|Issue 65: 4 December 2009|
|Thursday, 03 December 2009|
"Always do what you are afraid to do."
Ralph Waldo Emerson, American poet, philosopher, essayist
Food bites . . . Challenges and opportunities in the yoghurt sector
Among the key category [yoghurt] trends is the consumer quest for great taste, naturalness and simplicity, and a desire to get back to basics which is also being experienced in many other grocery categories.
Chris McDonough, marketing and R&D director of Müller UK, the country's biggest yoghurt player, shares his thoughts on the yoghurt market
Editor's Stuff - The 'Climategate' storm!
On Monday 192 nations will come together in Copenhagen to try to negotiate a new international climate treaty that will allow the world to deal with the potentially catastrophic threat of global warming. In the past ten days or so, another climate change storm has erupted and quickly garnered the title of "Climategate". But such is the scientific and popular orthodoxy around climate change, the saga has failed to grab the mainstream headlines.
But as these issues are fundamental to the food industry, today and in the future, I think it's important to highlight this mess, which some are calling a "scientific tragedy" and the "worst scientific scandal of our generation".
So what's it all about? Climategate has arisen from the publication on the internet of thousands of computer records hacked from the Climate Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia. Prof Phil Jones (right), head of the CRU, has been forced to temporarily stand down from his post.
Briefly, the hacked records seem to show that a group of leading scientists calling themselves The Team colluded to exaggerate the dangers of global warming, conspired to keep contrary opinions out of peer-reviewed journals, and massaged their data to produce evidence of warming. It seems that The Team may have destroyed data when a Freedom of Information suit threatened them.
Of interest is the fact that the CRU is the main source of temperature data from around the world, and therefore a pivotal institution in the debate on climate change, and that the reputation of Prof Jones is said to have brought his university some billions in grants.
As the timeless editor-past, Ken Owen, asked of Business Day in a letter this week: "Surely all this deserves extensive and detailed coverage in Business Day lest, as a country, we rush into expensive carbon reduction schemes on the basis of science that may have been fraudulent?"
Here are some links to excellent articles on Climategate....
The scientific tragedy of Climategate
Climategate. What a hot mess.... Revelations contained in the leaked emails are roiling the scientific community and the researchers may be in pretty serious trouble. But the real tragedy of the Climategate scandal is that a lack of confidence in climate data will seriously impair mankind's ability to assess and react properly to a potentially huge problem. From reason.com
Our hopelessly compromised scientific establishment cannot be allowed to get away with the Climategate whitewash... an article by Christopher Booker in The Telegraph.
Climate change scientist Phil Jones, who is at the centre of a row over leaked email exchanges which appeared to suggest scientific data was manipulated, has insisted he "absolutely" stands by his findings. From The Telegraph
This newspaper [The Economist] believes that global warming is a serious threat, and that the world needs to take steps to try to avert it. That is the job of the politicians. But we do not believe that climate change is a certainty. There are no certainties in science. Prevailing theories must be constantly tested against evidence, and refined, and more evidence collected, and the theories tested again. That is the job of the scientists. When they stop questioning orthodoxy, mankind will have given up the search for truth. The sceptics should not be silenced. Read more
Enjoy this week's read! Email Brenda Neall, editor and publisher:
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Last week marked the official opening of Bloemfontein based Homsek Dairys UHT factory - the first dairy plant in South Africa and Africa to pack long life milk in plastic bottles. The opening comes as a culmination of a partnership between Homsek Dairy, Woolworths and Nampak Liquid. Together, they developed a special multi-layer bottle and installed sophisticated processing and filling machinery to provide the milk with the stringent hygiene and barrier properties needed for this groundbreaking project. Read more
The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries is considering severe restrictions on the importation of pork, which could result in a serious shortage of spare ribs, in particular. Read more
Seaark, a subsidiary of the Bosasa group, has canned its proposed R9-billion prawn farm at the Coega industrial development zone because of lack of funding. A group spokesman says Eskom's request for a 35% tariff increase in each of the next three years would also have made it difficult for the hi-tech, power-hungry 1200ha plant to be viable. The project which was to have been completed by 2014, with a capacity of 20 000t of prawns, was expected to create 1 000 jobs. Read more
SunOpta Inc has announced that the SunOpta Grains & Foods Group, through its wholly owned subsidiary SunOpta Africa, has entered into a strategic alliance with Specialized Protein Products of South Africa to manufacture and sell liquid and powdered soy ingredients and soy milk beverages in Africa and other international markets.
The long-troubled SPP factory, was sold to a new private group of investors in early 2008, who have been working with SunOpta since earlier this year to develop this strategic relationship. Read more
Nestlé SA said milk formula stolen from its Harrismith factory might be contaminated and unsafe for consumption. Read more
People with a taste for potato chips may have less of their favourite snacks over the festive season due to a potato shortage caused by severe weather in the winter months. Read more
Fruity Planet was started this year by a young entrepreneur, Chris Jester, who has a passion for enterprise as well as social development. He discovered Pokka's drinks during a trip through the Far East and they energised his business sense as much as his taste buds.
Pokka Corp, a leading food and beverage manufacturer in Singapore and Asia Pacific, makes a wide range of beverages and has carved a strong niche in the ready-to-drink beverage market as a brand synonymous with healthy tea, fruit drinks and coffee. Read more
The snack biscuits are packed with real fruit pieces and are ideal for those looking for an indulgent yet guilt-free snack. Read more
Cadbury would prefer that Hershey were its new owner, over Kraft Foods. "Both companies were founded by men of principle and vision who created company towns and supported charitable causes. There is quite a lot of cultural similarity. I would prefer Cadbury to be in an environment where its values and principles could continue," said Todd Stitzer, Cadbury's chief executive. Read more
SABMiller has always had a reputation for being a lean and efficient operator. But now the global beer giant has a plan to shave another US$300m/year off operating costs. Read more
Consumers are eating at home more often, the popularity of store-brands is slowing and increasing advertising spending and product creation all bode well for food makers' profitability, according to Citi analyst David Driscoll ... Food manufacturers have "all the ingredients" to see above-average earnings growth during 2010, making it a compelling investment year, he said. Read more
A new study by researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) School of Public Health shows that obesity research may be misrepresented by scientists operating with particular biases on topics related to weight, nutrition and the food industry.
The researchers refer to "white- hat bias," a tendency to distort information about products such as sugar-sweetened beverages or practices like breastfeeding, regardless of the facts, when the distortions are perceived to serve good ends. The name for the bias is a reference to do-good characters often portrayed in early Hollywood Westerns as cowboys who wore white hats. Read more
Willem van Eelen is an 86-year-old Dutchman who survived five years of near-starvation as a PoW in Japan and has now become the self-proclaimed "Godfather of In Vitro Meat". He holds the patent to a food technology that repulses and excites people in equal measure. In vitro meat also known as cultured or fake meat is becoming a holy grail for anyone concerned about the environmental and ethical impacts of rearing millions of animals around the world each year for human consumption. Read more
Campden BRI in the UK has had a phenomenal number of enquiries from food manufacturers about a project to explore alternatives to sulphites, reflecting how significant a challenge this issue represents in the trade, according to the scientist leading the study. Campden BRI is one of nine partners in the three-year EU-funded project SO2SAY, which is exploring a variety of approaches to replacing sulphur dioxide that does not sit well with clean-labelling initiatives. Read more
The speed with which China has built a dominant position in the global supply of food additives and ingredients is truly astonishing, according to a new report from Leatherhead Food Research (LFR).
China now accounts for more than 80% of global vitamin C production and 60% of xanthan gum production, according to LFR. Read more
Few companies excite such extreme emotions as Monsanto. To its critics, the agricultural giant is a corporate hybrid of Victor Frankenstein and Ebenezer Scrooge, using science to create foods that threaten the health of both people and the planet, and intellectual-property laws to squeeze every last penny out of the worlds poor. The list of Monsantos sins dates back to when (with other firms) it produced Agent Orange, a herbicide notorious for its use by American forces in Vietnam. Recently Food Inc, a documentary film, lambasted the company.
To its admirers, the innovations in seeds pioneered by Monsanto are the worlds best hope of tackling a looming global food crisis. Read more
Australian wineries are bulldozing and selling vineyards in a desperate attempt to clear cellars choked with more than 100 million wine cases in the worst glut in two decades. If the industry fails to uproot 20% of vines at least 200 million more cases will pile up over the next two years. Read more
Robert Holdstock, the two-time winner of the World Fantasy Award, four-time winner of the British Science Fiction Award and one of the best fantasy writers of his generation is dead at age 61 of complications from an E coli infection ... No additional information has been released concerning how he came to suffer from the infection, but his death has shocked the Science Fiction world. Read more
While predictive microbiology has existed for nearly a century, it has only recently come into widespread use. Predictive microbiology is a quantitative science that allows objective evaluation of the effects of processing, distribution and storage processes on the microbial quality and safety of specific food products. The system uses mathematical models and specific knowledge of certain foods and specific microorganisms. It is a useful tool for those developing and evaluating HACCP systems. Read more
Few things are as tasty, satisfying and simple than bread, and yet if we take a deeper look at bread we find the science of life, complex structures and the history of human development.
Archaeologists have correlated the development of human civilisations with the evolution of what is now regarded as the modern species of bread wheat. Bread is one of the oldest prepared foods, dating back to Neolithic times when lumps of dough, unleavened, were placed on hot stones in the embers of a wood fire. Bread soon became synonymous with life itself. Making bread was surely one of the first chemistry experiments. Read more
Widely found in energy drinks and in supplement form, L-carnitine is often touted as a miracle molecule that boosts energy and helps burn fat naturally. The claims appear to stem largely from studies showing that the molecule may improve endurance and energy in people with heart or vascular disease. But to conclude that it would do the same in healthy people is a big leap, says Dr. Ziv Haskal, professor of radiology and surgery at the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore. Read more
Those extra helpings of gravy and dessert at the holiday table are even less of a help to your waistline than previously thought. These foods hit you with a double-whammy as the already difficult task of converting high- fat and high-sugar foods to energy is made even harder because these foods also turn our bodies into "supersized fat-storing" machines. Read more
Sensient Flavors released its top 10 beverage flavour profile predictions for 2010, which encompass flavours inspired from multiple macro trends including Health & Wellness, Sensorial Experiences and Personalization.
The top 10 beverage flavor trends include. . .Read more
The science behind the theory is that this particular apple (rather unromantically named the Uttwiler Spatlauber) is a particularly long lasting variety. Which led scientists to investigate the possibility of using plant stem cells to rejuvenate our own human skin stem cells. Read more
Waitrose is to switch its own-brand foods to "sustainable" palm oil in a move intended to help prevent deforestation, climate change and other problems caused by the world's cheapest vegetable oil. Setting out a new timetable on the controversy, the retailer said it would ensure supplies for 1,000 products were certified by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) by 2012. In the meantime, it will buy GreenPalm certificates for production, equivalent to its annual usage. This turns Waitrose from one of the slowest-moving supermarkets on palm oil into one of the fastest. Read more
Popular thinking about how to improve food systems for the better often misses the point, according to the results of a three-year global study of salmon production systems from Dalhousie University, Ecotrust and the Swedish Institute for Food & Biotechnology.
Rather than pushing for organic or land-based production, or worrying about simple metrics such as "food miles," the study finds that the world can achieve greater environmental benefits by focusing on improvements to key aspects of production and distribution. The most recent published paper from the study can be found in the Environmental Science & Technology journal.
One of the most promising alternatives to plastics made from oil is polylactic acid (PLA). It is biodegradable, safe enough to be used as food packaging, can be processed like existing thermoplastics into coloured or transparent material and can be manufactured from renewable resources such as maize and sugarcane. Although PLA has been around for decades, it is only in recent years that advances in production techniques, particularly by Cargill, a big American agricultural group, have made it feasible to produce the material commercially.
Now a group of researchers led by Lee Sang-yup of the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology say they have come up with an even better way to make PLA, using the emerging science of synthetic biology. Read more
Following 118 McDonald's countries in environmental messaging, McDonald's South Africa will introduce a new generation of packaging in its local restaurants from November 2009. The new packaging uses a blend of bold text and powerful images to illustrate the ingredients used in the food preparation process. Read more
The US FDA failed to meet its deadline this week for an announcement on the safety of Bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical that is widely used in food packaging, water bottles, and baby bottles. Dozens of studies have linked BPA exposure to a slew of health problems, including breast cancer, diabetes, reproductive abnormalities, and neurological disorders. The agency reportedly needs more time to evaluate the scientific evidence before it can announce a ruling. Read more
A recent issue of Consumer Reportscontains results of a limited monitoring program that detected bisphenol A (BPA) in several of the 19 name-brand foods tested. In the latest ePerspective post from the Institute of Food Technologists, food toxicologist Carl Winter cites a CDC study showing that consumer exposure from BPA continues to be very low. Read more
The aluminum can manufacturers' move to make the tabs on cans harder to ingest is apparently too easy to swallow. The so-called stay-tabs were developed to prevent accidental ingestion of the pull-tabs that preceded them. But young people are still swallowing them, says Lane F. Donnelly, MD, director of biodiagnostics at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center. If you fiddle with the stay-tab, it can easily break off," he adds. Read more
Differing roles in prehistoric times have evolved into differing shopping styles, researchers believe. While women spent their days gathering food often with children, men were hunters who made specific plans about how to catch and kill their prey.
The two approaches to how we used to obtain food mirrors how we shop in modern times, the study believes. Professor Daniel Kruger of the University of Michigan says women would spend hours trying to find the right outfit, present or object, because they had in the past spent ages trying to find the best quality and health giving foods. Men on the other hand, decided in advance what animal they wanted to kill and then went looking for it. Once it was found - and killed - they returned home. Read more
A new UK TV series attempts to find out by analysing paintings of food and replicating the meals.
"I was genuinely shocked by how sophisticated people were back then," says restaurateur Oliver Peyton, who is fronting Eating Art, a new series about the relationship between food and art. "They had machines in front of the fires which could move back and forward and could cook a joint of meat as well as any modern oven. When you look back at the cookbooks of the time people were eating well, they had fresh food. In many ways what they did was much healthier: they just caught things and then ate them. Many of problems with hygiene have come from modern preparation and preservation methods." Read more
One thing Americans could be thankful for this Thanksgiving just past is that they have not put on as much weight as the average turkey. Between 1960 and 2008, turkeys bulked up by around 11lb (5kg) to 29lb, an increase of 64%, according to the United States Department of Agriculture. Coincidentally, in that same period the average American man gained 28lb, almost the equivalent of a turkey, according to data from the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, another government agency, and a Gallup poll of 2008. This year an estimated 250m turkeys will be raised, 8% fewer than a year ago, but still almost enough for one bird each for America's 308m people. [No link]