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This week in food restrictions – April 10 2011 – Government food guidelines, radiation, sustainable packaging

The government is stepping in – the federal Food and Drugs Administration proposes calorie labeling on menus and vending machines, and New York and Boston cities are restricting some processed foods. There is continued unease about radiation in Japanese foods – diners are asking questions, and one restaurant has gone so far as to get a device to screen ingredients.  Sustainable packaging technology is advancing, using plant materials or even chicken feathers. Gluten-free was also big in the news this week.

Government food guidelines | Radiation in foods from Japan | Sustainable packaging | Gluten-free | Food restrictions and medical conditions | Other

Government food guidelines – calorie labeling, restricting foods, irradiation

FDA proposes calorie labeling on vending machines as well as menus Apr-4-11 Food Navigator-USA
The proposed regulations, published on Friday, would mandate calorie labeling for foods sold from vending machines, and on menus in chain restaurants with 20 or more locations. Establishments for which selling food is a secondary activity, such as movie theaters and airplanes, would be exempt under the proposals.

New York City Health Department new rules restricting foods for employees Apr-4-11 NY Daily News
Tap water is a menu must when food or drinks are served. Other beverages must be less than 25 calories per 8 ounces. “Cut muffins and bagels into halves or quarters, or order mini sizes. Offer thinly-sliced, whole-grain bread.” Deep-fried foods are an absolute no-no and “cannot be served.” For celebrations, cake and air-popped popcorn – “popped at the party and served in brown paper lunch bags” – are allowed. But when a “celebration cake” is served, cookies can’t be offered.

Boston bans sugar-sweetened drinks on city properties Apr-8-11 Boston.com reported in GMA SmartBrief
Mayor Thomas M. Menino is expanding his ban on sugar-sweetened drinks in schools to include all city properties and functions, a sweeping restriction that means that calorie-laden soft drinks, juices with added sugar, and sports drinks like Gatorade will no longer be offered in vending machines, concession stands, and city-run meetings, programs and events.

Safety of food irradiation Apr-7-11 Food Production Daily
The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) appeared to conclude that chemicals formed in food as a result of irradiation were not a major concern. This is due to the low levels of the substances formed and the fact that the same chemicals are produced by other widely-used processing methods.

Radiation in foods from Japan – safety of fish, permissible radiation, screening foods

Diners questioning safety of fish from Japan Apr-7-11 Los Angeles Times – Daily Dish
L.A. restaurateurs say diners have been asking about the safety of fish from Japan. They are reassuring customers that the fish they’re serving is safe and a majority of it is coming from other parts of the world.

EU cuts permissible radiation in Japanese food Apr-7-11 Prepared Foods Network
The European Union is lowering the maximum acceptable levels of certain radioactive elements in food and animal feed imported from some areas of Japan to conform with temporary levels imposed in that country.

Radiation in UK food Apr-8-11 Food Product Design
The Food Standards Agency announced April 7 that radiation levels from the Fukushima nuclear plant accident in Japan are far too low to cause any concerns over the safety of any food in the United Kingdom.

Screening foods for radiation Apr-5-11 New York Times
Eric Ripert, the chef of Le Bernardin, the high temple of seafood in Manhattan, bought a new kitchen gadget a few days ago: a radiation detector. They are using the device to screen every item of food that enters the restaurant, regardless of its origin. He has also stopped buying fish from Japan, which means no high-quality, farm-raised hamachi and kampachi for raw seafood dishes.

Sustainable packaging – plant-based, plastic from chicken feathers

100% plant-based PET bottle for Coke Apr-6-11Food Navigator-USA
Coca-Cola has successfully road tested “several” ways of creating a 100 percent plant-based PET (polyethylene) bottle in the lab, but says more work is needed before it can be scaled up to work at an industrial level.

Renewable, plant-based packaging Apr-4-11 FoodBev.com
Renewable thermoformed produce packaging developed by Clear Lam Packaging Inc has earned the industry’s first US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Certified bio-​based Product Label, part of a new voluntary labelling programme to help purchasers choose products made with bio-​based commodities.

Making plastic from chicken feathers Apr-4-11 Food Production Daily
Scientists said they have made significant progress in the search to produce bio-based plastic from waste chicken feathers. Note –would the source of the packaging be available to vegetarians and others with ethical issues?

Gluten-free – packaged goods, concession stands, restaurants

Gluten free vegetarian food Apr-6-11 FoodProcessing
Helen’s Kitchen, a family-owned brand specializing in organic and vegetarian frozen entrees, introduces a line of frozen, gluten-free, vegetarian Burritos Bowls

How much gluten should be allowed in gluten-free foods? Apr-8-11 Food Navigator-USA
Despite no globally accepted definition for gluten-free, gluten-free food manufacturers should aim for the lowest possible levels of gluten to gain loyal celiac customers, says dietitian Shelley Case. Research suggests that about 0.1 percent of the population has a wheat allergy, while up to six percent may have some kind of gluten sensitivity. However, the majority of gluten-free food consumers – about 15 percent of the population – are eating gluten-free foods for other reasons, such as a perception that they could help with weight loss, or relieve the symptoms of ADHD or autism.

Gluten-free concessions in Chicago sports venues Apr-1-11 Chicago Now, reported in Digestive Health SmartBrief
Some have dedicated Gluten Free/Celiac-friendly concessions stands. Some items offered at these stands include gluten free beer, loaded nachos, hot dogs with gluten free buns, as well a variety of gluten free snacks (potato chips, gummy bears). They also use dedicated serving utensils for these gluten free stands, so there is no risk of cross-contamination.

Encouraging restaurants to offer gluten-free options Apr-7-11 NorthJersey.com
Consumer demand driving new menu items, and restaurants offering gluten-free choices can become destinations.

Food restrictions and medical conditions – migraines, incontinence, breast cancer, and more

Food and migraines Apr-5-11 Harvard Health Blog
Several foods have been associated with triggering migraine – aspartame, caffeine, chocolate, cultured dairy products, broad beans, nuts and nut butters, nitrates and nitrites, sulfites, tyramine, Yellow Dye No. 6. None of them has been scientifically proven to cause migraines.

Is soy safe to eat after breast cancer? Apr-5-11 WebMD
For years, breast cancer survivors were often counseled to avoid soy foods and supplements because of estrogen-like effects that might theoretically cause breast tumors to grow. Now, a new study of more than 18,312 women shows that eating soy foods did not increase risk of breast cancer recurrence.

Birth order and food allergies Apr-4-11 Prepared Foods Network
Investigators found the prevalence of food allergy was 4% in firstborn children, 3.5% in second-born children and 2.6% for children born later.

Caffeine consumption not linked to incontinence Apr-6-11 Reuters
Despite international guidelines that suggest cutting caffeine to counter urinary incontinence, a new study finds that coffee or tea may not have much effect on the condition.

Vegetarian diets reduce heart risks Apr-8-11 DietBlog
Eating a meat-free diet may lower your risk of developing heart disease, suggests a new study published in the journal Diabetes Care, helping to lessen the likelihood of metabolic syndrome.

Periodic water-only fasting may cut risk of heart disease, diabetes Apr-5-11 WebMD
Occasional water-only fasts may lower your risk of heart disease and diabetes, according to new research presented at the annual scientific sessions of the American College of Cardiology in New Orleans.

Other – food labeling, human-like milk, and more

Low-calorie restaurant menu items Apr-8-11 Food Product Design
America’s war with obesity and looming legislation that will require restaurant chains with 20 or more units to post calorie counts on menus and menu boards has many restaurants adding lower-calorie items to their repertoire, according to Technomic’s new MenuMonitor report. See also NRN article.

Warning labels on unhealthy foods Apr-8-11 New Hope 360
Although some groups avoided unhealthy snacks regardless of labeling or taxation, those who had the highest body weight were deterred only by the warning labels.

Organic product sales UK and USA Apr-6-11 New Hope 360
UK sales of organic products fell 5.9% in 2010. Organic food sales in the United States made a major rebound last year, growing 8.1%.

Restaurants eager to meet demand for local food Apr-4-11 Chicago Sun-Times
Offering local food promotes fresher produce without added transportation costs, and supports local growers, which helps the region’s economy. Local food is also a way to connect with the community.

Kroger announces sustainable seafood progress Apr-8-11 Supermarket News
Kroger Co. has announced new details regarding the company’s progress toward its seafood sustainability goals as well as the next phase of its partnership with the World Wildlife Fund.

Processed foods and the whole foods movement Apr-5-11 Food Navigator-USA
American consumers are rejecting processed and functional foods and embracing whole foods – and industry needs to react with innovative formulation. “So many food manufacturers want to put structure/function claims on food products these days, but it is a barrier to consumption… People don’t want their diet to be a medicine chest…If you want to talk about health benefits, talk about them as part of health and wellness, rather than death and disease.”

Looking at the Halal food industry Apr-8-11
The annual International Halal Food Conference series provides technical sessions on the latest development in global halal certification guidelines for food, beverages, pharmaceuticals, and non-food products.

Cows producing human-like milk Apr-4-11 Slash/Food
Chinese researchers have reported that they’ve produced human-like milk from genetically modified dairy cows.

Nutritionists critical about Dukan Diet Apr-5-11 HealthDay
A dietician says that long-term, it’s unhealthy – it is a high-fat diet, it does not restrict salt, and very limited nutrient intake makes this a poor diet to choose for healthy weight loss.

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