Hold the salt
Are consumers passing on salt? More than half (52%) are monitoring the amount of salt in their diets, according to market research firm Mintel. According to Mintel’s Global New Products Database, food product introductions containing a low-, no-, or reduced-sodium claim increased almost 115% from 2005 to 2008. Mintel suggested that consumer awareness and the push from public health organizations and consumer advocacy groups to decrease salt intake have led to this change in consumer attitudes.

“The rapidly rising evidence in the past several years points out sodium as a major cause of hypertension, osteoporosis, kidney damage, and stomach cancer,” said David Lockwood, Director of Consumer Insights at Mintel. “Because of this scientific knowledge mixed with that of global health activists, there is a climate forming for rapid change. We are starting to see this information set into motion with a reduction in sodium on packaged goods and restaurant menus.”

Mintel presented specific information about what consumers are and are not doing to reduce their sodium intake, including that 22% restrict the amount of salt that they add to food, but are not concerned with the amount of sodium in foods and beverages; 18% agree with the statement “food and beverages low in sodium are one of the three most important components of a healthy diet”; 26% read labels to learn the sodium content, and may make some decision based on this information, but they are not following a program to monitor their intake of sodium; and 34% do not pay attention to sodium.

New food reporting requirements set
The Food and Drug Administration has launched the Reportable Food Registry, which food industry officials must use to report possible cases of food-borne illness directly to FDA.

Facilities that manufacture, process, or hold food for consumption in the United States now must tell FDA within 24 hours if they find a reasonable probability that an article of food will cause severe health problems or death to a person or an animal. Reasons that a food may need to be reported include bacterial contamination, allergen mislabeling, elevated levels of certain chemical components, and others.

The reporting requirement applies to all foods and animal feed regulated by FDA, except infant formula and dietary supplements, which are covered by other regulatory requirements.

For more information, visit www.fda.gov/ReportableFoodRegistry.

Anti-hunger crusader Norman Borlaug dies
Norman Borlaug, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and a key driver behind the establishment of the World Food Prize, has died at age 95. The Iowa native, known as the father of the “Green Revolution,” committed his life to fighting hunger around the world, and in 1970, his efforts were recognized with the Nobel Peace Prize.

During the 1940s, he developed a wheat variety that led to the tripling of grain output in Mexico. He then took this high-yield, disease-resistant wheat to Pakistan and India to help avert mass famine there.

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During his later years, Borlaug headed the Sasakawa Global 2000 program, which brought agricultural technologies to Africa, and continued to be involved with the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center in Mexico, where he began his pivotal research in 1944.

Concerned that there was no major award recognizing significant achievements in agriculture, Borlaug embarked on a campaign to win support for such a prize. Executives at General Foods Corp. supported the concept, and the General Foods World Food Prize was first awarded in 1987. In 1990, in partnership with Des Moines, Iowa, businessman and philanthropist John Ruan, the venue for the prize presentation was moved to Des Moines and its name changed to the World Food Prize. Since then, the World Food Prize has continued to recognize life-saving achievements that increase the quality, quantity, or availability of food in the world.

For more information, visit www.worldfoodprize.org.

Dough structure okay with lower salt
Food formulators are being encouraged to develop products that contain reduced amounts of sodium. But this can be a challenge since salt has important functionalities in a variety of applications. For example, in dough-based applications, salt affects texture, structure, moisture, and other qualities, and reducing its levels or removing it entirely may negatively affect the finished product.

Researchers from the University College Cork in Ireland studying the effects of salt reduction on dough and bread characteristics investigated different usage levels of salt and found that reducing salt from the UK Food Standards Agency’s current usage level recommendation of 1.2% (control) to 0.6% and 0.3% in dough produced bread that had comparable dough rheology, baking quality characteristics, and sensory attributes to the control. They explained that decreasing the amount of salt reduced the dough resistance to extension, extensibility, and complex modulus without affecting the ratio of liquid-to-solid behavior. And this, they reported, indicated that the reduction of salt led to no major structural changes in the dough.

The researchers evaluated bread on day five post baking. They observed uneven crumb structure and high crumb hardness in bread formulated with 0% salt addition but not in bread made with 0.6% or 0.3%.

The study, “Fundamental Studies on the Reduction of Salt on Dough and Bread Characteristics,” was published in the August 2009 issue of Food Research International.

Tattoos for traceability
Tattoos are no longer just for rockers and rebels. Laser tattoo technology is being tested as a possible alternative to sticky labels used to identify fruit.

Called laser etching, the method uses a carbon dioxide laser beam to permanently etch information into the first few outer cells of the fruit peel. Since the tattoo cannot be peeled off, washed off, or altered, it provides a way to trace the fruit to its original source. Researchers with the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service and the University of Florida testing laser etching said that it does not increase water loss or the entrance of food pathogens if the tattoo is covered with wax. While they recommend the use of the wax to protect against water loss, the researchers said that further testing may show that the wax is unnecessary to protect against decay or entry of food-borne pathogens since the tiny holes etched into the fruit peel are sealed by the carbon dioxide. Some of their findings point to this. They reported that in tattooed fruit stored at 10°C and two relative humidities (95% and 65%) for 5 weeks there was no increase in decay compared with the control.

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Currently, the researchers are testing the method on grapefruits, tomatoes, avocados, and other citrus fruit. The Food and Drug Administration will need to approve the method before it may be used commercially.

The study, “Laser Etching: A Novel Technology to Label Florida Grapefruit,” was published in the July– September 2009 issue of Hort Technology.

Asparagus extract settles hangovers
Asparagus, which is chock full of vitamins and minerals, can be used as an ingredient in a variety of finished products or as a herbal remedy. And now scientists have discovered that extracts in the vegetable may help protect the liver from the effects of the overconsumption of alcohol.

More specifically, the researchers from Jeju National University in Korea determined that the extracts from the leaves of asparagus helped to enhance the activities of two key enzymes—alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH) and aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH)—that metabolize ethanol. ADH metabolizes ethanol to acetaldehyde, which is then metabolized by ALDH to acetate. It is the high concentrations of acetaldehyde that cause rapid pulse, nausea, and vomiting—usually what someone who has consumed too many alcoholic beverages may experience.

In addition to the potential ability to help alleviate these negative effects, the researchers reported about other potential benefits of the extracts. One such benefit is that the extracts contained high levels of amino acids and minerals. The researchers found that the extracts had cytoprotective properties, including a wide range of antioxidant activities in HepG2 liver cells.

The study, “Effects of Asparagus officinalis Extracts on Liver Cell Toxicity and Ethanol Metabolism,” was published in the September 2009 issue of Journal of Food Science.

What’s new with food companies
• Ajinomoto Food Ingredients has opened its Application Center at its North American headquarters in Chicago, Ill.

AkzoNobel has signed an exclusive agreement with Viachem Ltd. to sell and market its Dissolvine® food grade chelates in the United States.

Burdock Group has launched its redesigned Web site at www.BurdockGroup.com to include an updated look and interactive features.

Cargill has entered into an agreement to license Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation’s patented canola breeding technology.

GTC Nutrition and Marigot Ltd. are the recipients of the Frost & Sullivan Global Food and Beverage Prebiotics Product Innovation Award for their partnership product concept CalciLife® prebiotic mineral blend.

MGP Ingredients Inc. has sold its Kansas City, Kan., pet food production and packaging plant to Sergeant Pet Care Products.

• The American Oil Chemists Society has presented AOCS Laboratory Proficiency Awards to Solbar for its Oilseed Meal 100% Nitrogen (Method Ba 4d-90), Oilseed Meal 100% Moisture in Soybean Samples, and analytical determination of the analysis of residual oil content.