Monday, December 31, 2012

Historic Shift: China to Produce More Corn than Rice

The U.S. Grains Council (USGC) reports that for the first time in history, China is set to produce more corn than rough rice. The shift depicts the growing affluence by the Chinese middle class and their demand for a more protein-rich diet.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) revised its projection of Chinese corn production from 200 million metric tons (7.9 billion bushels) to 208 million metric tons (8.2 billion bushels). The USDA is also predicting a Chinese rough rice production of a little more than 204 million metric tons.

Rice represents the staple food for India and China, however, data suggests people in China are increasing their desire for animal Protein. China has experience a vast growth in meat demand over the past 20 years; poultry has increased 300 percent, pork consumption has increased 85 percent and beef consumption has increased 155 percent.

"Dramatic shifts in corn production are taking place across the globe," stated Kevin Roepke, USGC manager of global trade, "This is stark evidence that today's corn producer is well poised to take advantage of growing global consumerism."

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Turkey Sales Higher than Chicken

New Research reveals its turkey, not chicken, that's taking the lead in poultry sales. Research from Mintel on the U.S. poultry market reveals that turkey, duck and other specialty birds grew 6.5 percent in one year, reaching $7.1 billion from year 2011 to 2012.

Growing from $6 billion in 2008, turkey increased most compared to other poultry products. Today, poultry in the U.S. is valued at $30 billion, with chicken accounting for 58 percent of the total poultry market, valued at $17.3 billion, sales of chicken parts grew 4.5 percent year-on-year and whole chickens increased 0.6 percent reaching $5.5 billion.

"The growth of other poultry products over 2011 and 2012 is partly attributed to the increasing popularity of Heritage turkeys, which are bigger, take longer to reach maturity and sell for more than standard turkeys," says John N Frank, category manager for Mintel Food and Drink.

The study showed poultry may be pulling consumers from the red-meat market, with 38 percent of U.S. consumers saying they have increased their consumption of poultry in the last year. Rates have also increased among young adults, reaching 43 percent, compared to the 36 percent of senior consumers.

Ethnic consumers are a driving force behind the poultry market, with 73 percent of Asians or Pacific Islander consumers and 72 percent of Hispanic and African-American consumers cooking chicken at home, as apposed to the 62 percent of White consumers.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Obesity Rates Decline Among U.S. Preschoolers

Obesity and extreme obesity rates among low-income U.S. preschoolers went down for the first time in recent years, according to a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). The findings suggest nutrition and anti-obesity initiatives are making headway.

Researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) used data from the Pediatric Nutrition Surveillance System that includes almost 50% of children eligible for federally funded maternal and child health and nutrition programs. The study included 27.5 million children aged 2 to 4 years in 30 states and the District of Columbia.

From 2003 through 2010, the prevalence of obesity decreased slightly from 15.21% to 14.94%. Similarly, the prevalence of extreme obesity decreased from 2.22% to 2.07%. However, from 1998 through 2003, the prevalence of obesity increased from 13.05% to 15.21%, and the prevalence of extreme obesity increased from 1.75% to 2.22%.

From 2003 through 2010, the prevalence of extreme obesity decreased among all racial groups except American Indians/Alaska Natives. The greatest decrease was among 2-year-old and Asian/Pacific Islander children.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Dark Chocolate Cuts Stroke, Heart Disease Risk

Chocolate lovers listen up. Eating flavanol-rich dark chocolate has been found to protect against the risk of heart disease and stroke by improving platelet function within two hours of consumption, according to a new study published in the journal Molecular Nutrition & Food Research.

Researchers at the University of Aberdeen Rowett Institute of Nutrition and Health examined the effects of consumption of dark chocolate that was enriched with cocoa extract in the blood of 42 healthy volunteers, 26 women and 16 men. They compared platelet function of the participants who ate enriched dark chocolate with those who ate dark chocolate that contained a lower cocoa and flavanol content, and white chocolate.

Blood and urine samples were obtained and analyzed two hours and six hours after chocolate consumption. They found the dark chocolate enriched with flavan-3-ols significantly decreased platelet activation and aggregation in men, but only decreased platelet aggregation in women.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Yawn: Vitamin D Deficiency Linked to Daytime Sleepiness

Feeling a little sluggish during the day? You might want to reach for a glass of milk or vitamin D fortified snack. A new study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine found individuals who are vitamin D deficient are more prone to daytime sleepiness compared to those who have adequate vitamin D levels.

Researchers from Louisiana State University examined serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25OHD) levels of 81 sleep clinic patients who complained of sleep problems and nonspecific pain. Those with 25OHD levels less than 20 ng/mL were determined to have vitamin D deficiency. Sleepiness was determined using the Epworth Sleepiness Scale score.
In patients with vitamin D deficiency, the lower the vitamin D levels, the more daytime sleepiness they experienced. In black patients, mean excessive daytime sleepiness scores in patients with vitamin D deficiency were higher and 25OHD levels were lower.

Patients with normal vitamin D levels also benefited from higher levels. In these patients, higher levels of daytime sleepiness were associated with lower levels of vitamin D.

The researchers found excessive daytime sleepiness was directly correlated with 25OHD in black patients with vitamin D deficiency, but not Caucasian patients with vitamin D deficiency. The higher the vitamin D levels they had, the more likely they were to have daytime sleepiness, showing the vitamin/sleep relationship is complex.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Sunday, December 23, 2012

EFSA Updates TWIs for Mercury Found in Foods

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has established Tolerable Weekly Intakes (TWIs) intended to protect consumers from adverse health effects posed by the possible presence of the main forms of mercury found in food—methylmercury and inorganic mercury.

Methylmercury is the predominant form of mercury in fish and other seafood, and is particularly toxic to the developing nervous system including the brain. Whereas average exposure to methylmercury in food is unlikely to exceed the TWI, the likelihood of reaching such a level increases for high and frequent fish consumers. This group may include pregnant women, resulting in exposure of the fetus at a critical period in brain development. Inorganic mercury is less toxic and also can be found in fish and other seafood as well as ready-made meals. Exposure to inorganic mercury through food is unlikely to exceed the TWI for most people, unless combined with other sources of exposure.

At the request of the European Commission, EFSA’s Scientific Panel on Contaminants in the Food Chain (CONTAM Panel) considered new scientific information regarding the toxicity of these forms of mercury and evaluated provisional TWIs established in 2003 and 2010 by the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA). In its opinion, the CONTAM Panel has established a TWI for inorganic mercury of 4 µg/kg body weight (bw), which is in line with JECFA. For methylmercury, new studies indicate that beneficial effects related to long chain omega 3 fatty acids present in fish may have previously led to an underestimation of the potential adverse effects of methylmercury in fish. The Panel has proposed a TWI for methylmercury of 1.3 µg/kg bw, which is lower than JECFA’s 1.6 µg/kg bw.

More precise data on food consumption and on mercury levels in food have allowed the Panel to more accurately assess human exposure to methylmercury through the diet. Fish meat, particularly tuna, swordfish, cod, whiting and pike were identified as the most important contributors of methylmercury exposure in Europe for all age groups, with the addition of hake for children. Exposure in women of child-bearing age was especially considered and found not to be different from adults in general. Exposure through food in high and frequent fish consumers was in general some two-fold higher than for the total population.

This opinion focuses only on the risks related to inorganic mercury and methylmercury exposure through the diet and does not assess the nutritional benefits linked to certain foods like fish and other seafood. However, the CONTAM Panel added if measures to reduce methylmercury exposure are considered by risk managers, the potential beneficial effects of fish consumption should also be taken into account.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

How effective is green coffee?

With the festive season underway, many of us are likely to overdo things in terms of eating and drinking in the not-too-distant future.

As we all know, the January press will be filled with ideas for shedding excess Christmas pounds, thanks to our overindulgence.

One weight loss idea that has been noted in the news recently is the consumption of green coffee bean extracts.

They are said to be a natural way to get rid of additional weight. It is made of unroasted coffee beans and, as most of us know, caffeine generally is renowned for boosting metabolism and giving us a ‘kick.’

However, the green coffee beans have additional chemicals which are also said to be beneficial for weight loss.

For instance, chlorogenic acid is said to inhibit the absorption of fat and is a big ingredient of green coffee.

A study at the University of Scranton, suggests that those who consumed the green coffee bean supplements had weight loss averaging around 17 pounds, although there was no significant alteration to their diet.

The study looked at 16 overweight adults and they took either 1,050 mg, 700mg or none of this ingredient for the test.

As with many medical studies, one small research project is not adequate and more needs to be done.

However, with the growing global problem of obesity, if it is found that the humble green coffee bean could help things, this would be a good way of losing weight, wouldn’t it?


Friday, December 21, 2012

Most Americans Expect Smartphone Payments to Replace Cards and Cash

The majority of American consumers believe it is likely that cash, credit and debit will fall behind the use of smartphone payments, according to the findings of a new Harris Poll. 66 percent believe mobile payments will beat out cards, while 61 percent believe they will overtake cash.

Only 32 percent of those who believe smartphone payments will overtake cards, however, think this will happen in less than five years, and just 26 percent of those who believe they will also overtake cash think it will happen in that time period.

Additionally, while consumers believe a change in collective purchasing habits is coming, interest level in changing their own habits varies. 27 percent of Americans and 44 percent of smartphone users report overall interest in their ability to use a smartphone to process in-person payments. Only 8 percent of Americans and 16 percent of smartphone users described themselves as "very" interested, according to the poll results.

Broken down by generation, 40 percent of Echo Boomers expressed interest in smartphone payments, as did 34 percent of Gen Xers; 18 percent of Baby Boomers; and 7 percent of Matures.

Men showed more interest in the technology at 32 percent, vs. 22 percent of women. And 38 percent of households with children showed interest vs. 22 percent of those without kids.

Security is a primary consideration, the poll revealed. 51 percent of those who are “not very interested” or “not at all interested” in smartphone payments stated that they do not want to store sensitive information on their phone, while 40 percent do not want to transmit sensitive information to a merchant's device.

Smartphone ownership is another stumbling block, with 50 percent of the uninterested reporting they are not interested because they do not own a smartphone. Finally, 52 percent of those who are not interested simply don't see a reason to switch from cash or cards.

Initiatives to seamlessly integrate smartphones into payment habits only have moderate potential, according to poll data. 28 percent of Americans and 40 percent of smartphone users indicate that the ability to make mobile payments while taking advantage of their existing credit card rewards programs would increase their interest, but only 9 percent and 15 percent, respectively, specify that they would be "much more interested." Also, only 8 percent of those who are not interested in paying with smartphones indicate such initiatives would increase their interest, and only 1 percent indicate that they would make them much more interested.

When asked about the ability to use their smartphones as a digital wallet with electronic versions of all the identifications, loyalty program cards and other documentation normally contained in a wallet, 30 percent of Americans and 43 percent of smartphone owners responded that it would make them "more interested"; only 8 percent and 12 percent, respectively, said it would make them much more interested. Meanwhile, 12 percent of those uninterested in paying with smartphones overall indicated that such initiatives would make them more interested, with just 2 percent of the uninterested indicating that it would make them much more interested.

The mobile payments industry has yet to find a similar "in" with consumers as debit cards did by responding to a genuine consumer desire, according to the poll. Giving Americans a reason to change how they pay will depend not only on new ideas enabled through technology, but also on paying attention to their current payment habits and looking for a need they may not know exists.

This Harris Poll, conducted by Harris Interactive, took place online between Nov. 14 and Nov. 19, and surveyed 2,383 adults aged 18 and up. Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted as necessary to bring them in line with actual proportions in the population.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Roquefort Cheese Has Anti-Inflammatory Properties, Scientists Find

Scientists discovered the French cheese, known for its mould and green veins, has specific anti-inflammatory properties.

It could provide clues to the “French paradox” and explain why people who live in the country enjoy good health despite favouring a diet high in saturated fat.

Using new technology, the researchers found the properties worked their best when the cheese, one of the world’s oldest, ripened.

The properties of the blue cheese, which is aged in caves in the south of France, near Toulouse, were found to work best in acidic environments of the body, such as the lining of the stomach or the skin surface.

Acidification is also a common process accompanying inflammation such as in joints affected by arthritis or special plaque on an artery wall.

French women enjoy the joint-longest life expectancy in Europe, at 85.3 years, against 82.3 years for British women.

The group of doctors at a Cambridge-based biotech company developed the technology, which helps to identify the new anti-inflammatory factors.

The team from Lycotec, led by Dr Ivan Petyaev and Dr Yuriy Bashmakov, suggested the new properties could be extracted to help the fight against cardiovascular disease or in anti-ageing creams.

They detailed their work in a study, published in the Medical Hypotheses journal, titled: “Could cheese be the missing piece in the French paradox puzzle?”

“The anti-inflammatory factors found in these cheeses could be extracted and used independently or as a part of today's pharmaceutical or beauty products,” they wrote.

“Observations indicate that consumption of red wine alone cannot explain the paradox and perhaps some other constituents of the typical French diet could be responsible for reduced cardiovascular mortality.

“We hypothesise that cheese consumption, especially of moulded varieties, may contribute to the occurrence of the ‘French paradox’.”

They added: “Moulded cheeses, including Roquefort, may be even more favourable to cardiovascular health.”

Roquefort, which is thought to have been first eaten in about 79AD, is noted for its sharp, tangy, salty flavour and its rich, creamy texture.


Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Is Food Withdrawal During A Diet Causing You To Be Depressed?

Do you ever feel unhappy or more sensitive to stress when you’re on a diet? Does it feel like things that would not normally bother you are suddenly impacting your mood a little bit more than usual? According to a new study, this may be because leaving your favorite foods behind is similar to going through drug withdrawals.

In a six-week experiment using mice published in the International Journal of Obesity, Dr. Stephanie Fulton, from the CRCHUM and the University of Montreal’s Faculty of Medicine, observed the stress of food changes on the subjects by feeding one test group a low-fat diet and a high-fat diet to the other.

They then looked at the ways in which mice behaved and seemed to feel when being rewarded with food. For example, the high-fat food group showed signs of anxiety, like attempting to avoid open areas. Their dopamine levels and CREB — a molecule which “regulates the activation of genes that play a part in the functioning of human brains, including the ones that cause dopamine to be produced” — were also examined. According to their research, the CREB, as well as stress hormones, were far more activated in the high-fat dieting mice.

Fulton said:

“By working with mice, whose brains are in many ways comparable to our own, we discovered that the neurochemistry of the animals who had been fed a high fat, sugary diet were different from those who had been fed a healthy diet. The chemicals changed by the diet are associated with depression. A change of diet then causes withdrawal symptoms and a greater sensitivity to stressful situations, launching a vicious cycle of poor eating.”

Essentially, the higher that fat level in the mice’s diets, the more it changed their brain’s chemistry, which is so significant to human beings because it, in part, helps to explain why some people have such difficulties emotionally regarding losing weight: their poor diets have actually altered their brain chemistry. Food withdrawals are actually similar to drug withdrawals, if this study’s information proves true for humans.

Whenever I have ever (ever) been attempting to diet in the past, I always felt irritable. Consistently, highly irritable. It’s not as though I was actually angry with the people or situations around me; I simply did not have as high of a tolerance for things like big social situations, loud voices, even traffic. While this is apparently normal, it definitely highlights the importance of simply eating healthily on a consistent basis rather than in little spurts of deprivation.



Tuesday, December 18, 2012

First Cheese Made at Least 7,500 Years Ago

That suggests the sieves were specifically used to separate fat-rich curds from liquid whey in soured milk in a crude cheese-making process.

"It's a very compelling forensic argument that this was connected to cheese," Evershed said. "There aren't many other dairy processes where you would need to strain," he said. He and colleagues weren't sure what kind of milk was used, but said there were lots of cattle bones in the region. The study was published online Wednesday by the journal Nature.

"This is the smoking gun," said Paul Kindstedt, a professor of nutrition and food sciences at the University of Vermont and author of "Cheese and Culture." He was not involved in the study.

"It's almost inconceivable that the milk fat residues in the sieves were from anything else but cheese," Kindstedt said, adding that many experts suspected cheese was being made in Turkey up to 2,000 years than this latest finding in Poland but that there was no definitive proof.

He said the discovery of cheese making marked a major development for Neolithic people and gave them a survival advantage by allowing them to turn milk into a form that provided essential calories, proteins and minerals. At that time, the adult population was largely lactose intolerant, so making a product with less lactose, like cheese, allowed everyone to digest the nutrients in milk.

Kindstedt said the earliest cheeses were likely similar to spreadable cheeses like ricotta and fromage frais. He guessed that people either ate them soon after they were made or buried them in pots for months afterwards, saving them for the winter when food was scarce.

Cheeses also served to spice up the Neolithic diet. "Food was incredibly dull and monotonous," Kindstedt said, noting the prehistoric farmers' dependence on grain porridge.

After being buried in the ground for months, he said, the cheeses would have been non-perishable, "bomb-proof" and pretty pungent.

"They probably would not be the first choice for a lot of people today," Kindstedt he said. "But I would still love to try it."


Monday, December 17, 2012

Low Iron Linked to Behavior Problems in Kids

Supplementing iron into the diets of low birth weight infants significantly reduced the prevalence of behavioral and emotional problems as toddlers compared to those infants who did not take iron, according to a new study published in the journal Pediatrics. The findings suggest a causal relation between infant iron deficiency and later behavioral problems.

Researchers at Umeå University noted low birth weight infants are at increased risk of cognitive and behavioral problems and at risk for iron deficiency, which is associated with impaired neurodevelopment. Therefore, they conducted a randomized controlled trial in 285 marginally low birth weight infants (2,000 to 2,500 g) infants received who received 0, 1, or 2 mg/kg/day of iron supplements from six weeks to six months of age. At 3.5 years of age, these infants and 95 normal birth weight controls were assessed with a psychometric test (Wechsler Preschool and Primary Scale of Intelligence) and a questionnaire of behavioral problems (Child Behavior Checklist; CBCL). CBCL measures maladaptive behavioral and emotional problems in children, such as internalizing (i.e., anxious, depressive and overcontrolled) and externalizing (i.e., aggressive, hyperactive, noncompliant and undercontrolled) behaviors.

Children who received the supplement had better CBCL scores, indicating fewer behavioral problems. Almost 13% of the children who received no iron had scored a above the U.S. subclinical compared to 2.9% and 2.7% in 1-mg and 2-mg groups, respectively. The researchers found no significant differences in IQ between the groups.

Iron levels are low in the United States, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The nutrient also has been shown to reduce fatigue in women and increase fitness in teenagers. A recent study also showed babies born to obese mothers have lower iron levels at birth, which can result in greater risk for delays in motor and cognitive development.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

New Burden of Disease study shows world’s people living longer but with more disability

The health of most of the planet’s population is rapidly coming to resemble that of the United States, where death in childhood is rare, too much food is a bigger problem than too little, and life is long and often darkened by disability.

High blood pressure is now the leading “risk factor” for disease around the world. Alcohol use is third. Low-back pain now causes more disability than childbirth complications or anemia.

We are in transition to a world where disability is the dominant concern as opposed to premature death,” said Christopher J.L. Murray, who headed the Global Burden of Disease Study, published Thursday. “The pace of change is such that we are ill prepared to deal with what the burden of disease is now in most places.”
Produced over five years by 486 researchers at 302 institutions in 50 countries, the study is the most detailed look at health on the population level ever attempted.

It charts 235 causes of death, including AIDS, alcoholism, bladder cancer and animal bites. It examines the effects of 67 “risk factors” — as diverse as not enough fruit in the diet and childhood sexual abuse — that can lead to illness.

The calculations are made for two points in time — 1990 and 2010. As a consequence, the study reveals how the world’s health has changed over two decades and provides a trajectory of where it may be headed. The purpose is to give governments, international agencies, donors and researchers an idea of what to plan for.

The study provides both a broad-brush portrait of 7 billion people and a detailed etching of what’s happening in 187 individual nations.

Heart disease and stroke were the leading and second-leading causes of death in 1990 and remained so in 2010. But over that two-decade period, malnutrition dropped from the 11th to the 21st cause of death. Diabetes, car accidents and lung cancer all rose in the rankings.

Africa remains the one place where afflictions of the poor — AIDS, malaria, childhood infections, malnutrition, childbirth calamities — remain hugely important. They account for three-quarters of all premature deaths.

The study also reveals many highly localized variations in health.

As a consequence of the earthquake in Haiti in 2010, Haitian men that year had the globe’s lowest life expectancy: 33 years. Egypt has the highest rate of cirrhosis of any country, caused by hepatitis C unwittingly transmitted to millions of people through unclean needles used in public health campaigns against the tropical infection schistosomiasis. Ethio­pian men gained 13 years of “healthy life expectancy” between 1990 and 2010, the most of any group in the world. There’s a “homicide belt” in Latin America and a “suicide belt” in Asia

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Food Startups Take Tips from Tech Industry

A new group of food-based startups are applying tricks learned from the technology industry to grow a new wave of businesses to cash in on the growing "foodie" movement across the U.S.

Like tech entrepreneurs starting out in a Starbucks, foodies who find themselves needing space to prepare boutique treats are turning to shared programs called incubators and accelerators that help them launch by offering communal business spaces and logistical assistance.

Small food businesses—mom and pop operations selling goods at farmers markets, food trucks, or at boutique retail establishments—have proliferated in the last few years, according to data provided by the National Association for the Specialty Food Trade. In the New York City area alone, city politicians are rushing through 22,000 additional permits for mobile food vendors. Due to hygienic needs, raw material needs, and other factors, new small food businesses often need help getting started. In large urban markets such as New York and Los Angeles, startup costs frequently exceed $10,000, and that's where the incubators and accelerators come in.

"A company can come in, rent space for the day, pack up their things and leave," says Michael Schwartz at the Organic Food Incubator in New York. "The not so traditional part is that we have companies who stay here more permanently." Tenants at the Organic Food Incubator work on everything from spicy Indian sandwiches to gluten-free breads to soft-serve "ice cream" made from crushed fruits.

Both incubators and accelerators offer small food businesses the opportunity to grow within a nurturing environment while defraying large startup capital costs.

The Organic Food Incubator hosts trade shows to introduce their members to prominent local grocery chains and distributors; members also have access to classes, networking event, and consulting assistance for recipes, social media, and distributors.

Ahkilah Johnson is the co-founder of Manhattan's City Cookhouse, which offers commercial kitchen rentals along with community cooking classes and business development opportunities. Johnson says that "I used to do children's cooking classes in the neighborhood, but could never find space for classes. We needed space in the community. My day job is in building schools so I thought we could build a space. We created a center for businesses and for healthy cooking classes." Incubators such as the Organic Food Incubator and City Cookhouse offer micro-businesses access to high-end kitchen equipment, space to produce at scale, and support to grow their business. This can include anything from packaging assistance to networking sessions with large wholesalers and distributors.

While most of New York's food incubators are medium-to-large sized commercial kitchens, several even larger facilities are coming to the city. 3rd Ward, a Brooklyn community arts and educational organization, is opening a large culinary incubator and educational center. Also in Brooklyn, a former pharmaceutical plant is being converted into a 660,000 square-foot culinary production facility whose rooms will be subdivided among a warren of small businesses.

While traditional accelerators have been aimed at internet-based startups and small technology firms, food accelerators are a much newer proposition. Food businesses traditionally require thousands of dollars in launch capital at the very least and are subject to much more intensive government regulation. The large sums that small food businesses need to expand have traditionally been found through more traditional fundraising methods in the past. One accelerator, 500 Startups, is nurturing mail-order food businesses among others. Culture Kitchen (which sells make-your-own ethnic cuisine kits) and Craft Coffee. In exchange for up to $250,000 in seed funding, participating businesses give up 5% equity.

One accelerator in Arkansas, The ARK, pays special attention to food. Due to Wal-Mart's and Tyson Food's headquarters being located inside the state, The ARK is specifically recruiting food start-ups who could benefit from close proximity to the agribusiness giants. Three of the groups funded by ARK's 15 are food startups, including a social network for food trucks, a high-tech meat analytics firm, and an online marketplace for farmers. The ARK offers recipients approximately $18,000 in funding in exchange for 6% equity and a promise to relocate to northwestern Arkansas for the duration of the program.

"Not only do food-oriented startups get access to mentorship from top minds in the food industry, but founders also receive support and resources to accelerate their businesses during the three-month program, all in preparation to make investor pitches," the ARK's Jeannette Balleza told Reuters.

Another accelerator specializing entirely in food startups was recently launched in California as well. Palo Alto's Local Food Lab is unlike traditional accelerators in that it doesn't offer capital in exchange for equity, but rather an intensive six-week program for food startups to develop a business plan and cultivate industry contacts. Recipients include all-brunch food truck Brunched in the Face, South African-style snack maker LifeBites, and urban farming education effort Seeducate.

"Working through (ARK) benefited us by providing mentors and advice related to the industry we are entering," said Derek Kean of Truckily, a logistics firm for food trucks funded through the ARK. "Being able to build upon experience and knowledge from former executives, entrepreneurs and current employees of companies that have had years of research and, more importantly, 'mistakes made' was invaluable."

But despite the growing the popularity and apparent need food incubators and accelerators, they aren't found everywhere: Apart from outliers such as ARK, most are situated in large cities or in dense suburbs. Only a few food incubators have sprouted up in smaller communities. Replicating the food incubator model in rural areas and college towns is the next great challenge for the growing field.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Food-Safety Alert: Hearts of Romaine Recalled Over Listeria

Taylor Farms Retail, Inc., based in Salinas, Calif., is recalling Taylor Farms Hearts of Romaine bagged salad in California and Florida due to potential Listeria contamination, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced today. The recall involves 10-ounce bags of Taylor Farms Hearts of Romaine salad with best by dates of Dec. 13, 2012, and UPC code 0 30223 04032 3.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Restaurant Sales to Exceed $660 Billion in 2013

The restaurant industry is projected to exceed $660 billion in 2013, a 3.8% increase over 2012, marking the fourth consecutive year of real sales growth for the industry, according to the National Restaurant Association’s 2013 Restaurant Industry Forecast. While the operating environment will remain challenging, America’s 980,000 restaurants are expected to post record sales and continue to be a leading job creator in 2013.

“Despite a continued challenging operating environment, the restaurant industry remains a strong driver in the nation’s economy," said Dawn Sweeney, president and CEO of the National Restaurant Association (NRA). “Ours is a resilient and flexible industry that continually finds new ways to keep growing, relying on the creativity and innovation exhibited by the entrepreneurial spirit. In 2013, restaurant operators will continue to explore ways of navigating the rocky economic landscape to find the road to success."

The report noted while the industry is expected to grow in 2013, the top challenges cited by restaurateurs vary by industry segment, and include food costs, the economy and health care reform.

After increasing steadily in the last three years, wholesale food costs will continue on an upward trajectory through 2013, putting significant pressure on restaurants’ bottom lines as about one-third of sales in a restaurant goes to food and beverage purchases. Because of these prolonged cost pressures, restaurant operators will continue to use creativity and innovation to drive out cost inefficiencies and increase productivity to not pass along the increases to consumers at the same rate.

The sluggish economic and employment recovery impacts consumers’ cash-on-hand situation, which impacts restaurants as there is a strong correlation between consumers’ disposable income and restaurant sales. There is currently substantial pent-up demand for restaurant services, with 2 out of 5 consumers saying they are not using restaurant as often as they would like; with improving economic conditions, that demand is likely to turn into sales.

Preparing for the implementation of health care reform also will put additional cost pressure on some restaurant operators in the near future. One-third of a typical restaurant’s sales go toward labor costs, so significant increases in those costs will result in additional cost management measures to preserve the already slim pre-tax profit margins of 3% to 5% on which most restaurants operate.

When it comes to food, the top menu trends are all about local sourcing and nutrition. Nearly three-quarters of consumers are more likely to visit a restaurant that offers locally produced food items, and more than 60% of consumers said locally sourced menus are a key attribute for choosing a restaurant. Currently, a majority of tableservice restaurants offer locally sourced produce, meat or seafood, with availability being highest in the fine dining segment.

In addition, more than 7 out of 10 consumers say they are trying to eat healthier at restaurants now than they did two years ago; women more so than men (75% versus 66%). Similarly, about three-quarters of consumers say healthy menu options are an important factor when choosing a restaurant (80% of women versus 71% of men). Restaurants are responding to this increasing demand for nutritious options, as 86% of consumers say that restaurants are offering a wider variety now than two years ago.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The benefits of coffee re diabetes

There has been much talk of the results of a study in the coffee news recently and it all has to do with the relationship between coffee and diabetes.

The report was published by a not-for-profit organisation, which is dedicated to the study of the relationship between health and coffee: it is called the Institute for Scientific Information on Coffee.

So what has this Institute discovered?

It seems that there may be a link between reducing the development of type 2 diabetes and drinking a moderate amount of coffee.

For the purposes of this article, moderate coffee drinking equates to about three or four cups of joe daily.

The results of research have indicated that the levels of reduction in the development of the disease are around 25%, when compared to consumption of less than two cups per day.

Other research projects calculated things in a different way for every additional cup of coffee consumed daily, the likelihood of risk was cut by 7 to 8%.

Despite these encouraging beginnings, there is still more investigation to be done before the relationship between coffee and diabetes can be pronounced in more detail for instance, the causal effect is not certain.

As such, it’s onwards and upwards in terms of coffee research, but these thoughts provide interesting ideas in the meantime, don’t they?


Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Could Facebook be used as a weapon against childhood obesity?

A new American Heart Association scientific statement suggests that Facebook and other social media platforms could help fight childhood obesity. Organizations have routinely used social media to promote healthy eating initiatives and this statement may be the confirmation that these organizations need to continue launching internet-based campaigns, especially those aimed at combating childhood obesity.

ABC’s Liz Neporent wrote in 2011 about how social media can help motivate you to exercise. She discussed how becoming mayor of a location on Foursquare motivated her to exercise. Foursquare, for those unfamiliar with the social media app, allows one to share his or her location with friends.

“To the uninitiated, being the Foursquare mayor of a living room gym sounds like a silly waste of time,” she admitted. “Perhaps it is. But for someone as compulsive as I am, it has actually become part of what motivates me to lace up my sneakers every morning.”

Internet-based health interventions based around the idea of achieving a goal or competing with friends may be another avenue for researchers to explore. Researcher shows that people tend to work a lot harder when they are motivated by someone or something.

“Online communication and social media are an increasing part of our lives and our overall social network of family, friends and peers,” said Dr. Jennifer S. Li, chair of the writing group and division chief of pediatric cardiology at Duke University Medical Center, in a statement. “Healthcare providers should embrace its potential as a tool for promoting healthy behavioral change.”

Dr. Li’s writing group looked at research on Internet-based interventions to lose weight, increasing physical activity and advance eating habits among children.

Researchers found that several variables determined whether the interventions were successful, including whether the rest of the family was involved in the intervention, the level of back-and-forth communication and feedback with a counselor or support group and the frequency with which kids logged on and took part in the programs.

Research shows that obese people usually share a living space or spend their recreational time with others who are overweight.

“Athletes tend to hang out with athletes, and overweight kids hang out together so they reinforce each other’s eating habits or preferences for recreational activities,” Dr. Li said.

More than 90 percent of 12- to 17-year-old kids have Internet access at home or in school so social network health interventions should be examined as an effective way to fight childhood obesity, researchers contend.

“Some research shows that even in virtual social networks, people tend to associate with others like themselves,” Dr. Li added. “So if you develop a network of kids who are overweight, you can have an impact on all of them — in the real world and online — because if one starts making healthy changes, the others will be influenced to do so as well.”

Unfortunately, there are several negatives to using social media for health interventions, including the danger of cyber bullying, privacy issues and sexting. Internet addiction can also lead to sleep deprivation.

“Doctors need to understand digital technology better so that they can offer guidance to patients and their families on avoiding such issues, and will be aware of any such problems that occur,” Dr. Li said.

The writing group suggests that policy makers, doctors and researchers oversee outcomes and design health interventions that provide privacy protection and create behavioral changes such as self-monitoring, goal-setting and problem-solving.

Additional research is necessary to obtain data on overweight and obese adolescents and to examine whether variations in gender, ethnicity, geographic location and socioeconomic status impact the success and level of engagement with social media and technologically-based weight management interventions.

“Teenagers are texting and using Facebook and other social media as their primary communication with their peers, and we need to find out what factors can be incorporated into social media that will increase the effectiveness of these interventions to initiate and maintain weight loss in kids and adolescents,” Dr. Li said.

Facebook, with one billion users as of October, certainly has the reach to help fight childhood obesity. CNN Money notes that reaching the one billion users mark means that Facebook impacts one out of every seven people on the planet.


Monday, December 10, 2012

Elephant coffee $50 a cup: Feces produces exotic brew

This is crazy.

Elephant coffee for $50 a cup sounds not only strange, but expensive. That's because it's actually both. According to a Dec. 7 NBC News report, the feces of elephants in Golden Triangle, Thailand help produce this exotic brew.

Turns out the Thai elephants eat beans and coffee makers have discovered that a gut reaction happens within the elephant before they defecate their dung. After the elephants excrete their waste, the digested beans are plucked out of their feces. Does that sound like something that you would spend $50 a cup on in coffee?

The elephant drink is called Black Ivory Coffee and mostly sold to only the wealthy. It was introduced in November to a few luxury hotels in various parts of the world and is now in Maldives and Abu Dhabi.

Blake Dinkin invested $300,000 into creating this $50 a cup coffee produced by elephants.

"When an elephant eats coffee, its stomach acid breaks down the protein found in coffee, which is a key factor in bitterness," said Dinkin. "You end up with a cup that's very smooth without the bitterness of regular coffee."

Does the elephant coffee sound intriguing to you?


Saturday, December 08, 2012

5-Hour Energy Distributor Cleared to Proceed in Suit Against Lawyers

Innovation Ventures LLC, the 5-hour Energy shot distributor doing business as Living Essentials, scored a legal victory last month in an appeal that turned the tables on lawyers who had sued the company in a previous case that was dismissed.

A California appeals courts upheld a decision that allows Innovation Ventures to continue pursuing a complaint against several lawyers for a "malicious prosecution".

A few years ago, California resident Vi Nguyen, through attorney Howard W. Rubinstein and other lawyers, sued Innovation Ventures in federal court for false advertising and other violations of the law. The lawsuit was eventually dismissed with prejudice at Nguyen's request, and Innovation Ventures returned the favor by filing suit against Nguyen and her lawyers for malicious prosecution.

The lawsuit may continue against Nguyen's lawyers, the appellate court ruled. But in the Nov. 29 opinion, the three-judge panel held Innovation Ventures failed to meet its burden of proof in establishing that Nguyen acted maliciously in bringing and pursuing the complaint.

"While an attorney may be subject to liability for continuing to pursue an action after discovery of information showing the case lacks merit, it does not automatically subject clients who are unaware of those facts to liability. In such a case, counsel must inform the client of the unfavorable information and recommend dismissal," wrote Associate Justice William F. Rylaarsdam of the California Court of Appeal, Fourth Appellate Division. "Innovation presented no evidence attorneys gave such advice to Nguyen prior to the time the dismissal was sought."

Lawyers who had represented Nguyen weren't so fortunate. The appellate court affirmed a decision by the trial court to deny their request to strike the malicious prosecution claims filed against them.

Nguyen revealed in her deposition she had purchased 5-hour Energy for the express purpose of the litigation and acknowledged previously buying the product on several other occasions. In her deposition, Nguyen further disclosed she wasn't seeking damages for personal injuries and wasn't concerned about suffering "'some adverse physical or psychological effect'" from 5-hour Energy, the appellate court observed. Rather, Nguyen stated "she was seeking only to recover the purchase price because she did not think the product was worth the money she spent on it."

Nguyen moved to dismiss her complaint after Innovation Ventures served her employer with a subpoena and sought to schedule another deposition for her and depose her brother.

Rylaarsdam said Innovation Ventures had met its "prima facie" case of establishing the elements of a malicious prosecution. Those elements include, among other things, a showing that the lawyers had no "probable cause" to bring the complaint against Innovation Ventures and acted with "malice".

The opinion also detailed some unsavory lawyer practices, namely an alleged offer (unrelated to the litigation) that Rubinstein made to Innovation Ventures, agreeing to "desist from filing lawsuits" against the company in exchange for money.

The other lawyers named as defendants in the malicious prosecution complaint are Harold M. Hewell, Richard A. Proaps, David Salazar and Salazar & Tellawi, PLLC.

Friday, December 07, 2012

Rice Bran May Have Chemopreventive Effect

Emerging evidence suggests that dietary rice bran may have beneficial effects against several types of cancer, such as breast, lung, liver and colorectal cancer. The chemopreventive potential has been related to the bioactive phytochemicals present in the bran portion of the rice, according to a new study published in the journal Advances in Nutrition.

Researchers at the University of Colorado Cancer Center found there is a delicate balance of bioactive components in rice bran that together show anti-cancer activity, including the ability to inhibit cell proliferation, alter cell cycle progression and initiate the programmed cell death known as apoptosis in malignant cells. The researchers showed that bioactive rice bran derived small molecules include, but are not limited to, polyphenolics, ferulic acid, tricin, β-sitosterol, γ-oryzanol, tocotrienols/tocopherols and phytic acid.

“We’re working now to tease apart the ratios of these active molecules required for bioactivity and mechanisms. Previous attempts to isolate one or another compound have been largely unsuccessful and so it looks now as if rather than any one compound giving rice bran its chemopreventive powers, it’s the synergistic activity of multiple components in the whole food that should be studied," the said.

Work with cancer cell lines and animal models shows that the bioactive components of rice bran act not only within cancer cells but around the cells to create conditions in the surrounding tissues that promote the function of healthy cells, while inhibiting the function of cancer cells. This tissue microenvironment activity includes mediating chronic inflammation that provides a ripe landscape for cancer.

The researchers are evaluating how rice bran may also help to promote an anti-cancer immune response and modulate gut microbiota metabolism for protection against cancer.

“There are well over 100,000 varieties of rice in the world, many with their own unique mix of bioactive components and so one major challenge is to discover the optimal composition for chemoprevention. Another challenge is ensuring that people consistently receive the required daily intake amount or ‘dose’ needed to demonstrate these chemo-protective effects. That said, rice is an accessible, low-cost food in most places of the world, and so work with rice bran as a dietary chemopreventive agent has the potential to impact a significant portion of the world’s population," they said.

Current fiber intakes are alarmingly low, with less than 3% of all Americans meeting recommended intakes. Many nutrition authorities believe adding fiber ingredients to commonly consumed foods will help Americans bridge the fiber gap without adding significant calories to the diet.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Teavana Investor Files Suit to Block Starbucks Acquisition

An investor in Teavana Holdings, Inc. reportedly has filed a lawsuit to block the $620 million acquisition of the company by Starbucks.

The plaintiff contends the agreement by Starbucks Coffee Company to acquire Teavana Holdings for $15.50 per share undervalues the tea company, according to The Shareholders Foundation, a legal monitoring and settlement claim filing service, in a Nov. 26 press release.

The media relations team at Starbucks didn't immediately respond Monday afternoon to an emailed request for comment.

Starbucks last month noted the acquisition had been approved by Teavana stockholders controlling about 70 percent of the outstanding shares of the common stock. Founded 15 years ago, Teavana is a specialty retailer offering premium loose-leaf teas, authentic artisinal teawares and other tea-related merchandise through 300 company-owned stores and on its website. It is set to become a wholly-owned subsidiary of Starbucks.

Shares of Teavana closed Monday at $14.87 on the New York Stock Exchange. The price of the stock has ranged from a 52-week high of $26.03 on Feb. 28 to a 52-week low of $9.75 on Nov. 14 — the day the Starbucks acquisition was announced.


Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Food Retailers Assess Sandy’s Wrath, Begin Rebuilding

Four weeks after Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast, the outgoing telephone message of Joe Leone’s market in Point Pleasant, NJ, was a testament to how hard the storm had hit the Jersey Shore. After listing his store’s limited hours, owner Joe Leone pledged to help anyone who needed emergency food, giving his work number and email. “We are praying for a swift recovery from Sandy. We are very concerned,” Leone said. “I am very willing to help in any way that we can. And our hearts and prayers go out to everyone. God bless the Jersey Shore.”

Joe Leone’s Market, located four blocks from the beach in Point Pleasant, was spared flooding and wind damage, though Sandy wiped out half of the shore town’s boardwalk, including a popular pier bar and many homes. The 50,000-square-foot market and catering business did lose power and needed to close for a week, as did a second location in nearby Sea Girt, NJ In all, the retailer lost $70,000 to $80,000 in food and an estimated $120,000 in sales.

Leone is one of hundreds of specialty food retailers scrambling with the impact of Hurricane Sandy, which has caused extensive damage, including power outages, flooding and travel disruptions, along the East Coast since hitting landfall on October 29. It is projected Sandy will have caused about $30 billion in damages in the United States.

Starting From Scratch

In Brooklyn, NY, the damage from Sandy was so extensive to the Fairway Market location on the Red Hook waterfront that the store will be closed for an expected six to eight weeks. The 50,000-square-foot specialty supermarket, located in a Civil War–era brick building, had 5 feet of flooding, says Howard Glickberg, Fairway's vice chairman of development and former chief executive. Workers had to throw out everything in the store, all food and fixtures and all of the drywall, filling 70 dumpsters. Additionally, the store’s refrigeration units and coffee roaster were ruined.

“We’re starting from scratch. The store is completely empty,” says Glickberg, whose grandfather founded the Fairway chain. “The refrigeration was ruined with the saltwater. It’s all unusable. But we’re New Yorkers. We’re optimistic.”

Fairway is hoping to get reimbursement for the storm damage costs through its business interruption insurance, he adds. Until reopening, the Red Hook Fairway’s 300 employees have been shifted to other Fairway locations in the city.

In Hoboken, NJ, Chung Park’s The Cheese Store, located 12 blocks from the waterfront, was flooded with 6 inches of water and lost power for 10 days. Park had to discard $30,000 in perishable inventory, including cheese, charcuterie, yogurt and ice cream. The flood waters, which were mixed with sewage, ruined the 700-square-foot store’s wood floors and walls, and Park is assessing if his four refrigeration units have been permanently corroded. Park estimates that he lost $20,000 in sales from being closed and has applied for a Small Business Administration loan to help finance his rebuilding. Before Sandy, he had been in the process of moving to a larger store within his building but plans are currently on hold.

In Roslyn, Long Island, NY, the owners of The Meat House had to throw out their entire inventory of top choice and prime steaks and meat and produce when the store lost power and was closed for two-and-a-half days. Sandy caused loss estimates of $48,000 in sales, but a week later Meat House lost power again due to a northeastern storm and had to trash its inventory a second time. “It’s a lot of money, but you can’t take the chance with food,” says Joseph Brakatselos, assistant general manager. “We reopened as fast as we could, texting our vendors when we would be ready.”

Giving Back

Faced with losing inventory, several specialty retailers took the opportunity to help their neighbors. Meat House workers were able to drive some of the meat and food to several churches that still had power in middle Long Island. In the days after the storm surge, Fairway Market donated 100,000 pounds of food, filling five tractor trailers, to neighborhood charities. On the Jersey Shore, by day three of preserving perishable food in a refrigerator using a generator, Leone and his partner, John Hilla, decided to bring their employees in to cook the food and begin feeding those helping with the storm. The market delivered food for about 5,500 meals to first responders who set up shop in a local recycling hub, fire stations and other buildings, Leone says. The retailer also has plans to set up a soup kitchen to help feed those still recovering from the storm who lack a place to cook.

“We have had a wonderful run here in Point Pleasant for 15 years, and this is our time to give back,” says Leone. “This storm has been devastating to so many people here


Tuesday, December 04, 2012

New health reform rules unveiled

The federal government has unveiled proposed rules under health care reform that will have broad implications for states, health insurance companies, small businesses and uninsured Americans within the next 12 months.

In a conference call with reporters last week, Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius spelled out the long-awaited "essential health benefits" that insurers must include in their individual plans when state health insurance exchanges open Jan. 1, 2014. Insurers have been anxiously awaiting the definitions in order to finalize the policies they'll offer when open enrollment begins next October.

The rules specify that 10 categories of benefits be included in all individual and small-group policies but leave it to each state to set its own benefit minimums. The categories include: ambulatory services; emergency services; hospitalization; laboratory services; maternity and newborn care; mental health and substance abuse services; pediatric services; prescription drugs; preventive and wellness care and chronic disease management; and rehabilitative and "habilitative" services for conditions such as autism and cerebral palsy.

The rules also prohibit insurers from denying coverage due to a preexisting condition or charging higher premiums due to occupation, current or past health problems, or gender. Studies show that women often pay more for health insurance than men.

The feds have provided more guidance to employer-based wellness programs, giving employers greater leeway to offer larger rewards to employees who quit smoking or adopt healthier lifestyles. And the rules protect employees from unfair underwriting practices that could reduce their benefits because of health issues.

In addition, Sebelius extended until Dec. 14 the deadline for states to inform HHS whether they plan to set up their own state health exchanges, which are designed to offer individuals and small businesses easy-to-shop-for health insurance at subsidized rates. To date, roughly 17 states have committed to set up their own exchanges. Those that don't can choose to partner with the federal government or allow the feds to establish and operate the state's exchange, which is required under health care reform.

About half of the nation's 30 million uninsured are expected to purchase health insurance through the exchanges, while the remainder would be covered under the federal-state Medicaid program for low-income Americans.

Monday, December 03, 2012

Butter Chicken from Trader Joe’s is Recalled

Canadian and U.S. health officials said more than 4,865 pounds of butter chicken and rice that was headed for Trader Joe’s stores had been recalled for possible contamination of Listeria.

The Food Safety and Inspection branch of the U.S. Agriculture Department has started to alert consumers of the new recall that was being conducted by Aliya’s Foods and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. Aliya’s is headquartered in Edmonton, Alberta. The recall includes rice products and frozen butter chicken that had been imported from Canada.

The Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety service will verify all the U.S. companies that were sent shipments of the products that were recalled and confirm they were notified to remove them from their shelves.

The recall includes boxes of 12.5 ounces of Butter Chicken with Basmati Rice with product code number 2012-10-31 and a 30512 lot code. The chicken recalled is considered to be ready-to-eat and can be subject to testing of pathogens since there is zero tolerance for pathogens by the Food Safety Service in foods deemed ready-to-eat, at the time they are produced, even if the food in question much be heated prior to serving.

At a distribution center, 19 cartons had been held, while 240 cartons had been already distributed to different retail stores of Trader Joe’s. Those Trader Joe’s stores have already been contacted and told to pull the items from their shelves.

Health officials were concerned that consumers might purchase or receive the product but have not heard about the recall. The FDA announced that the products might have been shipped to 14 stores, all located on the east coast of the U.S


Sunday, December 02, 2012

U.S. Senators Concerned over Lack of Flexibility in School Nutrition Rules

Nearly a dozen U.S. senators have expressed concerns that new school nutrition programs are too rigid to the detriment of some children including kids from low-income families.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has implemented changes to the National School Lunch Program and the School Breakfast Program, partly responding to an obesity epidemic impacting kids.

Lawmakers are generally fond of the changes, as directed by the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, although they worry that a lack of flexibility in the national programs is preventing at least some kids from getting the calories and protein they need.

"As a deterrent to chronic disease onset especially early on in life, we support the promotion of nutrition principles in American schools. Along with similarly important principles of physical activity and adequate health education, proper nutrition is foundational for successfully preventing debilitating chronic disease," wrote 11 senators in a letter recently sent to Agriculture Department Secretary Thomas Vilsack.

"However, the children, parents, and school systems attempting to comply with these new school meal standards have found that they lack the flexibility necessary to meet the nutrition needs of many growing boys and girls," added the lawmakers, who hail from Arkansas, Indiana, Kansas, Montana, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Wyoming.

The senators, for instance, questioned a 2012 program with a maximum calorie limit without taking into account certain factors, such as the weight, height and physical activity of a student. One parent complained her kids who rank in the 99th percentile (for their height in their age group) are hungry in the afternoon due to the calorie restrictions, the letter pointed out. A school superintendent observed lunch is the primary, and sometimes only, meal of the day for kids from low-income families.

"In such cases, these students have fewer financial resources to supplement school meals with snacks to maintain satiety, as compared to other students," wrote the senators, who also expressed concerns that some children might not be obtaining enough daily protein.

In January, USDA announced that the new meal requirements would raise standards for the first time in more than 15 years for the 32 million kids who participate in school meal programs. The final standards incorporate such changes as ensuring kids are offered fruits and vegetables every day and increasing the focus on reducing the amounts of fat and sodium in meals.

The changes could help fight childhood obesity, which has more than tripled in the past 30 years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Peanut Butter Plant to Trader Joe's, Whole Foods Shut by FDA

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced Monday that it has blocked food distribution from the Sunland Inc. peanut butter plant in New Mexico whose products were subject to a wide recall in recent months because of salmonella contamination.

The various types of Sunland peanut butter products—sold under several brands by major food retailers, including Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, Sprouts, Target and Safeway—had been part of a voluntary recall that began in September and later was expanded to include other nut butters as well as processed nuts and peanuts.

The FDA action announced Monday is a mandatory order.

The company's nut products have been "linked to an outbreak of Salmonella Bredeney that has sickened 41 people in 20 states," the FDA said.

Of the 41 sickened, 28 percent were hospitalized, according to the most recent report on the outbreak from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Seven of the infected people were from California.

According to the Associated Press:

During a month-long investigation, after the outbreak linked to processor Sunland and to Trader Joe's, FDA inspectors found samples of salmonella in 28 different locations in [Sunland's New Mexico] plant, in 13 nut butter samples and in one sample of raw peanuts.

The agency also found improper handling of the products, unclean equipment and uncovered trailers of peanuts outside the facility that were exposed to rain and birds.

The voluntary recall began after salmonella was detected in a lot of Trader Joe’s Valencia Creamy Salted Peanut Butter, which had an SKU (Stock Keeping Unit) number 97111, according to the FDA. Only certain lots were affected by the recall.

Sunland is the nation's largest processor of organic peanut butter products, AP reported. Sunland's nut products are not exclusively organic.

The FDA order—which suspends the registration of the plant in Portales, NM, and prohibits it from distributing food for sale—marks the first time the agency has invoked its new authority to suspend the registration of a food production facility, the FDA said. The authority was granted under the Food Safety Modernization Act, signed into law by President Barack Obama in January last year.

Sunland had ceased operations at the plant and intended to restart Tuesday in hopes of resuming sales of peanut butter products by the end of this year, according to AP.

Sunland officials said they were surprised by the federal order, are cooperating with the FDA, and hope to be back in operation soon, the AP reported.

The FDA said the widespread illnesses "coupled with Sunland’s history of violations led FDA to make the decision to suspend the company’s registration."

The FDA also cited Sunland's own testing results showing salmonella in 11 product lots of nut butter between June 2009 and September 2012.


Thursday, November 29, 2012

Small Business Saturday Exceeds Expectations

Small businesses across the country got their holiday season off to a strong start as millions of U.S. consumers “shopped small” on Small Business Saturday and made a big impact on local communities.

According to the second installment of the Small Business Saturday Consumer Insights Survey, released today by the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) and American Express, consumer awareness of Small Business Saturday jumped to 67 percent from 34 percent just two weeks ago. Of those aware, nearly half (47%) shopped on Small Business Saturday.

The increased awareness translated into higher spending. Those U.S. consumers who were aware of Small Business Saturday spent on a total of $5.5 billion with independent merchants. Pre-holiday surveys estimated that U.S. consumers would spend $5.3 billion.

“In an uncertain economy, America’s small businesses have remained a beacon—creating good jobs and supporting the families they employ and the communities around them,” said NFIB CEO Dan Danner. “We are very pleased that so many Americans sought to give back by shopping small this Small Business Saturday. We hope that support of small firms, retailers, restaurants and other independent businesses continues throughout the holiday season and all year round. Continued support of this vital sector is one important way to ensure our economy fully recovers and a healthy private sector is restored.”

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

WHO Stresses Importance of Salt, Trans Fat Reductions

In an effort to achieve a 25% reduction in mortality from non-communicable diseases (NCDs), such as cardiovascular diseases, cancer and diabetes, the World Health Organization (WHO) presented a new global monitoring draft framework outlining the importance of reducing salt and trans fats in the diet.

Presenting at an Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)
meeting in Paris, WHO Nutrition Director Francesco Branca reducing saturated fat (SAFA) intake, increasing fruit and vegetable consumption and preventing a further rise in obesity and overweight were important measures. The nutrient targets set by the WHO remain as before—salt intake should be limited to no more than 5 g per day; industrially produced trans fats should be replaced by polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA); and the intake of saturated fats should be reduced to less than 10% of caloric intake. To halt the rise in obesity and overweight, WHO has mentioned reducing the marketing of foods high in saturated fats, trans fats, free sugars or salt to children. The WHO draft framework will be submitted for adoption by the World Health Assembly in 2013.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Coffee Helps Drinkers See the Bright Side

commonly guzzle a cup of joe to perk up, it turns out caffeine can do more than simply wake people. Researchers found that caffeine helps the brain process positive words faster.

Caffeine indirectly boosts dopamine transmission—a neurotransmitter that aids in reward-based learning—and Lars Kuchinke, a junior professor at Germany's Ruhr University, suspected this might lead to better acumen with word recognition by enhancing activity in the brain’s left hemisphere, which controls language. Researchers already know that people who consume normal levels of caffeine perform better at basic cognitive tasks.

To discern whether a link existed between dopamine and word recognition, Kuchinke asked 66 people to participate in a word test. Thirty minutes prior to the study, half of the participants took a pill, containing about 200 milligrams of caffeine, which equals two or three cups of coffee. The other half ingested a placebo. Then the participants watched a string of letters pop up on a computer screen and quickly had to decide whether each was an actual word or not. Researchers have long known that most people have a natural tendency to recognize positive words faster than neutral or negative words.

“Either positive words are better interconnected in the brain and it is, therefore, easier to recognize them or [the brain] receive[s] some kind of 'positive' or rewarding feedback during this process,” says Kuchinke. He also theorizes that negative words might cause the brain to pause, balking at the negative association, meaning a person would not identify it as quickly.

The caffeinated subjects correctly selected more positive words than the people in the control group. Kuchinke theorizes that when caffeine is added to the body it regulates the dopamine transmission in the regions that control decision-making and word comprehension.

“Caffeine may either strengthen connections to regions where positive information and positive feedback are processed so this information is more easily available during the process of word recognition,” he explains. “Or caffeine may simply facilitate the decision process.”

He believes that caffeine specifically impacts the striatum in the basal ganglia, which helps us process positive words and make decisions. But his findings also indicate that dopamine aids in language comprehension.


Monday, November 26, 2012

Vitamin D Protects Women Against MS

Pregnant women and women in general who have high levels of vitamin D in their blood have a 61% lower risk of developing multiple sclerosis (MS), compared to those who have low levels of vitamin D in their blood, according to a new study published in the journal Neurology.

Researchers at Umeå University reviewed information about 291,500 blood samples from 164,000 people collected since 1975 in the northern half of Sweden. Of those, 192 people developed MS an average of nine years after their blood sample was drawn, and there were 37 blood samples drawn during pregnancy from mothers whose children went on to develop MS later in life.

They found women who had high levels of vitamin D in their blood had a 61% lower risk of developing MS, compared to those who had low levels of vitamin D in their blood. Overall, few people had high levels of vitamin D. Only seven of the 192 people who developed MS, or 4%, had high vitamin D levels, compared to 30 of 384 controls without the disease, or 8%. No association was found between the mother’s vitamin D level and whether her child would later develop MS.

“In our study, pregnant women and women in general had a lower risk for MS with higher levels of the vitamin, as expected. However, a mother’s levels of vitamin D during early pregnancy did not have an effect on MS risk for her baby," the researchers said. “Since we found no protective effect on the baby for women with higher levels of vitamin D in early pregnancy, our study suggests the protective effect may start in later pregnancy and beyond."

The researchers also said the vitamin D levels became gradually lower with time from 1975 and onward. It is possible that this decline in vitamin D status is linked to the increasing numbers of MS cases seen worldwide.

An earlier study conducted at the University of California, San Francisco found low vitamin D blood levels were associated with a significantly higher risk of relapse attacks in patients with MS who develop the disease during childhood.