Volume 17. Number 5. 2012

Ruff defends benefits of processed foods

Speaking at a Chicago Section IFT dinner meeting on September 10, IFT President John Ruff discussed the evolution of food processing, misconceptions surrounding processed foods, the role that food scientists play, and what IFT is doing to dispel common fallacies.
Since man first discovered fire and used it to cook food, we have been processing foods, declared Ruff. Ancient Greeks transformed perishable and unpalatable products into bread, olive oil, and wine. The Industrial Revolution displaced manual labour and established the mass production of many goods, including food. This has led to an overabundance of food in some parts of the world, noted Ruff.
Many consumers have concerns about our food supply and food safety, but our food supply is safer today than it has ever been, said Ruff. He referenced an International Food Information Council study, which showed that 48% of consumers rate processed foods as "unfavorable" and only 18% give it a "favorable" mark. Consumers who view themselves as knowledgeable about food tend to have more negative views about processed foods. Ruff also highlighted research that showed while many consumers are avoiding sugars/carbohydrates (51%), fats/oils/cholesterol (32%), and salt/sodium (20%), only 1% are avoiding processed/refined foods. "Thus, we have a dichotomy but also an opportunity to make the case for processed foods," said Ruff.
According to Ruff, by 2050, there will be an additional 2 to 3 billion people to feed. Reducing post-harvest losses, which amount to up to 50% in some regions of the world, through food processing and technology can help to feed a growing population. "If we don't make the case for food processing, it just won't be our profession [food scientists], the whole world will suffer," declared Ruff.
Ruff highlighted several new IFT programs that have been produced to counter misperceptions about processed foods. These include a white paper entitled Feeding the World Today and Tomorrow, published in Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety, which provided an evolution of food science and its role in food safety, nutrition, sustainability, and feeding a planet of 9 billion people in the future. Ruff played IFT's World Without Food Science video, which shows a supermarket of empty shelves and limited, poor quality food, reflecting what the food supply would be like if food science did not exist.
"Processed foods have become synonymous with poor nutrition, which just isn't true," said Ruff. He challenged the audience to correct those misconceptions when the opportunity arises by using IFT materials at IFT Weekly Sep. 13,2012
Feeding the World Today and Tomorrow: The Importance of Food Science and Technology article
World Without Food Science public education campaign
Food Facts

Coating technology may increase bananas' shelf life

Research presented at the 244th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society shows that a spray-on solution may be able to delay the ripening of bananas. The coating is a so-called "hydrogel," a superabsorbent material like those with many medical and commercial uses, made from chitosan, a substance derived from shrimp and crab shells. Xihong Li, who presented the report, noted that chitosan is attracting considerable attention in efforts to keep fruits and vegetables fresher longer due to its action in killing bacteria that cause produce to rot. Until now, however, it has not been used to slow the ripening of bananas. Li explained that bananas like people, breathe, or respire, taking in oxygen and releasing carbon dioxide-but through their skin. The more a banana respires, the quicker it ripens. Unlike many other fruits, the respiration rate in bananas does not slow down, and bananas do not ripen slowly. The banana's pulp releases a chemical that boosts respiration, and the pulp converts into the sugars that produce that sweet, banana taste. As respiration continues, however, the process speeds up, and bananas become unpleasantly sweet and mushy. Bacteria on the banana skin start to thrive and cause the banana to rot. In their study, Li's team showed that the chitosan hydrogel coating slowed down respiration and killed bacteria that cause rotting, keeping bananas fresh for almost two weeks. IFT Weekly: 29 Aug. 2012.

Pesticide exposure in the womb may lower IQ

A Link between reduced IQ in children and their exposure to certain pesticides in the womb may set pregnant women thinking about switching to organic food.
The finding comes from three studies conducted in New York City and Salinas valley in California in which metabolites of organophosphates were measured in the urine of pregnant women or in blood from the umbilical cord.
In the Californian study, the 7-year-old children of women who had the highest pesticide levels had IQs 7 points lower, on average, than children of the women with the lowest levels (Environmental Health Perspectives, DOI: 10.1289/ehp.1003185). No relationship was found between the children's IQ scores and pesticide metabolites in their own urine, suggesting that the brain is particularly vulnerable as it is growing in the womb.
NewScientist No. 2810, 27 April 2011.
Click here to read a longer version of this story.

USDA Crop Acreage Report for 2012, confirms that US farmers continue to demonstrate overwhelming trust and confidence in biotech crops.

Dr. James (Chair of ISAAA, in the June 2012 USDA Crop Acreage Report) observed that of the 29 countries that had adopted biotech crops in 2011, 19 were developing countries and 10 were industrialized nations. China and India lead Asian adoption, Brazil and Argentina lead Latin American adoption, and South Africa leads adoption on the continent of Africa. A growth rate for biotech crops in developing countries at 11 percent, or 8.2 million hectares during 2011, was twice as fast and twice as large as industrial countries at 5 percent or 3.8 million hectares. Developing countries grew approximately 50 percent of global biotech crops in 2011 and are expected to exceed industrial countries' land area devoted to the crops in 2012, Dr. James said. Additionally, more than 90 percent of farmers planting biotech crops worldwide (equivalent to over 15 million farmers) are small resource-poor farmers in developing countries, up 8 percent or 1.3 million since 2010, he added. ISAAA PRESS RELEASE Aug 17, 2012.

Safety of GM crops and organisms questioned by British genetic scientists

A lengthy report by genetic scientists from London Kings College of Medicine entitled GMO "Truths and Myths" has used a large body of peer-reviewed scientific and other authoritative evidence to present the hazards to health and the environment posed by genetically engineered crops and organisms (GMOs).
RSSL Food e-News 544 4-18 July 2012.

Is Bird Flu Waiting to Explode?

Birds are a natural reservoir for influenza viruses that sometimes jump to humans. H5N1 strains in particular have some virologists worried because mortality may be high among the few people who have been infected, mainly from direct contact with birds. After the September 11 attacks, biodefense spending soared, leading to recent research on H5N1 lab-made strains that are transmissible among mammals. This work set off a debate between biodefense experts, who argue that the new H5N1 strains are potentially dangerous and want restrictions on research, and scientists, who argue that research on dangerous pathogens is important for improving surveillance of natural outbreaks and that hampering such work would do more harm than good. >> Scientific American Magazine >> June 2012

Salad and salad dressings - which dressing is best?

Choosing a low-fat dressing for your salad might help you keep your weight down because it has fewer calories, but you could lose some other health benefits, a study shows. In a human trial led by Purdue University researchers and published in the journal Molecular Nutrition & Food Research, participants were fed salads topped off with saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat-based dressings and their blood was tested for absorption of fat-soluble carotenoids from the salad vegetables. Carotenoids such as lutein, lycopene, beta-carotene, and zeaxanthin are widely believed to promote good health. Specifically, studies suggest that they lower the risk for certain cancers, heart disease, and the age-related eye condition macular degeneration. In the test, 29 people were fed salads dressed with butter as a saturated fat, canola oil as a monounsaturated fat and soybean oil as a polyunsaturated fat. The more fat on the salad the more carotenoids the subjects absorbed. The soybean oil rich in polyunsaturated fat showed the most dependency on dose. The saturated fat butter was also dose-dependent, but to a lesser extent. Monounsaturated fat-rich dressings, such as canola and olive oil-based dressings, promoted the equivalent carotenoid absorption at 3 grams of fat as it did 20 grams, suggesting that this lipid source may be a good choice for those craving lower fat options but still wanting to optimize absorption of health-promoting carotenoids from fresh vegetables. The researchers are taking the study further by trying to understand how meal patterns affect nutrient absorption, determining whether people absorb more nutrients if they eat vegetables at one time or spread throughout the day. RSSL Food e-News. 543. 20 June 2012.

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