Thursday, November 20, 2008

Labels

Data glut. Information overload. Knowing more and more about less and less.

Isn't this how it feels when you look at the encyclopedic information on the back of a food label?

It's not helpful ... but we have to do something. Our problem with Overweight and Obesity threatens to overtake tobacco as our #1 preventable cause of death.


But, what to do? Apparently, if you are a congressman, you make laws to put more in more and more information to micromanage the molecules of our foods. Here's the Reuters report.

Laws requiring that calories and other nutritional information be posted in fast food restaurants and on menus have become increasingly popular. And, lawmakers in Washington are struggling to get the practice adopted nationwide.

In fact, last September, California became the first U.S. state to require fast-food restaurant chains to list calories on their menus. New York City followed, and more than a dozen states are considering similar health code provisions.

What's the Deal?
Labeling everything, and giving us more and more information is not an awful thing in itself. But after a while, the overload makes it hard to process any of it. At all.

It may be best to use the simple solution, and leave the molecular parsing to the grad students who are happy to do all that number crunching for nothing more than pizza and a beer.

Expect to see labeling on all your menus, but remember the basic principles. Eat food. Learn to love your food again. When you do this, the background noise of molecular micromanagement become, truly, an academic issue.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Timing on Thanksgiving Day


If you choose to stuff your turkey, stuff loosely. The stuffing should be moist, not dry, since heat destroys bacteria more rapidly in a moist environment. Place stuffed turkey in oven immediately. You may also cook the stuffing outside the bird in a casserole. Judging cooking time for your turkey will be easier if the following chart is used. The times listed are for a fresh or thawed turkey in an oven at 325°F. These times are approximate.

Unstuffed
Size of Turkey - Hours to Prepare
8 to 12 pounds - 2 3/4 to 3 hours
12 to 14 pounds
- 3 to 3 3/4 hours
14 to 18 pounds - 3 3/4 to 4 1/4 hours
18 to 20 pounds - 4 1/4 to 4 1/2 hours
20 to 24 pounds - 4 1/2 to 5 hours


Stuffed
Size of Turkey - Hours to Prepare

8 to 12 pounds - 3 to 3 1/2 hours
12 to 14 pounds - 3 1/2 to 4 hours
14 to 18 pounds - 4 to 4 1/4 hours
18 to 20 pounds - 4 1/4 to 4 3/4 hours
20 to 24 pounds - 4 3/4 to 5 1/4 hours

o A little more than an hour beforehand, prepare the stuffing and put it in about one hour before you’re ready to serve (it takes about 45 minutes).
o 30 minutes beforehand, put the potatoes in boiling water
o 10-15 minutes beforehand, start the fresh veggies.
(source: USDA)

Monday, November 17, 2008

Milk and Melamine

The U.S. FDA is blocking the import of all milk products from China.

Not just
milk, but "milk-derived ingredients and finished food products containing milk from China due to the presence of melamine and/or melamine analogs".

In September 2008, several companies were implicated in a scandal involving milk and infant formula contaminated with melamine, leading to kidney stones and renal failure especially among young children.

By 22 September, nearly 53,000 people had become ill, with more than 12,800 hospitalizations and four infant deaths.

Okay. But, first of all, what is Melamine? We know they have put it
in milk products, but what is it actually?? Here is the exhaustive Wikipedia definition.

Basically, it is a close chemical relative of cyanamide, can be used to make fire retardants, thermoplastics, and foams. You also find it in countertops, dry erase boards, fabrics, glues, housewares and milk from China.

The Chineese companies put melamine into our pet food (causing serious illness or death), and also in our feed stock. Why? Melamine may have been added to fool government protein content tests. Because of melamine's high nitrogen content (66% by mass versus approx. 10-12% for typical protein), it can cause the protein content of food to appear higher than the true value.

Officials estimate that about 20 percent of the dairy companies tested in China sell products tainted with melamine.

For these companies, melamine allows them to sell cheaper product. They just add in more filler in the dog food (or formula for babies), or more water in their milk. Just sprinkle in a little melamine and it appears as if its normal.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Smelling Flavor

Unilever Food and Health Research Institute wants to put chemical odorants in your food, so you will perceive it as a healthy food option.

Here's the article.

Their researchers picked commercially available odorants that corresponded to 15 salty food tastes.

These included:
sardine, bacon, anchovy, peanuts, tuna, Roquefort cheese, ham, chicken, Compte cheese, soy sauce, sotolon, concentrated cheese, tomato, goat’s cheese, and carrot.

The goal was to make the food smell like something salty, fool your tastes into thinking there was less salt in the food, which would allow food processors to put less actual salt in the product.

They found that their odors do in fact influence taste. So, in the processed food product world of the future, when the label says Low Salt ... it may also mean High Odorant.

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