Volume 20. Number 5. 2015

What the Peanut Poisoning Case Means for the Food Industry

Very recently, a former food industry CEO Stewart Parnell, 61, was sentenced to 28 years in prison for his role in a massive 2008-2009 salmonella outbreak that caused sickness in more than 700 Americans and nine deaths.

Parnell, the former CEO of the peanut processing company Peanut Corporation of America (PCA), was sentenced alongside his brother Michael Parnell, who was sentenced to 20 years in prison. Mary Wilkerson, a former manager of quality control at PCA, was sentenced to five years. The sentencing was historic, marking the first sentence of significant jail time for causing foodborne illness. Parnell’s case made headlines pre-sentencing when the U.S. Probation Office calculated that based on his convictions (over 65 felony counts), he could spend life in prison.

“I think there is a general aura of apprehension and a little bit of uncertainty as it relates to when the next foot is going to drop,” says Shawn Stevens, a global food safety attorney who helps companies eliminate food safety risks. “I’ve already had multiple conversations with clients asking what they can do within their companies to avoid a similar fate. I’ve counselled them all to tell their employees that, starting this morning, food safety comes first.” TIME HEALTH 22 Sep 2015

Beef vs. Bean Meals: Both Provide Similar Feeling of Fullness

Today vegetarians aren’t the only group of consumers looking for foods that are meat-free and provide a satisfying meal. All types of consumers are looking to manage and maintain weight with plant-based meal options with ingredients such as protein isolates, whole legumes, whole grains and vegetables. A new study in the Journal of Food Science, published by the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT), found that a bean-based meal provided a similar feeling of fullness compared to a beef-based meal.

Researchers from the University of Minnesota had 28 participants (14 men and 14 women) consume two test lunches containing a “meatloaf” made from either beef or beans. The beef meal provided 26 grams of protein and three grams of fiber, while the bean meal provided 17 grams of protein and 12 grams of fiber. Both meals were matched in weight, calories, and total fat. All the participants showed no difference in appetite ratings between the beef and bean meals over three hours. In addition they consumed the same amount of calories at the next meal eaten.
Protein is considered to be the number one nutrient that induces the feeling of fullness, with fiber coming in a close second. While protein intake releases appetite suppressing hormones, the beneficial effects of fiber on appetite and food include slowing down the digestion process and helping control blood sugar levels to increase the feeling of fullness for longer. The findings of this study support the idea that plant-based proteins with high fiber may offer similar appetite regulation as animal protein.
Read the abstract in Journal of Food Science here . September 18, 2015

Genetic Engineering Transforms Common Plant to Produce Cancer Drug

Scientists from Stanford University reported in Science that they have successfully isolated a cancer fighting compound from endangered plant Himalayan mayapple and genetically engineered a common laboratory plant to produce the cancer-fighting compound. This study could lead to creating cheaper and more stable source of the cancer drug.

In the plant, a number of proteins work together to produce a chemical defense against predators. The chemical defence is modified in the lab and eventually becomes the cancer drug called etoposide. The starting material for this chemical defence is a harmless molecule present in leaves. When predators attack the plant, the harmless molecule transforms into a different form, creating a chemical defence for the plant. The researchers found that after wounding the leaf, 31 new proteins are produced. Then they eventually found that 10 of the proteins are vital for the full assembly line. They placed the genes to produce those proteins into a common lab plant and the plant began producing the chemical they needed. The next step for the researchers is to produce the molecular machinery in yeast, which can be grown in large vats in the lab.
Crop Biotech Update. 16 September 2015
Read the media release from Stanford University and research article from Science.

Efficacy of Sanitizer Treatments on Survival and Growth Parameters of Escherichia coli O157:H7, Salmonella, and Listeria monocytogenes on Fresh-Cut Pieces of Cantaloupe during Storage.

Ukuku DO1, Huang L2, Sommers C3.


For health reasons, people are consuming fresh-cut fruits with or without minimal processing and, thereby, exposing themselves to the risk of foodborne illness if such fruits are contaminated with bacterial pathogens. This study investigated survival and growth parameters of Escherichia coli O157:H7, Salmonella, Listeria monocytogenes, and aerobic mesophilic bacteria transferred from cantaloupe rind surfaces to fresh-cut pieces during fresh-cut preparation. All human bacterial pathogens inoculated on cantaloupe rind surfaces averaged ~4.8 log CFU/cm(2), and the populations transferred to fresh-cut pieces before washing treatments ranged from 3 to 3.5 log CFU/g for all pathogens. A nisin-based sanitizer developed in our laboratory and chlorinated water at 1,000 mg/liter were evaluated for effectiveness in minimizing transfer of bacterial populations from cantaloupe rind surface to fresh-cut pieces. Inoculated and uninoculated cantaloupes were washed for 5 min before fresh-cut preparation and storage of fresh-cut pieces at 5 and 10°C for 15 days and at 22°C for 24 h. In fresh-cut pieces from cantaloupe washed with chlorinated water, only Salmonella was found (0.9 log CFU/g), whereas E. coli O157:H7 and L. monocytogenes were positive only by enrichment. The nisin-based sanitizer prevented transfer of human bacteria from melon rind surfaces to fresh-cut pieces, and the populations in fresh-cut pieces were below detection even by enrichment. Storage temperature affected survival and the growth rate for each type of bacteria on fresh-cut cantaloupe. Specific growth rates of E. coli O157:H7, Salmonella, and L. monocytogenes in fresh-cut pieces were similar, whereas the aerobic mesophilic bacteria grew 60 to 80 % faster and had shorter lag phases.
J Food Prot. 2015 Jul;78(7):1288-95. doi: 10.4315/0362-028X.JFP-14-233.

Bitter truth: How we’re making fruit and veg less healthy

In an effort to cater to our sweet tooth, food producers are making fruit and veg taste less bitter. The trouble is, that's making them worse for us.
WHERE have all the white grapefruit gone? When I was a kid, they were almost the only kind around, but today white grapefruit are hard to find in my local shops, often replaced by sweeter pink or red varieties.
I’m not imagining it. Thirty years ago, Florida, the grapefruit capital of North America, produced 27 million boxes of white and 23 million boxes of the coloured varieties. Today, they ship more than twice as many red and pink grapefruit as they do whites ones. And it turns out grapefruit is a bellwether of a more insidious trend. It affects much of the fresh produce aisle, from cauliflower to potatoes, tomatoes and juices. Our fruit and vegetables are becoming less bitter.
On the face of it, reducing bitterness in foods sounds like a great idea. Wouldn’t it be nice if broccoli were always mild and sweet ...New Scientist 29 July 2015.

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