Volume 19. Number 3. 2014

Resurgence of food irradiation

With the April approval of irradiation for crustaceans by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), it seems that there has been a resurgence of news on food irradiation. In a new ePerspective post, Russell Stein, Vice President of GRAY*STAR, Inc., examines where the renewed interest in the technology stems from. After all, food irradiation is not new: the FDA approved the irradiation of spices and perishable foods in the 1980s. However, as Stein explains, while it was relatively easy for the spice industry to utilize the technology that was already in place for other non-perishable products, perishable foods presented significant challenges. Only just recently have irradiators and service irradiation facilities specifically designed for perishable products become available to the food industry. Stein offers some examples of recent uses of irradiation on perishable foods. Read the ePerspective blog post to see what Stein foresees for food irradiation in the near future. The Weekly. 4 June 2014

Toxins in Nutrition Supplements Still Escape FDA Oversight

When young and middle-aged adults started showing up at the hospital with liver failure last spring, doctors in Hawaii struggled to find the thread that connected the patients. They found it in the form of a popular sports supplement, OxyElite Pro.
The supplement was linked last May to severe hepatitis, but the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, tasked with removing such dangerous substances from store shelves, did not learn of the cases until four months later. By February, months after the product was voluntarily taken off the market, there were 97 cases linked back to the supplement, including one death and three liver transplants.
These and other statistics from a new report highlight continued weaknesses in the U.S. system’s ability to protect consumers from OxyElite Pro and other untested supplements. Consumers are continually being put at risk of consuming supplements tainted with harmful substances, Pieter Cohen, a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, writes in the April 3 New England Journal of Medicine. About half of all U.S. adults take dietary supplements, meaning that literally millions of people could be at risk.
The threat of potentially toxic nutritional supplements often comes from pharmaceuticals, steroids, stimulants or other substances that are tucked inside the supplements. Just last year, Cohen and his colleagues detected a new cousin of methamphetamine in a different sports supplement. Meanwhile, FDA found a form of an amphetamine in nine supplements.
To address the woeful monitoring of nutritional supplements, Cohen calls for the creation of a supplement response team that would include clinicians, toxicologists, pharmacologists and chemists that could respond to reports of serious supplement-related adverse events in real time. Such a system, Cohen writes, would speed up responses to help protect consumers.
Scientific American, Dina Fine Maron | April 2, 2014.(With no registration requirements, South Africans are equally vulnerable. Ed.)

Climate change may reduce crop yields as early as 2030

A study published in Nature Climate Change shows that global warming of only 2°C may be detrimental to three essential food crops in temperate and tropical regions. And beginning in the 2030s, yields from those crops may start to decline significantly.
In the study, the researchers created a new data set by compiling the results from 1,700 published simulations to evaluate yield impacts of climate change with and without adaptations for rice, maize, and wheat. Due to increased interest on the impacts of climate change in global food security, the study was able to create the largest dataset to date on crop responses, with more than double the number of studies that were available for researchers to analyze for the previous IPCC Assessment Report in 2007.
Previously, scientists reported that regions of the world with temperate climates, such as Europe and most of North America, could withstand a couple of degrees of warming without a noticeable effect on harvests, or possibly even benefit from a bumper crop. With more data available now, researchers see a shift in consensus.
“Our research shows that crop yields will be negatively affected by climate change much earlier than expected. Furthermore, the impact of climate change on crops will vary both from year-to-year and from place-to-place—with the variability becoming greater as the weather becomes increasingly erratic,” said University of Leeds Professor Andy Challinor, lead author of the study.
The researchers conclude that, on aggregate, we will see an increasingly negative impact of climate change on crop yields from the 2030s onward. The impact will be greatest in the second half of the century, when decreases of more than 25% will become increasingly common. These statistics account for possible adaptation techniques by farmers to mitigate the effects of climate change, such as adjustments in the crop variety and planting date. Later in the century, greater agricultural transformations and innovations will be needed in order to safeguard crop yields for future generations. IFT Weekly Newsletter: March 26, 2014

Researchers identify health benefits of dark chocolate

A study presented at the 247th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS) shows the exact reason why consuming dark chocolate has health benefits. According to the researchers, certain bacteria in the stomach digest the chocolate into anti-inflammatory compounds that are good for the heart.
The team tested three cocoa powders using a model digestive tract, comprised of a series of modified test tubes, to simulate normal digestion. They then subjected the non-digestible materials to anaerobic fermentation using human fecal bacteria.
Cocoa powder, an ingredient in chocolate, contains several polyphenolic compounds such as catechin and epicatechin, and a small amount of dietary fiber. Both components are poorly digested and absorbed, but when they reach the colon, the desirable microbes take over. “In our study we found that the fiber is fermented and the large polyphenolic polymers are metabolized to smaller molecules, which are more easily absorbed. These smaller polymers exhibit anti-inflammatory activity,” said John Finley, who led the research.

Scientists Develop Biofortified Sorghum for Africa

Scientists from Dupont successfully developed biofortified sorghum which was intended to contribute to food and nutrition security most especially for people from Africa.
Dupont Pioneer scientists and other researchers from the U.S. and Africa are currently working to produce improved sorghum varieties enriched with vitamin A precursor, iron, and zinc through plant breeding or modern biotechnology techniques. These efforts are part of the African Biofortified Sorghum (ABS) initiative which aims to benefit millions of Africans. Sorghum is one of the staple crops in the continent but it is lacking key nutrients such as vitamin A. Up to 500,000 children in Africa become blind due to vitamin A deficiency (VAD) and about 600,000 women die from childbirth-related causes, many from complications that could be reduced through healthy diets containing vitamin A.
DuPont recently won the ‘Patents for Humanity' Award from the United States Patent and Trademark Office for its willingness to share its intellectual property that has resulted in revolutionary research to strengthen the nutritional profile of sorghum and help improve public health in target African countries. Crop Biotech Update (March 12, 2014)

USDA researchers develop new technique for pasteurizing raw eggs

A study published in Agricultural Research shows that there may be a faster way to pasteurize raw, in-shell eggs without ruining their taste, texture, color, or other important qualities. The pasteurization procedure targets Salmonella.
Researchers at the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) have developed a pasteurization process, currently in the prototype stage, which killed 99.999% of the Salmonella that they injected into raw in-shell eggs for their laboratory tests. When commercialized, the pasteurization procedure would provide an alternative to an hour-long hot-water-immersion process. The new method begins with positioning each raw egg between two electrodes that send radio waves back and forth through it. While that is happening, the egg is slowly rotated, and is sprayed with water, to offset some of the heat created by the radio waves. Unlike conventional heating, the radio-frequency (RF) heating warms the egg from the inside out. It enables the dense, heat-tolerant yolk at the center of the egg to receive more heat than the delicate, heat-sensitive egg white. A comparatively brief hot-water bath comes next. The warmth of the bath helps the yolk retain heat to complete the pasteurization. The bath also pasteurizes the egg white without over processing it. From start to finish, the treatment takes approximately 20 min, making it about three times faster than the hot-water-immersion technique. IFT Weekly Newsletter: April 2, 2014

Global Status of Commercialized Biotech/GM Crops: 2013

By Clive James, Founder and Emeritus Chair, ISAAA
If you are interested in a summary of Biotech / GM crops world wide for 2013 you can download it:

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