Volume 9. Number 6. 2004

SAAFoST has responded to the proposed amendments to the regulations under Act 101(Drugs Control). In both a written and an oral response, the association supported the need for the sound regulatory control of food and requested that it be made clear that foodstuffs as defined in the FDC Act are excluded from the "Medicines Act". FACS responded in the same vein.

Congratulations to Aubrey Parsons who has been awarded an Honorary degree 'Doctor Technologiae' by the Technikon Witwatersrand as announced at the Graduation Ceremony for the Faculty of Health Sciences on 21 October 2004.

The number of information leaflets on the FACS site - - continues to grow. The latest addition was on avian flu.

The SAAFoST Congress "TrendSpotting 2005- Fashion-Driven Food Science" will be held in Stellenbosch from 5 to 7 Sepember and is being organised by the Cape Branch under the Chairmanshipof Rosie Maguire.

Devil's Claw Study To Offer Final Proof Of Osteoarthritis Benefits - 21/07/2004

A new study into the efficacy of the herbal devil's claw could offer definitive proof of the benefits of the plant for osteoarthritis sufferers, claims the lead researcher. Devil's claw, derived from the roots of a South African plant, has been available over the counter for some time, sold to consumers searching for an alternative to the nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) commonly prescribed by doctors to help relieve arthritis pain. These can have serious side effects. Its use in Europe has grown rapidly with the escalating number of arthritis sufferers, rising due to an ageing population as well as an increase in one of the major risk factors, obesity.

The global market currently uses between 600 and 700 metric tons of raw material each year, according to German company Martin Bauer, which has recently begun harvesting what it claims is the first specially cultivated crop. Sales of the extract in Germany alone were worth €8 million in 1999, rising 113 per cent the next year and 59 per cent in 2001 to €27 million, according to Phytopharm Consulting. In 2002 it was worth €31 million. But researchers at the UK-based University of Southampton's Complementary Medicine Research Unit say they need more data on the optimum dose required, as well as long-term safety and efficacy.

"There have been a number of studies on the plant but some of these are only observational and the double-blind, randomized trials were mostly small," Dr Sarah Brien, the principal researcher, told

The Southampton researchers are aiming to recruit 260 patients with knee osteoarthritis aged over 40. "This is a large study that is powered to give us a definite answer on the efficacy of devil's claw," said Dr Brien.

She added that previous trials looking at efficacy had not been carried out for more than six weeks, whereas clinically a patient will take this for two to three months. Patients in the new placebo-controlled study will be on one of three different dosage levels to assess the optimum dose required and the long-term safety of the supplement. "Often patients take it in conjunction with conventional treatments so we want to look at whether this is reasonable," she added.

More than 7 million adults in the UK - 15 per cent of the population - have long-term health problems due to arthritis and related conditions, according to the Arthritis Research Campaign, and 550,000 have moderate to severe osteoarthritis in their knees.

Other ingredients commonly taken in supplement form for osteoarthritis include glucosamine, sales of which are thought to be rising by around 10 per cent annually. Consumption of glucosamine is much higher than devil's claw at between 4,000-6,000 tons annually but the ingredient is currently facing a major supply shortage.

What Do We Mean By Food Professionalism?

The terms"profession" or "professional" are often bandied about, but what do they signify, and importantly, what do they signify to IUFOST and its adhering bodies?
For us, we start from the recognition that food science and technology:

  • is not only a subject
  • is not only an occupation•it is also a profession, comparable to the medical profession or those of the long-established single discipline sciences
A profession is based on a recognised body of learning, and accepts and fulfills obligations to do all of the following:
  • serve the public interest
  • advance and extend the knowledge base of its subject
  • set and operate standards of integrity through an ethical code of conduct
  • set and operate standards of competence
  • assist the career development of, and provide services to the practitioners
  • concern itself with further training and updating of practitioners
  • concern itself with attracting and training new entrants
From an article by Prof Ralph Blanchfield in IUFOST Newsline 58 (August 2004)

Street Vendors Come Out Tops

In the past, Prof L Anelich reported that some 54% of fast food outlets gave or sold their old oil to their employees. Following upon this, Prof Renate Roux vd Merwe and Masters student Sivuyile Mnqanqeni at the Tshwane University of Technology (TUT) have found that only 1.8% of the 163 street vendors sampled were using frying oil that could be classed as being unfit for human consumption, whereas in the formal sector 10 to 12% of the samples were found to be unfit for human consumption (containing >25% polar compounds and >16% polymerised triglycerides). The street vendors usually only fry one product in their oil which has advantages over frying several different products in the same oil. Also, it was found that vendors mostly purchased fresh sunflower oil for frying and only 1% was second hand. "I hope, that after this exercise you know where to buy your lunchtime snack" quipped Mnqanqeni. Pretoria News 13/09/2004

Soy Protein Isoflavones Do Not Reduce Postmenopausal Complications

According to a recent report in the British Medical Journal (Vol. 329, No. 7469), postmenopausal supplementation with soy protein containing isoflavones does not improve cognitive function or affect bone mineral density or plasma lipids. According to the authors, previous studies evaluating an effect of isoflavones on postmenopausal hot flushes have also found minimal benefit. These authors evaluated whether naturally occurring plant isoflavones (phytoestrogens) can be used as an effective alternative for traditional oestrogen therapy. They assigned 202 healthy postmenopausal women aged 60 to 75 years in a double blind fashion (uncertain allocation concealment) to receive 25.6 g of soy protein containing 99 mg of isoflavones (52 mg genistein, 41 mg daidzein, and 6 mg glycetein) or matching placebo on a daily basis for 12 months. For more information, see cgi/content/full/329/7469/0-f .IFT News Oct. 6 2004

Nobel Prize Awarded For Olfactory Research

The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for 2004 has been jointly awarded to Richard Axel and Linda B. Buck for their discoveries of "odorant receptors and the organization of the olfactory system." Richard Axel, New York, USA, and Linda Buck, Seattle, USA, published the fundamental paper jointly in 1991, in which they described the very large family of about one thousand genes for odorant receptors. The olfactory system is of prime importance in food tastes. When something tastes really good it is primarily activation of the olfactory system which helps us detect the qualities we regard as positive. For more information on their work see: IFT News Oct. 6 2004

Scientists Confirm Cause Of Declining Rice Yields

Decreased availability of soil organic nitrogen, a key crop nutrient, has been eyed as a possible explanation for significant yield declines for some growers of lowland rice (Oryza sativa) in Asia. The declines come after several years of intensive cropping in regions where two to three rice crops per year are common. The researchers, Dan Olk of the ARS Soil and Water Quality Research Unit in Ames, Iowa, J. D. Mao, and Klaus Schmidt-Rohr of Iowa State, found strong evidence supporting the role of nitrogen deprivation in the yield decline. They found that in oxygen-free environments such as flooded rice paddies, nitrogen bonds strongly with soil organic matter, the dark-coloured material remaining after crop straw and roots added to the soil have finished their initial decomposition. The result is unusually stable nitrogen forms not readily available to growing plants. For more information, see IFT Newsletter 1. Sept. 2004.

Bio-Energy Tapped From Spinach

Another type of biotechnology is underway at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where Shuguang Zhang of the institute's Laboratory of Molecular Self-Assembly has integrated a protein complex, derived from spinach chloroplasts, with organic semiconductors to make a solar cell that can be combined with solid-state electronics: an electronic device that uses spinach to convert light into electrical charge. Inspired by the light transfer reactions that drive photosynthesis in plants, the device developed by Zhang uses the same process to feed electrons into organic semiconductors aligned on top of a layer of glass.

Zhang's team managed to artificially stabilize the protein complex at the heart of their system, comprised of 14 protein subunits and hundreds of chlorophyll molecules, using synthetic peptides to bind small amounts of water to it, within a sealed unit. The resulting cells are much thinner and lighter than existing solar panels and could eventually be used to make much more efficient panels, says Zhang. Although the prototype device can't rival commercial solar cells made of silicon, it demonstrates a new strategy for making longer-lasting photovoltaic cells. The system is far from perfect, however. The peptides used keep the protein complex stable only for about 3 weeks, and the cells convert only 12% of light to electrical charge. But Zhang says efficiency could be boosted dramatically by layering numerous cells on top of one another, as they will still let some light through. CropBiotech Update, 24 Sept 04. Biolines No. 65

IFT Food Technology - 10 Food Trends For 2004:

  1. Consumer awareness of eating healthy is growing. They seek foods with nutritional enhancements.
  2. More seek low carb, high protein foods than in 2002.
  3. Seek healthier food for children; will trade convenience for health.
  4. Eating to: reduce cholesterol, reduce trans fats, promote heart health.
  5. Recognise that functional foods provide health benefits. Look for ingredients with health benefits.
  6. Buy beverages for better health. Bottled water sales exceed coffee and beer.
  7. Energy drinks fastest growing market sector.
  8. Restaurants down-sizing portions, offer low carb alternatives, and milk & fruit replace soda & cookies.
  9. Organic foods not proven better but consumers want the choice.
  10. Global weight loss market is US$ 240 billion!

Does The Atkins Diet Work?

A review of the literature by a Danish research team suggests that low carbohydrate diets, such as the Atkins diet, are safe for about six months, but after that time there is little data about their long-term health effects. The group also says that followers of the diet suffer from muscle cramp, diarrhea, general weakness, and rashes more frequently than people on low-fat diets. For more information, see The Lancet of Sept. 4, 2004. IFT Newsletter. September 8, 2004

Snippets - contributions are welcome. Edited and produced by Dr. B Cole. – / Fx 011 660 6444 with the help of the Northern Branch Committee.