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We have all seen the comical Thanksgiving dinner portrayed in American movies and television. The family gathers. Grandma drinks too much. Everyone avoids talking about Uncle's unfortunate incarceration...You try and explain for the 40th time what you do for a living...This year, I am thankful that life does not always imitate art. Our Thanksgiving will be much more run-of-the-mill, but the questions of my job and my opinion on certain food topics will definitely be in play. Here is a sneak preview of what I'm expecting:
A: This has been a hell of a year for pets, but things are going to get better. There are new regulations that will be released soon. These regulations will increase the frequency of testing on our pet foods. These pet foods will be considered as safe as food for human consumption. Although most problems have come from imported product, we have also had issues with domestically produced pet food and treats. We routinely do testing on FDA detained treats, but I guarantee we would find the same issues in domestic product if asked to test it. Because of the Food Safety Modernization Act, all pet food will be scrutinized much more closely in the future. For now, I think the pets of the world would agree that a few table scraps during Thanksgiving would be just fine.
It has happened to all of us. Doctors are shown rashes and moles at parties. Investment managers get hit up for free advice at their children’s soccer games. And with Thanksgiving right around the corner, we are subject to two additional captive audience moments: plane travel and Thanksgiving dinner. This article will be 1 of 2 addressing the crazy questions I get asked as a food scientist by strangers. Part 2 will be dedicated to on-going explanation of our careers to our family.
Working on a research project for a client? This presentation will show you the best practices from start to finish to make sure you get the absolute most out of your shelf life or challenge study.
At ABC Research Laboratories we love research so much we put it in the company title. Our team is no stranger to research projects, and we know that sometimes getting started can be the hardest part. Knowing that, our own Chief Scientific Officer, Gillian Folkes Dagan, PhD, put together this handy infographic to help researchers get the wheels turning when it comes to starting a research project. We hope it helps! If you have any questions, please leave them in the comments below!
Everyone has a bad day at the office every once in a while. Teachers have students that act out athletes have games cancelled due to weather and restaurants find a piece of a rodent in their shrimp scampi.Ew, that’s right! I said a piece of a rodent in their shrimp scampi. That one caught your attention, didn’t it?I’ve also seen an acrylic nail in a hamburger, a lizard in croutons, rodent excreta (poop) in bologna and a diet pill in a rotisserie chicken. Life is never dull as a food testing expert. When approached by a client with an unknown ID issue, a number of questions must be asked to ascertain what, if anything, can be done to identify the object in question and determine if its presence in the food item was intentional or unintentional. Here are a few of the questions we use to start the investigation:
Is my car a certified pre-owned car? Is my medication FDA approved for my specific condition? Does the FDA approve the nutritional information on my granola bar? In a number of situations, we as consumers wonder what type of assurances there are to protect our purchase decisions. We want to know that someone vets a business, monitors their behavior and places a stamp of approval on that business. It makes us feel supported, safe and comfortable to trust that company with our needs. This is true across industries—food testing included. Specifically, in my world of food safety, quality, and nutritional labeling, clients will often ask, “Is ABC Research an FDA approved lab?” Great question! Let’s discuss that question, the answer, and the other questions to ask when you need to feel comfortable in choosing a food testing laboratory.
Although the FDA does approve some items like food additives, food colors, and new drugs, the FDA does not approve manufacturers, laboratories or companies in general. Some laboratories will register with the FDA so they can process pharmaceutical samples; however, traditional food testing labs like ABC Research do not test pharmaceutical samples and, therefore, do not register. In addition, a significant portion of our lab results are submitted to the FDA on behalf of our clients and we are still not governed by FDA. However, there are accrediting bodies that oversee all types of laboratories. So the question of “Is ABC Research a FDA approved lab?” should really be “How do I know ABC Research is a reputable lab?”
I am a results oriented individual who is always looking for a better/faster/more efficient way of doing things. Who isn’t? But most often, we end up paying the price when we cut too many corners. I’d like to dedicate this blog post to the discussion of various sampling plans and making the proper selection.
In my last post I discussed proper usage levels for phosphates and analytical methods for evaluating phosphate usage on seafood. In this post I will discuss cooking performance tests as an evaluation tool, non-phosphate blends, and avoiding over-soaked product in the marketplace. In discussing the analytical methods involved in evaluating seafood for treatment with phosphates, it is always fair to mention that sometimes tests can be inconclusive. Confusing results in testing can come from a couple of sources: either you don’t have a good baseline value for phosphates in a specific type of seafood, or you may have moisture retention agents present that are non-phosphate blends or a combination of phosphate and non-phosphate moisture retention agents. In any case, product integrity and the possibility of over-soaking of the product can still be evaluated by an experienced food scientist using a visual inspection of raw product and a cooking performance test.
During this evaluation, seafood is first examined raw for translucency in the tissue, a jelly-like appearance or consistency, or an exceptional amount of drip-loss upon thawing. Some or all of these traits are characteristic of over-soaked product. The product is then cooked: shrimp are boiled and fish, scallops, and other seafood are usually cooked on a flat top non-stick grill. If you working with shrimp, you then examine the cooked product for translucency in the tissue and the overall appearance of still being slightly raw. For all other seafood, observations are taken during cooking and on the finished product. Signs of over-soaked product include purge during cooking, foaming product, and translucency in the tissue of the cooked product. Although this sounds like an easy comparison to make, these odd events can range from being easily identifiable to being very slightly expressed. In all cases, a trained food scientist should be employed to make the call of whether product is over-soaked or properly treated with phosphates or other moisture retention agents.
In a previous post I discussed how phosphates are used as moisture retention agents in seafood, some terms associated with phosphated products, and how phosphates are properly used and abused in the food industry. In this post I would like to delve more deeply into suggested usage levels and how we test products for phosphate usage.The overall recommendation for phosphate usage in seafood products is "more is not better." Although a number of phosphate and phosphate blends exist, the recommended applications on shrimp based on product performance and consumer acceptability are below, cited from The Global Aquaculture Advocate, Phosphates and Shrimp, 2002, article by Laura Garrido and Steve Otwell, Ph.D., University of Florida.
"Am I a bad mom because I don't buy organic food?"You have no idea how many times I've been asked that. By friends, by family, by nearly everyone I've ever sat next to on a plane who has kids....And I always shock them by saying, "No."I'm a food scientist by training and a mom by good fortune. My husband and I are thankful for our insanely bright, beautiful almost 3 year-old baby girl. Ava Nonie Dagan is in the house...and she's in charge. We have had it easy from the get-go. Big baby, good eater, great sleeper, early talker. She orders on her own in restaurants and picks great stuff. She comes by her love of food naturally from both families. On both my side and my husband's side we enjoy one meal while talking about the next, but all of us still keep it balanced with a solid love of fruits and veggies. I just couldn't care less if they are organic.So I've been asked the million dollar question and I promptly and with a smile say, "Oh, no. I don't buy organic. The only time I do it's because the conventional avocados aren't ripe and I really want guacamole that night." Most parents are shocked, but at the same time completely relieved. But in that I could always be a better parent way, there is still a twinge of guilt when they ask, "But with all you know, how can you do that?" This is when I really love sharing what I know.
That's when I go through and debunk the most common of all myths. Here my favorite top 3.
Organic food is NOT pesticide free. Because of amazing marketing efforts and the human spirit of always hoping for something better, people assumed that organic food is pesticide free. This is could not be more wrong. All food labeled as organic in the US has certain standards set forth by the USDA. The USDA National Organic Program is a highly regulated program that allows the term "organic" to be used in food labeling and marketing. To be considered organic, the food in question must be raised on a certified organic farm. These growing operations are audited and certified by independent third parties, overseen by the USDA. In addition, these operations incorporate "cultural, biological, and mechanical practices that foster cycling of resources, promote ecological balance, and conserve biodiversity. Synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, irradiation, and genetic engineering may not be used." However, a little known fact is that there is a National Organic Program list of approved compounds that includes many pesticides. It can be reviewed here.
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