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Issue 98: 3 September 2010

“The difference between school and life? In school, you’re taught a lesson and then given a test. In life, you’re given a test that teaches you a lesson.”

Tom Bodett, American author and humourist


Food bites… The fundamental contradictions of modern food

Image “And that brings us to the fundamental contradictions of modern food: how to celebrate flavour, skill and quality without falling for all the local and organic bullshit; how to criticise the sharp practices of industrial food producers while celebrating the benefits of mass-produced food; how to see through the panics about obesity and diet while recognising that what we eat could also be better than it is now; recognising that learning the skill of cooking is an invaluable element of independence without falling for the lie that being chained to the kitchen will somehow solve every other social problem.”
Rob Lyons, in a crit on the book Medium Raw: A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People Who Cook, by Anthony Bourdain. Read more  

Editor’s Stuff – Snapshots of IUFoST 2010Brenda

It’s been back to reality this week after all the excitement and buzz of IUFoST 2010. Hard to believe it has come and gone, after so many years in the scheming, bidding, winning, planning, organising and doing.

The Local Organising Committee no doubt collapsed in a heap this week – deservedly so. They put together an enormous, slick, world-class event that did SAAFoST and the SA food industry more than proud.

I’ve compiled some snapshots of the event – how to even begin reporting on something this big is daunting! So take a look at some congress moments, expo highlights as well as the IUFoST Global Food and President’s Awards. And there are some excellent insights from Innova, using the posters it had on its stand.

If one theme dominated the plenary sessions at IUFoST 2010 it was sustainability and the multifaceted impacts of the likes of climate change, population growth, water scarcity, environmental degradation and so on. These talks, from some of the world’s best scientific brains looking at these problems, were brilliantly enlightening and also profoundly chilling.

We are now faced with a horrible hangover from the 19th and the 20th centuries, expansive eras seemingly without boundaries — a time of the industrial revolution, jet planes, space travel and the Internet — and all so quickly, the early years of the 21st have shown us the limits of our small world. The constraints on our resources and environment — compounded by the rise of the middle class in nations such as China and India — will shape the rest of this century and beyond. How we collectively respond will determine mankind’s destiny. Most acutely, these issues affect you, the food producers, and I shall continue to cover them in detail in this forum.

Enjoy this week’s read!

Email Brenda Neall, editor and publisher:

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Local Food Industry Stuff

IUFoST 2010Snapshots of IUFoST 2010

IUFoST 2010, or the 15th World Congress of Food Science and Technology, held last week at the CTICC in Cape Town, was a resounding success and arguably the best ever in its 30 years. Gunnar Sigge, the new president of SAAFoST and the chair of the scientific panel who chose and vetted all the presentations and posters, said: “The only criticism I’ve heard is that there were too many sessions for delegates to attend everything. If that’s criticism, I’ll take it!” Read more

IUFoST 2010 expoIUFoST 2010: Snapshots of the expo

The exhibition accompanying IUFoST 2010 was a sell-out success. There were over 80 exhibitors and many others promoted their wares via the Product Theatre, a showcase for advertorial presentations. Overall, the venue and event allowed a vibrant opportunity for networking and business – with hundreds of international and local food scientists and technologists, as well as many local visitors to the expo alone. Every exhibitor polled reported buoyant interest and a very rewarding three days. Read more

IUFOST 2010 GFA winnersIUFoST 2010: The Global Food Award Winners

Ten Global Food Industry Awards were presented by IUFoST president, Geoffrey Campbell-Platt, at IUFoST 2010 congress. Taking place every two years, the awards recognise exceptional products, packaging and communication campaigns. Only four nominations per category were allowed from each country. Here are the winners in three categories, with SA scooping four. Read more

IUFOST 2010 Innova insightsIUFoST 2010: Innova Insights & Trends

At IUFoST 2010, Innova Market Insights presented a colourful poster analysis of the trends driving product development today and in the future, covering areas such as flavour ideas, beverage and confectionery innovation, emerging consumer groups, and how health-positioned products are moving away from the functional food concept to the exploitation of foods’ natural functionality. View its posters here.

ImageAnchor yeast now naturally high in vitamin D

Leading South African yeast supplier, Anchor Yeast, has launched Vitamin D Yeast after pioneering a process to produce bakers yeast that naturally contains vitamin D, without influencing the leavening process or the flavour of the bread. FOODStuff SA. Read more

Will Coca-Cola’s vitaminwater be the Consumer Protection Act’s first scalp?

ImageLocal consumer rights advocates say the Consumer Protection Act, due to be enforced from October 2010, could make way for a South African legal class action suit against Coca-Cola for misleading claims on its Glacéau vitaminwater

“We hope the new Consumer Protection Act will allow consumers far more protection from these outrageous claims that manufacturers put on their bottled water. The new act has much stricter control over the labelling of products, and states that the labelling and advertising of products must not be misleading,” said Paul Crankshaw, deputy chairman of South Africa’s National Consumer Forum. The Daily Maverick. Read more  

The awful dilemmas in SA’s maize glut

ImageThanks to good rains and improved seed and technology, this year’s maize crop was South Africa’s second biggest ever. And thanks to a strong rand and favourable global weather, maize prices are so low that farmers can barely give the stuff away. At current prices, virtually every maize farmer is losing between R300 and R450 for each ton of maize produced, and between them they produced around 12 million tons.

If the same thing happens in 2011 – and there is currently really no reason to believe it won’t – farmers predict that somewhere between a quarter and a third of them will go out of business before the end of that year, even as the country runs out of storage space to hold their produce. That means a disaster in employment next year, but much greater trouble with everything from food security to land redistribution for a long time to follow. The Daily Maverick. Read more

ImageGareth Ackerman of Pick n Pay: prepared to speak out

It is a mark of the business community’s craven sycophancy that, when Pick n Pay chairman Gareth Ackerman raised his voice against government threats to the media, he was accorded instant hero status by an almost pathetically grateful press and public. Here, at last, was a business leader with backbone – just when we feared the breed was extinct. What a relief. But perhaps it should be tempered. Read more

Food Industry News


ImageWhat to make of the would-be potash snatch by BHP Billiton?

Hardly a morning passes without food making the headlines… this month has also seen news reports on escalating wheat and coffee prices due to bad weather and poor harvests. Then on August 19 came the headline “Australian mining giant launches hostile $40-billion takeover bid for world’s largest potash supplier”. It is not immediately apparent what we’re talking about here, but this is City champagne bar speak for “world runs out of food”. This really is news about food that consumers should be fearful of. The Telegraph. Read more

Resource wars: the global crisis behind BHP Billiton’s bid for Potash Corp

 …. But behind the rhetoric is a bidding war that lays bare the global struggle for resources on a planet struggling with water and food  shortages, overpopulation and pollution. And it highlights a question that overshadows the 21st century: how to provide enough food for a global population that is set to rise from 6.8 billion to more than 9 billion by 2050, according to the United Nations. The Guardian. Read more

Tainted eggs are linked to contaminated chicken feed

ImageFDA investigators have homed in on chicken feed as a likely major contributor to the salmonella contamination that triggered a nationwide egg recall and potentially caused nearly 1,500 cases of illness.

Feed found at Wright County Egg in Iowa tested positive for salmonella, FDA officials said at a joint news conference with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Salmonella also was found in walkways and manure at Wright County Egg, as well as in ingredients used in the feed. The samples of the salmonella were a genetic match to the salmonella that has made many people sick, officials said. LA Times. Read more

ImagePeanut Corp should pay $12 million for salmonella outbreak, judge says

A federal judge recommends approval of a plan to have Peanut Corp of America pay $12 million to settle 120 claims related to a salmonella outbreak last year. The company filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy after the outbreak, which sickened hundreds of people and has been linked to nine deaths. USA TODAY. Read more

Nestlé’s ground attack on coffee

ImageNestlé SA is cultivating a new investment: a $487 million global push to increase the quantity and quality of its coffee. The push comes as food companies such as Nestlé, Unilever and Kraft Foods struggle for better control of essential ingredients such as coffee, cocoa, wheat and milk. The effort has become more urgent in recent years, as volatile raw-material prices have wreaked havoc on margins, boosting profit one year, sinking it the next. Prices for coffee beans recently reached nearly 13-year highs because of bad weather. Wall Street Journal. Read more

Demand for flavours to reach $23.5 billion in 2014

ImageWorld demand for flavours and fragrances – including flavour and fragrance blends, as well as essential oils and other natural extracts and aroma chemicals – is projected to increase 4.3% per year to $23.5bn in 2014. Overall advances will be stimulated by gains in food and beverage processing activity, which is the largest market segment. Growth in personal income levels and consumer spending will also stimulate demand for flavours and fragrances used in cosmetics and toiletries, a market segment historically concentrated in North America and Western Europe, but now seeing rapid advances in developing regions. Read more

ImageCoca-Cola’s new non-soda acquisitions

Coca-Cola’s new purchase in Japan is of a company whose main product is a green juice called “aojiru” made of kale, a nutritious but not very tasty leafy green vegetable. Coca-Cola West, the Atlanta-based beverage giant’s largest bottler in Japan, said this week it will spend $425.6 million to buy Q’Sai Co, a major Japanese health-food producer  that also produces supplements, soap and cream made of collagen.

Meanwhile in Russia, Coca-Cola has acquired Russian company, Nidan Juices one of the four largest juice makers in Russia, as the beverage giant continues its push into that market and its expansion in non-carbonated drinks. [No link]

Food Industry Trends

Managing the risks of reformulation

ImageReformulating products, particularly well loved ones, poses a great risk to manufacturers, so when Mars announced it has reformulated its chocolate bar ranges, it wasn’t surprising to hear that it has required 40 000 research and development hours, five years and a EUR10m investment, to reduce the amount of saturated fat in its Mars, Snickers, Milky Way and Topic Bars by 15%.

Brand reformulation is a dangerous game, just look at the backlash Coke faced when it launched ‘New Coke’ back in 1985. While that product reformulation was more to do with what the company saw as evolving consumer tastes, many recent reformulations, such as in the case of Mars, have more to do with an increased focus on health and wellness. Read more

ImageUK: Mince now most popular cut of beef

Farmers and traditional butchers have warned that the trend is a sign the beef industry is in serious trouble.
Supermarkets are devoting an increasing amount of shelf space to mince and driving down prices, threatening to put cattle farmers out of business, the industry claims. Butchers also fear the “mountains of mince” are killing culinary knowledge, with many consumers no longer knowing what to do with a joint or roast.

The National Beef Association issued new figures which indicated that 52% of British beef is now taken home as mince. The Telegraph. Read more

UK: Crisps – a very British habit

ImageThis factory, belonging to Britain’s largest crisp manufacturer, Walkers, is the biggest crisp factory in the world. It processes 800 tons of potatoes a day. It has six, 200m-long production lines, each of which turns out three tons of crisps an hour. That’s maybe 120 000 small 25g packets. Per hour. Times six. And this is only one of Walkers’s seven UK crisp plants. Between them, they produce 10m packets a day, satisfying just under half this country’s appetite for potato chips. In short, we eat an awful lot of crisps. They are a national obsession. The Guardian. Read more  

US: Baby carrots take on junk food with hip marketing campaign

ImageJust in time for the battle over what’s gonna be in millions of back-to-school lunches, Bolthouse Farms and nearly 50 other American carrot growers have unveiled plans for the industry’s first-ever marketing campaign. The $25-million effort sets its sights on a giant, big-spending rival: junk food.

The $1 billion baby carrot world — hit by the recession following years of growth — is taking on the $18 billion salty snack food industry by trying to beat it at its own hip marketing game. This photo shows the proposed look for baby carrots packaged in Doritos-like bags and sold in vending machines. USA Today. Read more

How do your ethics affect your customers’ choices?

ImageConsumers are becoming more aware of the impact that their purchases can have on the environment, on animal welfare, and on the conditions of workers in the food industry. This has led to problems for some manufacturers facing boycotts for perceived unethical behaviour, but it has also opened up huge potential opportunities for companies with strong ethical credentials.

But the big question for the food industry is: If consumers are voting with their cash, what are they voting for? And how can an ethically-minded company best get the benefits of its products across to the consumers? Food and Drink Digital. Read more

ImageUS: Restaurant chains, vending machines will have to post calories

As part of the new US healthcare legislation, chain restaurants with more than 20 locations will have to post the calorie information. Draft guidelines released last week by the FDA require that calorie information be posted in the same size type as the menu item or price, whichever is larger. Vending machines would have to display the information in a “clear and conspicuous” manner so consumers could review it before making a purchase. LA Times. Read more

Norway: Targeting elderly with 1000mg+ omega-3 drink

ImageNorwegian omega-3 specialist Smartfish is set to launch an omega-3 drink with a high dose of DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid), as the company adds a medical wing to its Smartfish brand. The drink – Smartfish Medical – contains 1100mg of DHA and EPA, 10mcg of vitamin D3, 8g of proteins and 200 calories and will be sold in pharmacies, hospitals and rest homes as a medical food targeting the malnourished elderly. AP-Food Technology. Read more

ImageIndia dreams of success with ‘chateau mango’

Scientists at the Central Institute of Subtropical Horticultural Research in Lucknow have produced wines using three types of mango native to the local state of Uttar Pradesh – the Dussehri, Langra, and Chausa. India is the world’s largest mango producer and is home to nearly 1 000 varieties of the succulent and juicy fruit – something the researchers hope could be harnessed into a new drinks industry. The Independent. Read more  

UK: Camel milk? Pull the udder one

ImageMost of us drink it in some form or another some of the time: over cereal, in our tea, in our bedtime hot chocolate. And we cook with it: scrambled eggs, cake, lasagne, custard. Milk occupies a curious place in the national psyche. It is vaguely romantic, conjuring up images of pastures green. Take away our milk and risk national outrage, as Margaret Thatcher learned to future governments’ peril.

Recently, however, milk – in the good old fashioned, cow-in-a-field sense of the word – has found itself under attack. From every angle. The Independent. Read more

Health and Nutrition Stuff

Exercise can override ‘fat genes,’ study finds

ImageIf you’ve been blaming your weight on your genes, get out and take a brisk walk. It will help fight your tendency toward overweight, a new study shows. UK researchers studied 12 genetic variants known to increase the risk of obesity and tracked the physical activity levels of 20 430 people. They created a genetic summary score to quantify a person’s risk of obesity and then examined whether an active life could reduce the genetic influence …

“Our findings challenge the popular myth that obesity is unavoidable if it runs in the family,” says senior researcher Ruth Loos of Great Britain’s Medical Research Council in Cambridge. “We see this as a hopeful message.” USA Today. Read more  

New evidence that fat cells are not just dormant storage depots for calories

ImageScientists are reporting new evidence that the fat tissue in those lower belly paunches – far from being a dormant storage depot for surplus calories – is an active organ that sends chemical signals to other parts of the body, perhaps increasing the risk of heart attacks, cancer, and other diseases. They are reporting discovery of 20 new hormones and other substances not previously known to be secreted into the blood by human fat cells and verification that fat secretes dozens of hormones and other chemical messengers. EurekaAlert. Read more

Understanding the loss of muscle tone

ImageBears emerge from months of hibernation with their muscles largely intact. Not so for people, who, if bedridden that long, would lose so much muscle they would have trouble standing. Why muscles wither with age is captivating a growing number of scientists, drug and food companies, let alone aging baby boomers who, despite having spent years sweating in the gym, are confronting the body’s natural loss of muscle tone over time. NY Times. Read more   

Black rice antioxidant benefits more powerful than blueberries

ImageBlack rice, which can be crushed into a bran, is sometimes known as “Forbidden Rice” because in ancient China nobles commandeered every grain for themselves and forbade the common people from eating it. “Just a spoonful of black rice bran contains more health promoting anthocyanin antioxidants than are found in a spoonful of blueberries, but with less sugar and more fiber and vitamin E antioxidants,” said Dr Zhimin Xu at the Louisiana State University. “If berries are used to boost health, why not black rice and black rice bran? Especially, black rice bran would be a unique and economical material to increase consumption of health promoting antioxidants.” Telegraph. Read more

Food Ingredient & Science Stuff


ImageReducing sodium teaspoon by teaspoon

The food industry knows the processing benefits of salt, not only to enhance flavour, but as a preservative and stabiliser. However, as awareness increases among regulators, health care professionals and consumers as to the negative health aspects of sodium and the amounts in restaurant and processed foods — 77% of the average American’s daily intake, food companies are seeking to join the prevailing trend and reduce sodium in their products. Quality Assurance & Food Safety. Read more

Grapefruit’s bitter taste holds a sweet promise for diabetes therapy

ImageNaringenin, an antioxidant derived from the bitter flavour of grapefruits and other citrus fruits, may cause the liver to break down fat while increasing insulin sensitivity, a process that naturally occurs during long periods of fasting.

A team of researchers from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) report that naringenin activates a family of small proteins, called nuclear receptors, causing the liver to break down fatty acids. ScienceDaily. Read more

Examining approaches to measuring protein adulteration in foods

ImageRecent incidents of adulteration involving infant formula, other milk products and pet food with the industrial chemical melamine revealed the weaknesses of current methods widely used across the domestic and global food industry for determining protein content in foods. The possible utility of alternative existing and emerging methods is the subject of a new paper published in Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety, a peer-reviewed journal of the Institute of Food Technologists. EurekaAlert. Read more   

 Sustainability Stuff

Is genetically altered fish OK? FDA to decide

ImageThis photo, released this week, compares the size of the genetically engineered AquAdvantage Salmon (background) to an Atlantic salmon of the same age (foreground). The US FDA will hold a three-day meeting starting September 19, 2010 to discuss whether to approve the altered fish for consumers to eat.

The fish, made by Aqua Bounty Technologies, is manipulated to grow twice as fast as traditional Atlantic salmon, something the company says could boost the nation’s fish sector and reduce pressure on the environment. But consumer advocates and food safety experts are worried that splicing and dicing fish genes may have the opposite effect, leading to more industrial farming and potential escapes into the wild. Side effects from eating such fish are also unknown, with little data to show it is safe, they say. Reuters. Read more

COMMENT: How I learned to love farmed fish

Naturally, the idea of a fast-growing fish with modified DNA inspired hysteria in the media… using the Frankenfish moniker in their headlines. (Like -zilla or from hell, Franken- is a lazy gag that has been on borrowed time for years, kept alive only by the unimaginative.) … But the fact is that, whether through DNA modification, artificial insemination, antibiotics or any other technique, high-tech aquaculture is the only way to save the planet’s marine life. We don’t have a choice anymore. Time Magazine. Read more

ImageWhy our agricultural empire will fall

In an age of super-sized meals and obesity epidemics, food-shortage  doomsday scenarios always seem a little surreal. Backed by half a century of agricultural abundance, it’s easy to imagine that cheap food will permanently abound. But in a new book, “Empires of Food,” academic Evan Fraser and journalist Andrew Rimas show us that we are not the first advanced civilization to have a hubristic, misplaced confidence that we’ll always be fed.

By tracing the rise and fall of a number of preindustrial empires, the authors show us just how much trouble we’re in. The Romans, the Mesopotamians and the medieval Europeans, for example, all had agricultural systems that, much like ours, were yoked to complex technology and highly specialized trade networks. And each of those societies eventually failed because they hadn’t accounted for soil erosion, growing overpopulation and weather changes. Climate change, anyone? Read more

Genome breakthrough heralds new dawn for agriculture

ImageImageIn a scientific tour-de-force that has been hailed as the most significant breakthrough in wheat production since the cereal crop was cultivated by the first farmers more than 10 000 years ago, scientists have decoded the genome of the wheat plant. As a result, new breeds of disease-resistant crops could be producing higher wheat yields in as little as five years’ time, raising the prospect of lower bread prices and greater food security in a more populated world. The Independent. Read more

Wheat and apple DNA sequenced, providing clues that may help eliminate famine

An apple a day keeps the doctor away, but can knowing its genetic secrets help feed the nine billion people expected on this planet by 2050? Scientists hope so, especially considering they have added wheat this week to the list of crops that have had their genetic instruction set read. Scientific American. Read more

Hot Stuff


ImageThe Dalai Lama speaks out against battery hens

Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama this week expressed distress over the confinement of egg-laying hens in tiny battery cages and urged for an end to the fowl-abuse. In a statement, the Nobel laureate decried the cruel treatment meted out to hens by the egg industry and urged people to switch over to eggs produced by cage-free hens. Hindustan Times. Read more  

COMMENT: By Bob Messenger, foremost US food industry observer

“So now the Dalai Lama has cast his vote against “caging egg-laying hens”, and his is a powerful voice that will resonate strong in the debate. If this keeps up, the industry will have no choice but to change the way it produces its eggs. In fact, the egg industry needs to understand, that, no matter how they spin it, ordinary Americans are going to generally side with the animal advocates, especially when confronted with pictures and video of hens stuffed tightly and uncomfortably into these cages. It’s a PR war and the egg industry is NOT winning.”

Packaging Stuff


Put a cork in it: the environmental cost of the screw cap

ImageIn recent years the cork has been steadily usurped by cleaner, more convenient screw caps. But the environmental impact of this social shift is massive. Now the traditional cork growers are fighting back. But have they left it too late?

Natural cork has seen its pre-eminence as a wine bottle stopper kicked into touch by synthetic upstarts including plastic corks and screw caps. In the past 15 years the market share of “nature’s nearly perfect product”, as American writer George Taber has described it, has declined from 90% to just over 70%. The value of cork is half what it was a decade ago, there are more than 30 synthetic cork producers worldwide and 85% of Australian wine and 45% of New Zealand’s are now under screw caps. The Guardian. Read more


Paean to the wonderful chicken

ImageWhen you are strolling down the poultry aisle, did you ever wonder about the history of the bird that is shrink-wrapped into that tidy little package? Have you ever wondered about the role chickens have played in the lives and culture of humans worldwide? Chances are you have not been preoccupied with these questions.

But the answers expose a dark blanket that has been pulled over the eyes of society, hiding the truth about what an amazing creature the chicken is and it’s special gift to humankind: the egg. …. The story of the common chicken is one that begs to be told, especially in this age when people generally underappreciate where their food comes from, much less its history. I think we should occasionally stop to revisit tales that are all but forgotten, renewing our appreciation for the things that helped us get to where we are. Read more

Activists ready to sabotage French bird-hunters

ImageFrench ornithologists are waging an increasingly sophisticated war against the hunting of the ortolan, a songbird which is regarded by gastronomes – when eaten beak, bones and all – as the ultimate in sinful pleasure. Hunting of ortolans has been outlawed in France since 1999. Although the government has promised zero tolerance this year, the captures are going on in many areas. Afterwards, the birds are fattened in darkness for one month and then killed by drowning in armagnac.”

Ortolans are, by Gascon tradition, served whole and aflame. Only the feet are removed, although some chefs are now said to take off most of the feathers. By tradition an ortolan must be eaten with a large white napkin draped over the diner’s head. Some experts say this is intended to heighten the intensity of the experience. Others concede that it hides the messy act of chomping into a charred, red-hot ortolan.The Independent. Read more

Chopsticks: The cutlery conundrum

ImageFor the humble chopstick, life is predictable. Start off as a tree, one of the 25 million felled each year for the purpose. Spend a brief few weeks, newly-whittled, encased in paper. Then wind up on someone’s plate, where you are expertly used to shovel noodles, or rice, or meat into a mouth. Then that’s it. It’s time to face the great landfill in the sky.

Millions of chopsticks meet their end like this. In fact, billions – 45 billion a year in China alone, taking with them some 100 acres of birch, poplar and bamboo forest a day. It is one reason why attempts are under way to turn the Chinese off their disposable cutlery and on to the longer-lasting kind. It won’t be easy. The Independent. Read more   

ImageOnly in America! Deep-fried beer invented in Texas

A chef in Texas has created what he claims is the world’s first recipe for deep-fried beer. The Telegraph. Read more   

That’s all the stuff for this week!

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