Tag Archives: Food safety

The Hidden Salt in Chicken

Those plump breasts often come ‘enhanced’ with saltwater broth.
Most people don’t think of uncooked chicken as a significant source of sodium — but it can be, not just because most cooks use salt as seasoning.
Injecting raw chicken with saltwater solutions during processing is a widespread practice in the poultry industry. It’s also a practice that has the industry increasingly divided. Major producers who inject their products with saltwater solutions say it makes for tastier, juicier meat. Other producers promote their products as free of the additive and say that the practice is deceptive.

Granted, poultry producers on both sides of the issue are probably vying for a market edge. But marketing wars aside, the practice of saltwater plumping has ruffled the feathers of many nutrition experts too. “People believe that when they’re getting chicken, they’re getting a low-sodium food,” says Liz Trondsen, a registered dietitian at Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center in Los Angeles and a spokeswoman for the American Heart Assn.”They need to be aware of this.”

Raw chicken breast can contain as little as 50 to 75 milligrams of sodium per 4-ounce serving. But much of the chicken on the market in the U.S. is “enhanced” — injected with a salt solution, or broth, during processing. Sodium levels often reach well over 400 milligrams per serving — nearly one-third of the maximum daily intake of 1500 milligrams recommended for people at risk of high blood pressure (including African Americans and older adults). High sodium levels can cause and aggravate high blood pressure, which increases the risk of heart disease and stroke.

Producers have been injecting chicken (and other meats) with saltwater solutions since the 1970s, says John Marcy, professor and poultry processing specialist at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. The practice makes for more flavorful meat, he says, because “a consumer can’t put salt into chicken like a processor can.”

Processors use multiple-needle injectors or vacuum-tumblers, which force the sodium solution into the muscle. Binding agents in the solution prevent the added salt and water from leaching out of the meat during transport, in grocery stores and during cooking, says Kenneth McMillin, professor of meat science at the Louisiana State University Agricultural Center in Baton Rouge.

The labels on saltwater-infused meats typically say “enhanced with up to 15% chicken broth.” They can also say “all natural” if ingredients in the solution meet the U.S. Department of Agriculture definition of natural, says Bryn M. Burkard, a public affairs specialist with the agency’s Food Safety and Inspection Service.

The Truthful Labeling Coalition, a Washington, D.C.-based coalition of poultry producers that don’t enhance their products, is pressing the USDA to change that policy. “The labels [on raw poultry] are really misleading,” says Charles Hansen, executive director of the coalition. “We’ve got no objections to them adding saltwater to chicken, but why not list it prominently on the label?”

The USDA is reviewing comments on the policy, Burkard says. But though clearer labeling may help consumers avoid excess sodium in the chicken they buy at grocery stores, they’ll still encounter high sodium levels in chicken dishes in restaurants and cafeterias. “In the food services industry, chicken has always been injected to retain moisture,” Marcy says. “It’s been standard practice for decades.”

And despite the high levels of sodium in enhanced chicken, it’s still not the top source of hidden dietary sodium, Trondsen says. Consumers should generally be more concerned with the typically high levels of sodium in frozen and canned foods, processed foods, soups and condiments, she says. An 8-ounce serving of canned soup can often contain 700 to 900 milligrams of sodium, and many frozen dinners contain well over 1,000 per meal.

Nonetheless, at more than 400 milligrams per serving, the sodium levels in plumped chicken are significant. “Pity the poor person trying to cut down on salt,” says Marion Nestle, professor of nutrition, food studies and public health at New York University, and the author of the 2006 book “What to Eat.” “It gets put into everything and you don’t have any choice about it.”

Nestle adds that not only does the practice of saltwater plumping add unnecessary salt to people’s diets, it also increases the water weight of chicken. Livingston, Calif.-based Foster Farms, a member of the Truthful Labeling Coalition, has estimated that consumers are paying an average of $1.50 for added saltwater per package when they purchase enhanced chicken.

“This practice manages to do not one but two bad things,” Nestle says. “It increases the water weight of the chicken so you are paying for water, not chicken, and it adds salt that you don’t need.”

Source: Los Angeles Times

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New Drug Makers: Goats

They have four legs, fuzzy faces and udders full of milk. To the uninitiated, they look like dairy goats. To GTC Biotherapeutics Inc, they’re  cutting-edge drug-making machines.

The goats being raised on a farm in central Massachusetts are genetically engineered to make a human protein in their milk that prevents dangerous blood clots from forming. The company extracts the protein and turns it into a medicine that fights strokes, pulmonary embolisms and other life-threatening conditions.

GTC has asked the Food and Drug Administration to clear the drug, called ATryn. An expert panel voted overwhelmingly on Friday that it is safe and effective, putting it on the verge of becoming the first drug from a genetically engineered animal to be approved in the US. The agency is expected to make a final decision in February, said the Los Angeles Times.

If approved, the drug would be followed by hundreds of others made from milk produced by genetically engineered goats, cows, rabbits and other animals. Other products in the pipeline are designed to treat people with haemophilia, respiratory diseases and debilitating swollen tissues.

“As soon as we were able to make genetically engineered animals, this was an obvious thing to do,” said James Murray, a geneticist and professor of animal science at UC Davis. “It’s totally cut-and-paste. This is kindergarten stuff with molecular scissors.”

The biotechnology industry is rooting for ATryn. The FDA’s endorsement would signal to Americans that they have nothing to fear from the futuristic technology—and suggest that the millions they’ve invested in the technology could soon begin to pay off.

If the drug is approved, “it takes a big question mark off the table in terms of products that are developed from this technology,” said Samir Singh, president of US operations for Pharming Group, which is developing medicines using milk from genetically engineered cows and rabbits.

The public has had misgivings about eating food from genetically modified animals, and some vocal critics of such technology say the wariness could extend to medicines. “I think many people are going to have the same revulsion,” said Jaydee Hanson, a policy analyst at the Center for Food Safety, a Washington advocacy group that opposes genetic manipulation of food and animals.

For scientists, the appeal is obvious. Many drugs are now synthesized in bioreactors by bacteria or Chinese hamster ovary cells, and they require extensive processing to be suitable for humans. Genetically engineering animals is a better alternative for producing proteins, which form the basis of all biological drugs. “We’re taking advantage of the fact that the mammary gland was designed by nature to make proteins,” said Tom Newberry, GTC’s vice president for government relations.

Sources: The Times Of India

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Bio-Sensor to Make Our Food Safer

A microscopic bio-sensor that detects Salmonella bacteria in lab tests has been developed by an agricultural scientist.
………………..CLICK & SEE
This large bacterial colony of Salmonella enteritidis grew rapidly (62 millimeters in diameter in 16 hours) and readily contaminated eggs when given to chickens by injection but not when given by mouth.
People who eat Salmonella-infected food products can get salmonellosis, a disease characterised by nausea, vomiting, severe diarrhoea, and sometimes death.

The sensor could be adapted to detect other food-borne pathogens as well. It is part of an evolving science known as nanotechnology— the study and manipulation of materials on a molecular or even atomic level, measured in billionths of a metre.

There are examples of biosensors in nature. Insects detect tiny amounts of sex pheromones in the air and use them to find mates. And fish use natural bio-sensors to detect barely perceptible vibrations in the surrounding water.

Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientist Bosoon Park at the Quality and Safety Assessment Research Unit in Athens, Georgia, and cooperators at the University of Georgia (U-G) used nanotechnology to develop the biosensor.

CLICK & SEE

The detection method may have great potential for food safety and security, according to Park, said an U-G release.

The biosensors include fluorescent organic dye particles attached to Salmonella antibodies. The antibodies hook on to Salmonella bacteria and the dye lights up like a beacon, making the bacteria easier to see.

Sources: The Times Of India

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Major Threat to Human Fertility and Very Existence of Human Life On Earth

fertilityA long-term feeding study commissioned by the Austrian Agency for Health and Food Safety confirms genetically modified (GM) corn seriously affects reproductive health in mice.

Non-GMO advocates, who have warned about this infertility link along with other health risks, now seek an immediate ban of all GM foods and GM crops to protect the health of humankind and the fertility of women around the world.

Feeding mice with genetically modified corn developed by the US-based Monsanto Corporation led to lower fertility and body weight, according to the study conducted by the University of Veterinary Medicine in Vienna. Lead author of the study Professor Zentek said there was a direct link between the decrease in fertility and the GM diet, and that mice fed with non-GE corn reproduced more efficiently.

Other studies have also found that offspring of rats fed GM soy showed a five-fold increase in mortality, lower birth weights, and the inability to reproduce.

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WHO Sets First Limits for Safe Melamine Levels in Food

GENEVA: The World Health Organization on Friday issued safety limits for melamine levels in food as international concern mounted over a widening tainted food scandal in China.

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It is the first time WHO experts have issued safety limits for the use of the industrial chemical and they stressed that melamine should not be used in food at all.

The so-called Tolerable Daily Intake (TDI) has been fixed at 0.2 mg per kilogramme of body weight. This means that a person who weighs 50kg can tolerate up to 10mg of melamine per day, said the WHO.

“We expect this could better guide the authorities in protecting the health of their public,” said Jorgen Schlundt, WHO director for food safety.

The UN agency stressed however that the industrial chemical “should not be in food” even though traces are sometimes unavoidable.

“The TDI is meant to help national authorities set safe limits in food for withdrawal purposes should melamine be detected as a result of intentional adulteration,” added the WHO.

China said Monday that 294,000 children had been made ill by consuming dairy products containing melamine, with 154 still in serious condition.

Melamine can cause kidney stones if taken in excessive levels.

It has been routinely mixed into Chinese milk and dairy products to give them the impression of having higher protein content.

China said six deaths since September may have been caused by tainted dairy products. The confirmed death toll so far is three infants.

The scandal has led many countries around the world, including the 27-nation European Union, to ban Chinese milk imports.

This week, the EU added imports of Chinese food containing soya to the ban list. Shipments of Chinese-made baking powder will also have to be tested after high levels of melamine were found.

Sources: The Times Of India

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