Volume 17. Number 6. 2012

Most Significant Inventions In The History Of Food And Drink By The Royal Society.

The food canning process using tinplate cans has been named as one of the three most significant inventions in the history of food and drink by The Royal Society, the UK's national academy of science based in London. The announcement is the outcome of a project in which a steering group of Royal Society Fellows, including a Nobel Prize winner, chaired by Sir Peter Williams listed 20 innovations. These were then voted on by Fellows of the Society and experts in the food and drink industry, who judged each on four criteria: accessibility, productivity, aesthetics and health. Top of the list was refrigeration, which was first demonstrated in Glasgow in 1748 and commercialised in 1805. Second was pasteurisation, the first test of which was in France in 1862.
Third was the tinplate food can, which was patented in the UK in 1810 and first put into production in 1813 by Bryan Donkin, FRS, and John Hall at a factory in South London. "Royal Society Fellows have played vital roles in improving people's lives for 350 years and science has a major role to play in meeting the global challenges of the 21st century," said Sir Peter Williams. "We thought it appropriate to look at how that innovation has shaped what we eat and drink. The poll reveals the huge role science and innovation have played in improving our health and our lives. This is something to which the scientific community continues to add." The steering group comprised: Sir Peter Williams, FRS, who is Treasurer and Vice President of the Royal Society and Chairman of the National Physical Laboratory. Stephen O'Rahilly, FRS, Co-Director of IMS and Director of IMS-MRL and Professor of Clinical Biochemistry and Medicine at the University of Cambridge. Sir Tim Hunt, FRS, who won the Nobel Prize for work on understanding how cells copy themselves. He joined Cancer Research UK in 1990, and the charity funded his research until he retired in 2011.

The Top 20 inventions were:
1. Refrigeration 2. Pasteurisation / sterilisation 3. Canning 4. The oven 5. Irrigation 6. Threshing machine/combine harvester 7. Baking 8. Selective breeding / strains 9. Grinding / milling 10. The plough 11. Fermentation 12. The fishing net 13. Crop rotation 14. The pot 15. The knife 16. Eating utensils 17. The cork 18. The barrel 19. The microwave oven 20. Frying. Submitted by Nampak R&D 19 Oct 2012.

World Food Day 2012: Food scientists working to find sustainable solutions to world hunger

In honour of World Food Day on Oct. 16, 2012, the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) is highlighting the role of food science in environmental sustainability—a key component to solving the world’s hunger problem.

Over the past several decades, the food processing techniques developed by food scientists ensure that the resources required to produce raw food materials and ingredients for food manufacturing are used efficiently. While the modern food is system is capable of feeding nearly 7 billion people, there are still nearly one billion people that go hungry every day.

According to IFT’s scientific review Feeding the World Today and Tomorrow: The Importance of Food Science and Technology, “approximately 30–40% of raw food materials and ingredients are lost between the points of production and consumption. The magnitude of these losses is felt far greater in developing countries than industrialized countries.”

This is why food scientists today are working harder than ever to develop new ways to further maximize the efficiency of food processing and its impact on the environment. In order to further communicate this concept, IFT is proud to unveil a new video discussing how food science and technology provide sustainable solutions throughout the food system. IFT Weekly 17-10-2012

Ecosystems on the Brink

To keep jellyfish, fungi and other creatures from radically modifying healthy habitats, scientists are exploring "food webs" and "tipping points".

In recent decades food webs across the world have been flipping, of­ten unexpectedly, on a far greater scale. Jellyfish now dominate the waters off the coast of Namibia. Hungry snails and fungi are overrunning coastal marshes in North Carolina, causing them to dissappear. In the north-western Atlantic, lobsters are proliferating while codfish have largely dissappeared.

Whether by fishing, converting land into farms and cities, or warming the planet, humanity is putting tremendous stresses on the world's ecosystems. As a result, ecologists expect many more food webs to flip in the years ahead. Predicting those sud­den changes is far from straightforward, however, because food webs can be staggeringly complex.

That is where Carpenter comes in. Taking advantage of 30 years of ecological research at Peter Lake, Carpenter and his colleagues developed mathematical models of ecological net­works that allowed them to pick up early-warning signs of the change that was coming, 15 months before its food web flipped. "We could see it a good long ways in advance," Carpenter says.

With the help of such models, he and other scientists are be­ginning to decipher some of the rules that determine whether a food web will remain stable or cross a threshold and change substantially. They hope to use their knowledge of those rules to monitor the state of ecosystems so that they can identify ones at risk of collapse. Ideally, an early-warning system would tell us when to alter human activities that are pushing an ecosystem toward a breakdown or would even allow us to pull ecosystems back from the brink. Prevention is key, they say, because once ecosystems pass their tipping point, it is remarkably difficult for them to return. Scientific American. October 2012. pg 52-57.

BPA’s real threat may be after it has metabolized

Bisphenol A (BPA) is a synthetic chemical widely used in the making of plastic products ranging from bottles and food can linings to toys and water supply lines. When these plastics degrade, BPA is released into the environment and routinely ingested. Bisphenol A [BPA] is of much concern because the BPA monomer is a weak transcriptional activator of human estrogen receptor a [ERa] and ERß in cell culture. A study published in PLOS ONE shows that the metabolic changes that take place once BPA is broken down inside the body may pose the greatest health threat. IFT The Weekly 10 Oct. 2012.

Antimicrobial peptides of lactic acid bacteria – are they the new-age antibiotics?

Antimicrobial peptides of lactic acid bacteria have been used as natural food preservatives, either added to fresh food at specific concentrations, or produced by starter cultures during fermentation. We were amongst the first research groups that explored the idea of applying these peptides in the medical and pharmaceutical fields. Our results have clearly shown that the antimicrobial properties of some of these peptides and, in specific cases, the producer cells, outweigh a number of classically used antibiotics. Two rather unique strains of Lactobacillus plantarum and Enterococcus mundtii have been developed into a probiotic with the trade name "Entiro". The product has been patented in 60 countries and will be available in pharmacies by November 2012. A wound dressing, produced from antimicrobial peptides incorporated into nanofibers, has been patented in 37 countries and will be on the market towards the end of 2013. A horse probiotic with antimicrobial properties has been developed and will hopefully be produced within the next few months. The aim is to introduce all to the wonderful world of lactic acid bacteria and their medical applications, and also the reporter genes and methods that are used to follow the migration of the strains in the body. From an advertisement for a lecture by University of Stellenbosch, Prof. Leon Dicks on 11 October 2012.

Low levels of vitamin D are associated with ischemic heart disease and early death

A study published in Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology, has tested the hypothesis that reduced blood 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels are associated with increased risk of ischemic heart disease, myocardial infarction and early death in the general population. The study by Brøndum-Jacobsen et al. compared vitamin D levels in 10,170 women and men from the Danish population living in Denmark without vitamin D-fortified food. The participants had blood samples taken in 1981-83, as part of the Copenhagen City Heart Study, and their serum levels of vitamin D recorded. The scientists compared 29-year follow-up outcomes in people whose serum levels of vitamin D were at least 50nmol/l, i.e. at or above the level currently recommended in Denmark, with outcomes in people whose serum levels were <15nmol/l. Brøndum-Jacobsen et al. observed that low levels of vitamin D compared to optimal levels are linked to 40% higher risk of ischemic heart disease, 64% higher risk of heart attack, 57% higher risk of early death, and to no less than 81% higher risk of death from heart disease. RSSL Food Enews 547. 12-26 Sept. 2012.

University of Pretoria Food Science Doctorates awarded in Sept. 2012.

Dr Constance Chiremba. Sorghum and maize grain hardness: Their measurement and factors influencing hardness. (Supervisor Prof J R N Taylor, co-supervisors Dr T Beta University of Manitoba & Prof L W Rooney Texas A & M University)

Dr Laura Da Silva. Transgenic sorghum: Effects of altered kafirin synthesis on kafirin polymerisation, protein quality, protein body structure and endosperm texture. (Supervisor Prof J R N Taylor, co-supervisor Dr J Taylor)

Dr Jeremiah Shelembe. Phenolic compounds in aqueous extracts of marama bean [Tylosema esculentum (Burchell) A. Schreiber] seed coat, sorghum (Sorghum bicolor L. Moench) bran and their bioactive properties (Supervisor Dr K G Duodu, co-supervisors Prof M J Bester & Prof A Minnaar)

Coca Cola urged to cut out carcinogen

US watchdog the Centre for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) says that Coca Cola from several countries, including Brazil, contains high levels of the carcinogen 4-methylimidazole. Its tests comes some months after the firm made changes to its drinks sold in California after a ballot initiative was passed in the state to limit people's exposure to carcinogens.

4-Methylimidazole is a by-product of the industrial production of caramel, which is used as a colouring agent in colas. Mice fed a diet high in 4-methylimidazole have a higher risk of developing cancer. Caramel with reduced levels of 4-methylimidazole, however, is available and is already being used in Californian Coke.

After the decision to use this low 4-methylimidazole caramel to meet Californian regulations, Coca Cola also said that the replacement would be expanded to all suppliers, but CSPI tests show this has yet to happen. While a Californian bottle of the beverage was found to contain only 4µg of 4-methylimidizole, a similar sample from Brazil contained 267µg. However, the dietary intake linked with cancer in mice would equate to the average human consuming around 3g of 4-methylimidazole a day. Chemistry World. 27 June 2012.

Food for thought: Eat your way to dementia

SUZANNE DE LA MONTE's rats were disoriented and confused. Navigating their way around a circular water maze - a common memory test for rodents - they quickly forgot where they were, and couldn't figure out how to locate the hidden, submerged safety platform. Instead, they splashed around aimlessly. "They were demented. They couldn't learn or remember," says de la Monte, a neuropathologist at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island.

A closer look at her rats' brains uncovered devastating damage. Areas associated with memory were studded with bright pink plaques, like rocks in a climbing wall, while many neurons, full to bursting point with a toxic protein, were collapsing and crumbling. As they disintegrated, they lost their shape and their connections with other neurons, teetering on the brink of death. Such changes are the hallmarks of Alzheimer's disease, and yet they arose in surprising circumstances. De la Monte had interfered with the way the rats' brains respond to insulin. The hormone is most famous for controlling blood sugar levels, but it also plays a key role in brain signalling. When de la Monte disrupted its path to the rats' neurons, the result was dementia. New SCIENTIST 3 SEP 2012

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