tomato extract is safe for use as a food additive. LycoRed Ltd. announced that its Lyc-O-Mato® and Tomat-O-Red® tomato lycopene ingredients fit the parameters set by JECFA.

Nestlé has opened a new Chocolate Centre of Excellence in Broc, Switzerland. Scientists and chocolatiers will develop products for the premium and luxury chocolate market.

PureCircle has been named the Investor Chronicle/Financial Times AIM International Company of the Year.

Senomyx Inc. and Firmenich SA have entered into a collaborative research, development, commercialization, and license agreement for Senomyx’s flavor ingredients intended to enhance the taste of sucrose, fructose, and rebaudioside (stevia).

Tate & Lyle has opened a new manufacturing research and development facility for its Food Systems business in Wacol, Queensland, Australia.