Wellness Foods HealthBites November/December 2007

Dec. 10, 2007
What's happening in the world of nutrition and health.

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How to Score

The Overall Nutritional Quality Index (ONQI), created by a group of experts under Yale Prevention Research Center chairman David Katz, MD, MPH, is slated to hit grocery stores in 2008. The ONQI is a new, "at-a-glance" system for scoring the nutritional value of foods. It assigns a score of 1 to 100 for each food, based on multiple factors such as saturated fat, sugar and cholesterol content, as well as levels of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients, plus amounts of nutraceutical components like fiber, omega-3s and other functional ingredients. Skokie, Ill.-based Topco Associates LLC, a 13,000-store grocery distribution cooperative owned by grocers such as Wegmans, IGA, Hy-Vee and Food City, will feature the system on some of its private-label products to start. Another group, the Nutrition Rich Food Coalition, made up of the National Dairy Council, the National Pork Board and other commodity organizations, is developing a scoring system as well, also set to launch in 2008.

Sweet Claim

The FDA announced it will allow products using the nutritive sweetener, isomaltulose to carry a "does not promote tooth decay" claim. Isomaltulose is not sufficiently fermented by bacteria in the mouth and so cannot reduce the pH of plaque nor influence erosion of enamel. This is good news for companies such as Minneapolis-based Cargill Inc. (www.cargill.com), which makes Xtend Isomaltulose, Morris Plains, N.J.-based Palatinit Inc.(www.palatinit.com), maker of Palatinose and Gadot Biochemical Ind., Haifa, Israel (www.gadotbio.com), maker of NRGylose. Isomaltulose is a slow-released, more efficiently absorbed sweetener made from sucrose through conversion. It can be used in candies, gums and confections.

OU Kid

More than 10,000 food industry professionals converged on the 2007 Cultural Food New York trade show and conference at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York last month. Formerly Kosherfest, the inclusion of Expo Comida Latina and All Asia Food, plus emphasis on the organic subcategory, inspired the name change. More than 700 exhibiting companies displayed the very latest in kosher, Asian and Hispanic food, wines, beverages and equipment showcasing thousands of products from more than 20 nations. The show also is typically co-located with the International Hotel Motel Show. "The surge of attendance confirms the ever-growing demand for these important categories of food and beverage for kosher, Hispanic, Asian and organics," said Brian Randall, show director.

Organic Really Might Be Better

Greenfield, Mass.-based Organic Trade Assn. announced findings from a four-year study indicating some organic foods are more nutritional than their conventional counterparts. Preliminary results from the study, part of the EU-funded Quality Low Input Food Project, show organic fruit and vegetables have up to 40 percent more antioxidants than non-organically grown produce, while organic milk contains up to 60 to 80 percent more antioxidants than conventionally produced milk in the summer, and 50 to 60 percent higher levels in the winter. Organic milk also was found to contain higher levels of vitamin E. In related news, the Senate Agriculture Committee recently approved its version of the Farm Bill that included funding and direction for key organic priorities. For more information visit www.ota.com.

Blue Goes Green

Blue Pacific Flavors (www.bluepacificflavors.com), City of Industry, Calif., makers of natural- and organic-compliant flavorings and ingredients, demonstrated the importance of ecologically responsible manufacturing to the ingredient side of processing by launching its "Catching the Green Wave" environmental stewardship campaign. The goal is to "achieve carbon-neutrality by 2013 through system-wide changes to offset emissions from the company's administrative and manufacturing operations."

D Against the Big C

New studies are finding protective effects against cancer and other ailments through higher intakes of vitamin D. In one epidemiological study of nearly 17,000 people involved in a nationwide survey between 1988 and 1994, and followed up through 2000, showed those with higher vitamin D levels were less likely to die of colorectal cancer. Vitamin D levels in the subjects did not affect the chances of dying from any other type of cancer. In fact, higher levels of vitamin D led to about a 72 percent reduced risk of dying from colorectal cancer compared to subjects with the lowest vitamin D levels.

Beef Over E.Coli

Dan Engeljohn, USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) deputy assistant administrator for the office of policy, gave support to the North America Meat Processors Assn. nine-step plan to reduce E. coli O157:H7. Engeljohn says FSIS will increase its focus on the upstream slaughter operations and procedures believed to contribute to E. coli proliferation. He adds FSIS will focus on the entire meat-processing chain, including at the slaughter level and agreed further processors are caught in the middle of the food safety chain. He suggests more focus be given to practices that can improve beef safety earlier in the chain. Engeljohn also says USDA "plans to begin looking for specific factors at harvesting facilities that can help control E. coli O157:H7 and build these into its Food Safety Assessment (FSA)."

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