Issue 88: 18 June 2010

“Our heads are round so that thoughts can change direction.”

Francis Picabia, painter and poet (1879-1953)


Food bites… Adapt or die a slow death!

Image“The trend is obvious. Food marketers are facing the slow Ling Chi-like death of their product portfolios unless they change their mindsets. The old playbook doesn’t work anymore. They must recognize that there will always be the next sodium … the next ‘cut’. Instead of ‘delay and divert’, it is time to get ahead of the situation. With a new cohort of consumers demanding corporate responsibility for their health, advocates pushing for radical change in the food supply, and governments receptive to regulation, a smarter course of action by food marketers is to embrace that they are custodians of their customers’ well-being and to re-align their products, marketing practices, and business models accordingly. Otherwise, a slow death awaits.” 

Hank Cardello, author of “Stuffed: An Insider’s Look at Who’s (Really) Making America Fat“. Read more


EBNditor’s Stuff – The alpha & omega of omega-3?


When it comes to food supplementation for the “well-fed, affluent”, my sentiments tend to rest with the “expensive urine” school of thought. But when it comes to omega-3, all the science and research make a compelling case to pop fish oil capsules on a daily basis; that this is one of the most effective remedies for improving physical performance, treating depression and arthritis, and improving concentration and memory. It is also widely considered to be effective in preventing heart disease.


This is the popular wisdom and it’s now under scrutiny and debate, as highlighted in several articles in recent newsletters. The latest take on this issue I’ve come across is by leading British pseudo-science detective, Ben Goldacre, as follows.

ImageOmega-3 lesson: Not so much brain boost as fishy research

One tiny brain-imaging study of fatty acids has been used to endorse fish oil as education’s magic pill. Oddly enough, someone has now finally conducted a proper trial of fish oil pills, in mainstream children, to see if they work: a well-conducted, randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, in 450 children aged 8–10 years from a mainstream school population. It was published in full this year – and the researchers found no improvement. Show me the news headlines about that paper. The Guardian. Read more


Here is the referenced abstract to the article which, as Ben Goldacre rightly notes, has not provoked press headlines.


Here are two other pertinent articles worth looking at if you haven’t already . . . one puts all the claims around omega-3s into serious doubt, while the other extols docosahexaenoic acid as the chemical that fundamentally has allowed the evolution of humankind. Challenging and fascinating stuff!

Omega-3: Fishy claims for fish oil

ImageIf one cheap pill could boost your brain power, protect you from heart disease and cancer, and even alleviate depression, all with no known side effects, would you want it? Who wouldn’t? You’ve probably heard of the pill’s main ingredient: omega-3, a substance found in fish oil and other natural products. If the flood of headlines and adverts from food and supplement manufacturers are to be believed, you need only boost your intake of omega-3 and all these benefits will be yours.

Omega-3 supplements first appeared in the early 1980s. Given they are still going strong 30 years later, you would be forgiven for thinking that claims of their beneficence have all been substantiated. Yet several new studies, as well as recent reviews of existing evidence, call this received wisdom into question. Do any of the claims stand up under scrutiny? New Scientist. Read more

 IUFoST 2010 logo


See the Full Congress
Programme here

Diet and the evolution of the brain

To pin one big evolutionary shift on a particular molecule is ambitious. To pin two on it is truly audacious. Yet doing so was just one of the ideas floating around at “A Celebration of DHA” in London recently. The celebration in question was a scientific meeting, rather than a festival. It was definitely, however, a love-in. It was held on May 26th and 27th at the Royal Society of Medicine to discuss the many virtues of docosahexaenoic acid, the most important of that fashionable class of dietary chemicals, the omega-3 fatty acids. The Economist. Read more 


Enjoy the read – and the footie!


Email Brenda Neall, editor and publisher: [email protected]


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Local Food Industry Stuff


South Africa looks for soft drinks legacy


The FIFA World Cup is in full force in South Africa. While corporate sponsor, Coca-Cola, looks set to score highly from the tournament, what of South Africa’s indigenous soft drink brands? Annette Farr considers the opportunities the event will open up, both domestically and abroad. Read more

Cape Aloe’s revamped beverage line-up, including a new variant with the latest global favourite, baobab.


Chicken Licken: Life in the fast lane

ImageIt’s better to be lucky than clever to succeed in business, says Chicken Licken founder, George Sombonos. When he launched the fast-food franchise in 1981, his ambition was to create a small chain of takeaways. “We thought we would get to about 20 stores.”

His immigrant father’s expectations were even lower. “He told me, ‘If you have one store of your own, plus 10 franchises, you will be the richest Greek in Johannesburg’.” Sombonos still expresses surprise at the growth of Chicken Licken. “The timing of our launch was good. The market wanted us. But that was by chance, not planning. I hoped for a few stores. Before I knew it, we had 40, then 50. When we hit 100, we couldn’t believe it.” Financial Mail. Read more  


ImageLaduma – much, much more to shout about

Lunch Bar has caught football fever. To tie in with the World Cup, Cadbury South Africa says the brand will share in the nation’s excitement by literally wearing its colours on its ‘sleeve’ and changing its name to Laduma! FOODStuff SA. Read more


ImageIUFoST 2010: A programme not to be missed! Early bird deal extended!

The IUFoST 2010 congress Scientific Programme is now almost finalised – and a skeleton has been fleshed out to develop a programme with great body and muscle! It is truly world-class as befits a world-class congress. FOODStuff SA. Read more

Food Industry News


EU: Victory for food lobby as MEPs reject new labelling rules

ImageEuropean parliamentarians caused some outrage this week by plumping for GDAs over traffic lights – rejecting the colour-coded system of food labelling which health campaigners believe better inform consumers about levels of fat and sugar and could help halt rocketing levels of obesity.

Instead of the traffic light labelling system devised by the UK Food Standards Agency, the MEPs backed the Guideline Daily Amounts (GDA) system favoured by food manufacturers. The GDA scheme, which has the support of Pepsico, Danone, Kraft and other multinational food corporations, is expected to be introduced across Europe by 2013, unless blocked by member states in the EU’s Council of Ministers. The Independent. Read more And there’s another take from FoodNavigator on the issue here

Nutrient profiles reinstated in EU Parliament vote

Members of the European Parliament have voted to put back clauses on nutrient profiling into the proposed food information regulation, after Environment Committee members voted to take them out – but it was a close call. Nutrient profiles define what products can make claims relating to nutritional content, based on their levels of fat, sugar or salt. FoodNavigator. Read more


campylobacterUK targets campylobacter as chief food safety foe

Campylobacter in raw chicken is the biggest food safety challenge facing the UK today, said the Food Standards Agency (FSA) as it admitted the cost and burden of foodborne illnesses was too high. The body made the declaration to target the bug as its “key food safety priority” as it outlined its £25m Foodborne Disease Strategy to tackle all types of food poisoning by 2015. Food Production Daily. Read more


US: The brilliant lessons from McDonald’s recall

ImageLast week McDonald’s announced the recall of some 12 million “Shrek” drinking glasses because federal regulators found they contain the toxic metal cadmium. While the health risk is slim, you won’t hear McDonald’s complaining, shifting blame or running for cover in the face of this $15 million recall . In fact, the ubiquitous fast food retailer has taken pains to accept responsibility for the problem and moved at lightning speed to fix it. CNN. Read more


ImageUS: Monsanto’s seeds of discord

The most important biotech gene ever engineered is about to go off patent, triggering a battle over the future of the world’s food supply. CNN. Read more


ImageKenya paves way for GM crops after decade of controversy

After years of debate, Kenya will implement legislation this month green lighting genetically modified organisms. Kenya will become the fourth African country to implement such legislation, after Burkina Faso, Egypt and South Africa. The Guardian. Read more


Food Trends, Marketing and NPD

ImageUS: Hold the papaya juice and bring on the Pepsi

Health drinks made big inroads into the beverage market in recent years, but the crippling economic recession has brought that growth to a screeching halt as consumers have returned to their once true — and cheap — love, soda pop. The sweet bubbly beverage had a bigger jump in sales than bottled water, juices, sport drinks and most other segments did over the past 18 months, reports Mintel, the market-research company. Time. Read more


Mintel: Natural and clean-label trend still driving NPD

ImageWhile shoppers’ enthusiasm for low-fat, low-sugar or low-calorie claims (‘minus’ claims) or added functional ingredients claims (‘plus’ claims) has waned; their interest in natural claims has continued to grow, according to Mintel’s director of innovation and insight, David Jago. FoodNavigator-USA. Read more


UK: Breakfast club

ImageWhen it comes to media whipping boys, the breakfast cereals sector is up there with soccer referees and speed cameras. . . brickbat attacks on the cereal industry’s heath credentials in the media stretch back years. So what are the various cereal manufacturers doing to develop their businesses and grow sales in this climate of distrust? What are the new product development areas? And what work is underway to cut sugar and salt levels in products in line with FSA demands? Food Manufacture. Read more


UK: Turning humble H2O into a premium product

ImageWhile restaurants have been selling bottled water for years, the sale of filtered or otherwise treated tap water is part of a trend that is re-inventing ordinary mains or spring water as a life-affirming elixir that, it is usually hinted, bestows extra health benefits. Indeed, far from being on the way out, the bottled market is thriving.

After a couple of years when sales fell due to the recession, bad weather and environmental concerns, the amount of bottled water drunk by Britons rose by 1.4 per cent to just over 2 billion litres last year, according to market researchers Zenith. The Independent. Read more


ImageUK: Del Monte launches “naked” pineapple

Britain’s fruit brand, Del Monte, is launching the first-ever, branded, whole, prepared pineapple into the UK market this month. It has selected its Del Monte Gold Extra Sweet Pineapple which is cored and peeled for the new product that’s designed to appeal to the increasingly convenience-driven and health-focused needs of modern consumers. Del Monte believe this will be vital in driving incremental growth within the prepared fruit category. Food & Drink Innovation Network. Read more


UK: Premiumisation and natural chewing gum

ImagePeppersmith – the premium gum firm created by former Innocent Drinks executives Mike Stevens and Dan Shrimpton – has secured its first supermarket listing. The London-based start-up, which launched its first product in January (a high-quality chewing gum containing chicle and black mitcham peppermint grown in Hampshire) will be stocked in upmarket food retailer Booths this UK summer. Food Manufacture. Read more


ImageUK: Introducing…. the Lasandwich!

Not since the Italian Ministry of Agriculture cosied up to McDonald’s for a marketing campaign earlier this year has the good reputation of Italian food been so sorely tried. Tesco’s lasagne sandwich (let’s call it the lasandwich) is described as follows in the accompanying press release: “Between two thick slices of white bread, you’ll find a generous filling of diced beef in a tangy tomato and herb sauce, layered with cooked pasta sheets and finished with a creamy cheddar, ricotta and mayonnaise dressing.” How does this dubious new creation measure up? The Guardian. Read more 

Health and Nutrition Stuff


Vitamin A-fortified chewing gum can help fight malnutrition

ImageDanish chewing gum company Gumlink, in close collaboration with the Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI), has developed a new chewing gum with vitamin A to help battle malnutrition. The company has just finished a pilot project in Nairobi, giving chewing gum with vitamin A to school children as a supplement to their daily diet and said that the potential is huge in the fight against malnutrition. Read more


ImageLittle is understood about alcohol’s effect on fetal development, researchers say

It’s long been known that alcohol use in pregnancy can lead to children with mental retardation and birth defects, but researchers who study fetal alcohol syndrome have not made definitive progress on preventing the disorder, detecting it early, or effectively treating it, say researchers. Science Daily. Read more


ImageApple juice improves behaviour but not cognition in Alzheimer’s patients, study finds

Apple juice can be a useful supplement for calming the declining moods that are part of the normal progression of moderate-to-severe Alzheimer’s disease, according to a new study. Science Daily. Read more


Replacing white rice with brown rice or other whole grains may reduce diabetes risk

ImageIn a new study, researchers have found that eating five or more servings of white rice per week was associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes. In contrast, eating two or more servings of brown rice per week was associated with a lower risk of the disease. Science Daily. Read more



Time for a reality attack on cancer risks

ImageLast month, the London Independent ran a sensationalist story about cell phones causing brain tumours, and the Breast Cancer Fund released a comprehensive report on carcinogenic chemicals women should avoid. Other recent cancer-causing culprits in the news include pesticides, power lines and solvents.

This thinking cleaves to a popular motif: The natural world is less toxic and more healthful than the industrial one. To avoid cancer, you should buy organic produce, drink unpasteurised milk from specialty dairies, eat more fibre to cleanse the colon of carcinogens, and avoid cheap cosmetics. To protect one’s family, in short, become a paranoid consumer of everyday “artificial” products.

Unwittingly, we’ve seriously impeded cancer prevention with this not-so-useful distinction between the natural and artificial. It’s distracted us from the uncomfortable truth that most cancers are caused by the natural environment around us. As a result, we expend great effort and ink on low-yield strategies to prevent cancer, even though the better ones lie within our grasp. Slate. Read more


ImageHomeopathy: Curing with kindness

Numerous studies have shown that homeopathic remedies don’t work. Why, then, do millions of patients swear that they do? The answer, says Professor Edzard Ernst, should be a lesson to all doctors. The Independent. Read more

 Food Science, Biotech & Food Safety


Tastes like chicken: The quest for fake meat

ImageWhat if you could cut into a juicy chicken breast that wasn’t chicken at all but rather some indistinguishable imitation made harmlessly from plant life? Scientists at the University of Missouri have announced that after more than a decade of research, they have created the first soy product that not only can be flavoured to taste like chicken but also breaks apart in your mouth the way chicken does: not too soft, not too hard, but with that ineffable chew of real flesh. Time. Read more


‘Supertasters’ find lower salt levels make foods too bitter to eat

ImagePublic health experts and food companies have been working together to combat high salt intake which can increase the risk of high blood pressure and strokes. But despite well publicized effort to get people to swap to low salt foods they simply may not taste as good for some. Now research has shown that those who have sharper tastes need salt to block the bitterness in foods and therefore cannot enjoy low salt products. The reduction in salt could therefore be counterproductive. Live Science. Read more


Up and running: Beverage companies adopt electro-chemically activated (ECA) water

ImageSustainability. Efficacy. Cost. Safety. All are important factors for today’s beverage plant operators when it comes to plant and equipment cleaning. As the cost of caustic cleaning material, like bleach, is on the rise and time becomes more valuable in running CIP (clean in place) cycles, operators are looking for options to meet sustainability goals and  bottom line savings.

One of those options has become electrolyzed water, also known as electrolyzed oxidizing water, electro-activated water or electro-chemically activated (ECA) water, produced by the electrolysis of water containing dissolved salt. Beverage World. Read more Read more here on SA’s pioneer in this field, Radical Waters.


Food Ingredients


Developments in clean label ingredients

ImageWith food manufacturers and retailers striving to strip down food ingredient labels to a bare minimum, this week takes a look at how ingredient firms have stepped up their game to help meet the growing demand for clean label products.

‘Clean label’ is an attempt by food manufacturers to simplify ingredients lists to make them more appealing to consumers who may have the (often mistaken) perception that fewer ingredients mean healthier products. It usually involves the removal of E-numbers, which are given to both natural and artificial additives. FoodNavigator. Read more


Symrise to boost production of synthetic menthol

ImageWhat’s with L-Menthol? Just as BASF announced the world’s biggest factory for L-Menthol (synthetic menthol), comes news that competitor, German flavour and fragrance company Symrise says it will increase production of L-menthol.  The company says demand is growing for the ingredient, which is used in confectionery and personal care products. ConfectioneryNews. Read more  


Fats facility opens up major supply of healthier oils

ImageIOI-Loders Croklaan claims to be ushering in a new era of healthier oils and fats with the opening of a new plant which uses enzymatic technology to interesterify oils and hone their properties in food products. According to the company, enzymatic rearrangement is recognised as a “healthy and natural way to alter the characteristics of oils and fats”.


Until now, however, this technology could be used only on a small scale. This made it a more expensive option compared to hydrogenation or chemical techniques. FoodNavigator. Read more


Eau de marketing: Bloom’s scented meat billboard countered by PETA

ImageIn North Carolina, retailer Bloom has been promoting a new line of beef with a billboard on a highway – it shows a giant fork going from the ground to the billboard, where it pierces a piece of meat. At peak hours, a smell of black pepper and charcoal is emitted by a high-powered fan at the bottom of the billboard that blows air over cartridges loaded with fragrance oil. Now, PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), the radical pro-animal advocacy group, has announced it hopes to counter it with an ad of its own: an adjacent billboard that shows a skinned cow’s head on slaughter hook and emanates the smells of rotting flesh, urine, faeces and blood. PETA’s billboard would read: “Meat Stinks: Go Vegan” Supermarket News. Read more here and here


COMMENT: Anthony Bourdain: My war on fast food

ImageThe bad boy British chef wants his young daughter to see fast food as the enemy. And in his eyes no tactic is too dirty in his fight against McDonald’s. . . “The cruelty and ugliness of the factory farm, and the effects on our environment, are, of course, repellent to any reasonable person. But it’s the general lowering of standards inherent in our continuing insistence on cheap burgers, wherever they might come from and however bad they taste; the collective, post-ironic shrug we’ve come to give each other as we knowingly dig into something that tastes, at best, like cardboard and soured onion, that’s hurting us. And our children.” The Guardian. Read more

That’s all the stuff for this week!