Yogurt tops list of snacks
Yogurt is the number one food eaten as a snack by children ages 2–17, according to the market research company NPD Group.

Potato chips, fresh fruit, string cheese and prepackaged cheese cubes and shapes, and hard candy join yogurt as the top five foods eaten as snacks. Ice cream and fudge pops, chewy candy, corn chips, donuts, and snack pies and pastries round out the top 10. NPD’s SnackTrack® monitors the consumption of snack foods both in-home and away. NPD defines snack foods as foods eaten between, with, or instead of meals.

Test quickly IDs Salmonella
A newly developed test can detect and genetically identify Salmonella in contaminated foods in hours rather than days, and may help keep pace with today’s rapid food production and distribution systems.

DNA sequencing methods first developed in the 1980s are still in use today to genetically identify foodborne pathogens like Salmonella, and it can take several days to generate results. A team of researchers with Iowa State University developed a method that takes only about two-and-a-half hours from start to finish.

The method starts with a rapid polymerase chain reaction that generates millions of fluorescently labeled copies of a Salmonella specific gene. The DNA is purified in a reagent developed by Advanced Analytical, and then it is heated. This reaction cuts the DNA at all adenine and guanine sites, resulting in fragments that are then separated according to size from smallest to largest using high-voltage electric field. Scientists can use this information to determine the strain of Salmonella, as different strains of the pathogen have different DNA sequences within a given gene and yield different patterns of fragments.

The results of research conducted on this method will be presented at the August 2010 meeting of the International Association for Food Protection in Anaheim, Calif.

The researchers received support from the Grow Iowa Values Fund. For more information, visit www.news.iastate.edu/news/2010/may/StecherAATI.

New insights into food allergies
Despite growing numbers of people reporting that they suffer from food allergies, there is no definitive agreement on what constitutes a food allergy, how many of the reported food allergies are actually allergic reactions, and the best ways to test for food allergies, according to a review article published in Journal of the American Medical Association.

The study’s authors—doctors and researchers from medical facilities and university medical schools from around the United States—reviewed English-language articles indexed between January 1988 and September 2009 that dealt with the prevalence, diagnosis, management, and prevention of food allergies. After determining which of the 12,378 articles met their criteria for the study, the researchers reviewed 72 articles. They learned that there is no clear definition of food allergy, with 82% of the studies giving their own definition.

Another finding is that there is not a universal method used to test for food allergies. The researchers reported that the best test is the food challenge but it is expensive, requires specialized personnel to administer, and carries the risk of causing anaphylaxis in patients. So doctors have moved toward administering office-based tests like the skin-prick test or blood tests; however, these tests are not as accurate as the food challenge test.

“The evidence for the prevalence and management of food allergy is greatly limited by a lack of uniformity for criteria for making a diagnosis,” wrote the researchers.

The article, “Diagnosing and Managing Common Food Allergies,” appeared in the May 2010 issue of Journal of the American Medical Association.  

--- PAGE BREAK ---

Tracking restaurant snacking
Whether you are at a quick-service restaurant or a fine dining establishment, expect to see more and more menu items that contain the descriptors “snack,” “snackable,” or “snacker.” The use of these words on menus has increased by 170% since 2007, and growth is expected to continue, according to market research firm Mintel.

What’s more, by providing snacking options, restaurants can increase sales throughout the day by driving consumer traffic during nonpeak hours, said Eric Giandelone, Director of Foodservice Research at Mintel. Mintel Menu Insights tracks restaurant trends and found that consumers are most likely to seek out snacks at restaurants in the early and late afternoon, with the 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. time frame being most popular with 37% of those polled by Mintel. When snacking, 64% choose a beverage, 61% choose something portable, 52% choose an indulgent snack, 50% choose a salty snack, and 32% choose a healthy snack.

Building better beans
Beans are a food staple for millions of people around the world and are a good source of fiber and other nutrients. Scientists with the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service and Cornell University are studying the bioavailability of nutrients like iron and hope that the research can lead plant breeders to develop new and improved beans.

One development that helped to advance the research was made more than a decade ago when Raymond P. Glahn of ARS created a laboratory test that uses Caco-2 human intestinal cells to indicate how the human digestive system interacts with beans and nutrients from beans. Since that time, Glahn and his fellow researchers have confirmed an earlier finding that iron in red beans was less bioavailable than iron in white beans.

For more information about this research, visit www.ars.usda.gov/is/pr and click “Better Beans Mean Better Health for All.”

Work begins on biotech center
Construction has begun on a first-of-its-kind biotechnology center that will serve as a research and manufacturing hub for the development of ingredients for the food and beverage and biotechnology industries.

The Missouri Plant Science Center in Mexico, Mo., will be a shared-use facility with office space, wet and dry research labs, and manufacturing equipment to process soybeans and other plant-based material. Here, researchers will have the opportunity to develop and test plant-sourced ingredients and develop novel manufacturing processes. Soy Labs LLC, a soy-based ingredient supplier, will be the managing tenant. Funding from the Missouri Dept. of Economic Development, Missouri Technology Corp., and University of Missouri, along with federal funds, went toward development of the 25,000-sq-ft facility. The first tenants are expected to be operating at the center in 36–48 months.

Triclosan’s effectiveness in active packaging
Triclosan shows mixed results as an effective antimicrobial in certain active packaging material, according to research published in the Journal of Food Science.

Incorporating additives like antimicrobials into polymers used in packaging allows for molecules to diffuse into the food. This packaging is known as active food packaging.

Researchers with Federal University of Viçosa in Brazil incorporated the antimicrobial triclosan into polyethylene-and cellulose-based films and studied the antimicrobial efficacy against Staphylococcus aureus, Escherichia coli, Listeria innocua, and Pseudomonas aeruginosa in culture media, as well as the free energy of adhesion between bacteria and the antimicrobial films.

Both films allowed for the diffusion of triclosan into each culture medium, but the polyethylene film allowed for a greater amount than the cellulose film did. The researchers said that the binding between the polyethylene and the triclosan is weaker than the binding between the cellulose polymer and triclosan, making it easier for the triclosan to diffuse from the polyethylene into the culture medium. They observed inhibitory effects against S. aureus and E. coli, but not against L.innocua and P. aeruginosa.

The free energy of adhesion was thermodynamically favorable between all tested bacteria and polyethylene films and it was thermodynamically unfavorable between S. aureus and E. coli to cellulose-based films.

The study, “Effect of Active Packaging Incorporated with Triclosan on Bacteria Adhesion, ” appeared online early in Journal of Food Science, doi: 10.1111/j.1750-3841.2009.01502.x.

What’s new with food companies

• Danisco has extended its licensing agreement with Fonterra Co-operative Group for the probiotic strains Howaru®Bifido and Rhamnosus.

Faribault Foods received the 2010 Xcel Energy Efficiency Award for having the largest reduction in natural gas use in Minnesota, a total of 38.7% since 2007.

• FullBloom Baking Co.’s food manufacturing plant has received Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) platinum certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.

Hearthside Food Solutions has acquired Consolidated Biscuit Co. and the cereal division of Golden Temple of Oregon.

Lipid Nutrition’s Clarinol® CLA won the IDF Dairy Innovation Award for the best new ingredient for dairy food or beverage.

• The Food and Drug Administration issued a response letter to Monsanto’s GRAS notification supporting the use of oil from Vistive Gold soybeans under the intended conditions of use.

NSF International has opened a food safety office in San José, Costa Rica.

Ocean Spray Ingredient Technology Group has named Klass Ingredients Canada Ltd. as its sole ingredients broker in Canada.

Thermo Fisher Scientific has opened a food testing laboratory in Dreieich, Germany. 

 by Karen Nachay,  
Associate Editor
[email protected]