Optimizing fats for ice cream
To help make better use of vegetable fats in ice cream, research scientists at the University of Guelph, Ontario, Canada, worked to determine an optimal ratio of solid-to- liquid fats using highly saturated palm kernel oil and monounsaturated high-oleic sunflower oil.

The use of vegetable fats instead of milk fats in ice cream is common in many countries around the world, and their use is increasing in the United States. Vegetable fats have different saturated-to-unsaturated triglyceride ratios than dairy fats, and changing the ratios can affect the structural fat network in ice cream.

The researchers used blends of a hard fraction of palm kernel oil and high-oleic sunflower oil that ranged from 40% to 100% palm kernel oil in the processing of ice cream samples. They found that blends containing 60%–80% solid fat produce ice cream with optimal structure, low rates of meltdown, and the smallest air bubble size.

“These results will help manufacturers to optimize the blend of fats for both functionality and cost,” reported the researchers. “There is also a desire to reduce saturated fats in fat blends used for ice cream, and the results presented here will help in developing strategies for replacement of the structural role of saturated fat while maintaining optimal quality. This might allow for the addition of highly unsaturated oils, like omega-3 fish oils, in ice cream formulations.”

The study, “Effect of Solid Fat Content on Structure in Ice Creams Containing Palm Kernel Oil and High-Oleic Sunflower Oil,” was published in the April 2010 issue of Journal of Food Science.

Chain eateries to post calorie info
While most of the information contained in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which President Obama signed into law in March, obviously pertains to health care, there is one provision in the new law that will affect chain restaurants.

Section 4205 Nutrition Labeling of Standard Menu Items at Chain Restaurants states that as early as 2011, a restaurant or similar retail food establishment with 20 or more locations doing business under the same name must post calorie amounts of foods and beverages on menus and menu boards, including those at drive-through windows.

Additionally, these restaurants will be required to provide printed material available to those customers who request it that lists total calories and calories from fat, amounts of fat and saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium, total and complex carbohydrates, sugars, dietary fiber, and protein. Menu and menu boards must contain a statement informing customers that the additional nutrition information is available by request. For food sold at salad bars, buffet establishments, cafeteria lines, or other similar self-service facilities, the restaurants will need to place signs that list the calories per serving next to each product.

Of course, there are exceptions to the labeling standards, and these include items that are not listed on a menu or menu board (e.g., condiments); daily specials; temporary menu items that appear on the menu for less than 60 days per calendar year; custom orders; and items that are part of market testing that appear on the menu for less than 90 days.

The new law will preempt many existing regulations enacted by some states and local governments but those that go above and beyond what is required by the national standards will be allowed to remain in place.

Analyzing gelatin properties
Gelatin derived from the skin of silver carp has rheological properties that are similar to commercially available sources like pigskin, according to researchers from Cornell University. This, they add, is important to food formulators who develop products for the Muslim and Jewish communities, whose members do not eat pork or pork-derived products.

Gel samples were prepared from various sources of gelatin: silver carp, fish (species not identified), chicken, pigskin, bone (presumably beef), and high molecular weight fish gelatin (species not identified). The researchers took stress, strain, time, and frequency sweep measurements and performed creep-recovery testing, texture profile analysis, and sodium dodecyl sulfate polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis to determine rheological and textural characteristics of the gels. The results showed that silver carp skin gelatin had high gel strength, viscosity, and melting and gelling temperatures, which were similar to those of pigskin, bone, and chicken gelatins. The only exception was that the commercial high molecular weight fish skin gelatin had a lower elastic modulus, meaning that its gel strength was low compared to the other gelatin samples. The researchers concluded that the silver carp skin gelatin is a suitable alternative to pigskin, bone, and chicken gelatins.

In addition to finding a source of gelatin acceptable to halal and kosher standards, the researchers said that using the by-products of fish may help to reduce waste.

The study, “Rheological Properties of Gelatin from Silver Carp Skin Compared to Commercially Available Gelatins from Different Sources,” appeared online early in Journal of Food Science, doi: 10.1111/j.1750-3841.2010.01543.x.

PepsiCo to reduce sugar, sodium
PepsiCo Inc. recently announced that it will reduce added sugar, sodium, and saturated fat across its food and beverage portfolio as part of its larger global goals in health and wellness, environmental sustainability, and workplace practices.

The company calls this business initiative “Performance with Purpose” and it includes actions such as reducing the average sodium per serving in many of its global food brands by 25% by 2015; increasing the amounts of whole grains, fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds, and low-fat dairy in its products; reducing the average added sugar per serving in many of its global beverage brands by 25% by 2020; eliminating the direct sale of full-sugar soft drinks to primary and secondary schools around the world by 2012; reducing packaging weight by 350 million lb by 2012; improving occupational health and safety metrics through best practices; offering global workplace wellness programs; and others.

PepsiCo is one of 10 leading food and beverage companies to sign the “Global Commitment to Action on the Global Strategy on Diet, Physical Activity and Health,” a strategy adopted by the World Health Organization. Some of the goals outlined by the company address some of the WHO objectives to improve diet.

Gluten-free offerings increase
The number of products marketed as gluten free had double-digit growth in 2009 and was more than double the level in 2007, and this increase resulted from consumers’ growing health awareness of gluten intolerance, according to market research firm Innova Market Insights.

Gluten intolerance is not the only reason that consumers are purchasing gluten-free products, however; some consumers are driven by issues of overall well-being, digestive health, weight management, and nutritional value, reported Innova.

In the United Kingdom, major retailers that sell their own “free-from” products, including gluten-free, lactose-free, and dairy-free, are also driving the interest in gluten-free products. Innova noted that Sainsbury, Tesco, and Waitrose in 2009 extended their gluten-free offerings across sectors like bakery and cereal products, sauces, pizza, and meat products. In the United States, the number of value-added product launches that make a gluten-free claim, in addition to other claims, is increasing more than the number of products that make only a gluten-free claim. Innova estimates that gluten-free food sales in the U.S. are more than $1.5 billion annually, and sales of overall free-from foods are more than $3 billion.

Students win award for sustainable design
Three forward-thinking middle school students designed a sustainable system to produce food, winning the grand prize at the 2010 National Engineers Week Future City Competition.

The seventh- and eighth-grade students from Davidson International Baccalaureate Middle School, Davidson, N.C., won both the Best Sustainable Food Production System award from the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers (ASABE) and the 2010 Future City Competition national championship from the National Engineers Week Foundation for proposing and outlining sustainable strategies to feed the residents of their fictitious “city of the future.” Some of the sustainable food production methods they proposed for their city include producing foods using micro-propagation (plant tissue culture to grow new plants); growing foods in vertical hydroponic farms, which reduces land use; and using organic waste to support fish production.

The goal of this year’s competition was to design a city using sustainable and environmentally friendly technologies. ASABE was one of several organizations that offered specialized awards in specific areas, in this case, one that recognized methods and technologies that allow the residents of the city to produce food in ways that could preserve soil, water, and energy.

For more information about the competition, visit www.futurecity.org.

What’s new with food companies
Gadot Biochemical Industries has received British Retail Consortium Certification with Grade A for the manufacture of citric acid and sodium citrate.

Innophos’ food salts plant in Coatzacoalcos, Mexico, received an “excellent” food safety rating from AIB International based on inspections of its operational methods, cleaning practices, integrated pest management, and others.

Martek Biosciences Corp.’s life’sDHA omega-3 ingredient is now included in ToBe Healthy pasta sauces from Francesco Rinaldi.

SunOpta Grains and Foods Group has completed an upgrade and retrofit at its Alexandria, Minn., aseptic processing and packaging facility.

Wacker announced that its Wacker Fine Chemicals division is now operating under the Wacker Biosolutions name.

by Karen Nachay,
Associate Editor
[email protected]