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Food & Beverage Technology

The Food & Beverage Technology Blog is the place for conversation and discussion about Processing, Packaging/Storage/Preservation, Materials Handling, and Inspection/Quality. Here, you'll find everything from application ideas, to news and industry trends, to hot topics and cutting edge innovations.

The War on Milk

Posted March 10, 2017 4:30 PM by lmno24

It seems like everywhere we look lately almond, cashew, or soy milk is among the ranks of coffee creamer options at the local café, among the dairy aisle, and the subject of debate for what to add to cereal in the morning.

For people with trouble eating dairy, or those who choose not to consume animal products, these “milks” are likely a welcome addition to the supermarket or coffee bar. But for the dairy industry, they’re becoming the subject of a serious debate – and even being considered imposters.

These products, marketed as “milk,” have dairy farmers heated. In fact, the U.S. Congress has introduced a bill, called the DAIRY PRIDE Act, which is self-explanatory but also stands for “defending against imitations and replacements of yogurt, milk, and cheese to promote regular intake of dairy every day.” Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin and Democratic Rep. Peter Welch of Vermont introduced the bill, not surprising considering their respective states yield a significant amount of dairy products each year.

The bill’s summary explains that these nut and soy milks calling themselves milk “hurts dairy farmers that work tirelessly to ensure their dairy products meet FDA standards and provide the public with nutritious food. It has also led to the proliferation of mislabeled plant-based alternative products that contain a range of ingredients and nutrients that are often not equivalent to the nutrition content of dairy products.”

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has been lax about enforcing federal standards that enforce that milk has to be an animal byproduct, which has resulted in a surge of non-dairy milks hitting the market by storm. The DAIRY PRIDE bill hopes to make the FDA simply do its job, not eliminate these products from the market.

Due to these unenforced standards, consumers are misled into thinking these highly processed products are nutritionally equivalent to dairy milk. These products are often made by taking a bunch of pulverized nuts or seeds, mixing them with water, emulsifiers, whiteners and sugar, add some vitamins, and then pouring the result into a carton and inappropriately labeling it “milk.” While some do contain vitamins and minerals, they are added back in after processing, unlike how they’re naturally found in dairy products.

Popularity of these drinks has skyrocketed in the last few years; I think it’s safe to say it’s a combination of good marketing and lack of federal enforcement on these products. Sales of almond milk alone grew more than 200% from 2001 to 2015.

The FDA seems to side with the dairy farmer though, however lax the standards may be. By their definition – a product can be labeled milk if it fits there guidelines.

“Milk is the lacteal secretion, practically free from colostrum, obtained by the complete milking of one or more healthy cows. Milk that is in final package form for beverage use shall have been pasteurized or ultrapasteurized, and shall contain not less than 8 1/4 percent milk solids not fat and not less than 3 1/4 percent milkfat. Milk may have been adjusted by separating part of the milkfat therefrom, or by adding thereto cream, concentrated milk, dry whole milk, skim milk, concentrated skim milk, or nonfat dry milk. Milk may be homogenized.”

But supporters of “alternative milks” are both defending the right to the use of the word milk; saying allowing them not to be is a violation of free speech, as well as defending the use of the word at all.

The Plant Based Foods Association, which represents companies like Tofurky, says standards of identity were created to prevent companies from passing off cheap, low quality ingredients on customers. But the group says that’s not what soy, almond, and rice milk makers are trying to do.

The Good Food Institute, which is a nonprofit advocating for plant-based foods, filed a petition with the FDA defending the products continued use of the word milk, citing the First Amendment.

So, what do you think? Should we consider these products milk? Or something else?


41 comments; last comment on 03/15/2017
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3D Printed Pizza? Now We've Gone Too Far

Posted March 09, 2017 1:29 PM by HUSH
Pathfinder Tags: 3d print food NASA space

When food and tech collide, it typically results in a happy union. See online ordering. Burritos by drone. Grocery delivery, like with Amazon Fresh.

Yet, something about the next collision of food and tech, I just cannot support. It’s pure blasphemy.

Of course, I’m talking about the pizza 3-D printer. Look, I live in a Mecca of pizza, and too often I take it for granted. But sometimes, I’m reminded that the quintessential pizza shop is almost exclusively a northeastern U.S. institution. Each time I travel to the American south or Canada, I’m empathetic to those who must suffer at the taste of fast food pizza (Domino’s, Pizza Hut, Boston Pizza, etc.).

The pizza 3-D printer came about from the pit fires of Hell research done by Systems and Materials Research Consultancy of Austin from a $125,000 NASA contract awarded in 2013. However, funding was pulled from the project, and SMRC engineers formed their own startup, Beehex, to innovate 3-D printed foods.

As NASA plans to extend humanity’s space exploration range to Mars and possibly farther, many life support systems on current spacecraft won’t be suitable. Refrigeration won’t be feasible and supplies must be as modular as possible to optimize storage space. Another variable is the fickle taste of astronauts. Currently, all food supplies are planned months in advance and it can be tough for astronauts to modify meals to meet their preferences.

In late February, Beehex completed initial funding of its Chef 3-D printer, which can be adapted for space but is currently better suited for Earth. The printer features three nozzles to layer dough, pizza sauce and cheese. Other ingredients will still need to be manually added. The printer can build a pizza in any shape, and from first jettison of dough to a baked pie will take about six minutes.

Apparently the Chef 3-D is set for introduction into amusement parks, sports stadiums and other niche applications later this year.

It’s true, that a customizable 3-D printer would be a morale boost for astronauts facing a multi-year absence from Earth. Italian coffee company Lavazza delivered an espresso machine (dubbed ISSpresso) for ISS astronauts in 2015, and besides being the first extraterrestrial fresh-brewed coffee, it also offered a chance to experiment with fluid dynamics in microgravity.

But I think that ultimately 3-D printed pizza is little more than a novelty. Printed foods might be a real solution one day, but, right now, the Chef 3-D’s pizzas look quite unappetizing.

I’ll just call one of the dozens of Gino’s around me instead. Pizza is something that doesn’t need improving.

31 comments; last comment on 03/10/2017
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Can Genetic Sequencing Bring Back A Tastier Commercial Tomato?

Posted March 09, 2017 12:00 AM by Hannes
Pathfinder Tags: food genetics taste tomato

As much as it’s totally illogical, it’s easy to get caught up in the concept of the “Good Ol’ Days.” Certain older relatives of mine reminisce about the days when kids could play out in the streets until dark and careen down winding roads on brakeless bikes, and watch good cowboys fight bad cowboys every Sunday night on their monochrome TV. Heck, as a member of the last generation to grow up sans internet I sometimes long for the days of answering machines and Super Nintendo. Of course, everyone’s Good Ol’ Days shifts when they hit middle age, and if anything these are probably better ol’ days than anything that’s come before us.

Apparently, there’s some truth to the Good Ol’ Days theory in an unusual area: the taste of tomatoes. The hybrid tomatoes found in most grocery stores have been selectively bred to give preference to their size and firmness for shipping purposes. But for the last several decades selection for flavor has slipped, resulting in large, firm, red fruits that sort of taste like eating water. Tomato flavor more or less drifted out of commercialized fruits, but has stayed constant in non-hybrid heirloom varieties. Consumers might consider heirloom tomatoes as less desirable, though: they’re typically softer and somewhat oddly shaped, and grow in an array of colors from deep apple red to green.

A team of researchers—whose research was published in the January 27th issue of Science— has undertaken to restore tomato taste via genomic analysis. The group analyzed the flavor-associated chemicals in almost 400 varieties of hybrid, heirloom, and wild tomatoes, then evaluated some of the varieties using a consumer panel. The group identified 13 chemical compounds associated with “good” flavor and matched them with genetic sequences, or alleles.

The researchers set out to “understand and ultimately correct” the tomato taste deficiency, so the next step is to selectively breed tomatoes using molecular markers to try and move the tasty alleles back into the hybrid fruits. An individual desiring a tasty tomato sooner could simply wait until summer and buy a locally produced heirloom tomato, which has likely retained most of the tasty alleles. I’ll admit that I’ve personally used fresh tomatoes as little more than the buffer between the lettuce and bacon in a BLT, or as filler in a salad. But after researching this blog I’m inclined to give heirlooms a shot to see if I can tell the difference.

Image credit: See-ming Lee / CC BY-SA 2.0

5 comments; last comment on 03/11/2017
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How Intelligent Drainage Choices Promote Food Safety

Posted February 20, 2017 12:00 AM by SavvyExacta

Every year food contamination and food-borne illnesses sicken and kill thousands of Americans and cost the food industry millions of dollars in brand damage, lost sales, and litigation expenses. The major cause of food contamination is harmful bacteria.

Flooring poses a significant hygienic challenge to food and beverage processing facilities because it is the area where waste, humidity, and physical stress are most prevalent. Drainage system components are installed in or below flooring, and it is often assumed that regular cleaning rids them of the types of bacteria that threaten food safety. Yet despite the well-intentioned efforts of food and beverage companies, contamination outbreaks continue and recalls occur all too frequently.

A hygienically designed and efficient drainage system forms a barrier between a contaminated sewer system and a clean production area. These newer drainage systems have been specifically designed and constructed to prevent the growth and spread of bacteria such as Listeria, Salmonella, E. coli, and Campylobacter. Moreover, they are easier to clean and maintain than earlier drainage systems, and can be kept sanitary with minimal water requirements and production downtime.

Join a free webinar that will look at the severity of the food contamination crisis, outlining its causes and high costs, not only to the food and beverage industry, but to the health of its customers. The presentation will focus on ways that new drainage systems, through their design and construction, provide better choices for addressing food safety challenges by inhibiting both the growth and spread of harmful bacteria.

Key Take-Aways

  • Learn why the current food contamination crisis is costing companies millions of dollars in damaged reputations, lost sales, recall expenses and litigation fees
  • Understand how drainage systems factor into this crisis and can harbor the types of bacteria that cause food-borne illness for millions of Americans every year and kill thousands
  • Learn how listeria, highly resilient bacteria, can live in a food processing or beverage production facility for years
  • Discover how new drainage systems can be designed and constructed to inhibit the growth of bacteria in food and beverage processing facilities

Webinar Details:

February 23 - Thursday (also available on-demand for 90 days after the live broadcast)

2:00 PM EDT - 3:00 PM EDT

Webinar Link

2 comments; last comment on 02/21/2017
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The Key Questions About Clean Meat

Posted January 25, 2017 12:00 AM by Hannes
Pathfinder Tags: clean meat food memphis meat

As HUSH told us last year, the idea of synthesized meat isn’t a new one—it was first pioneered over 85 years ago. Now, almost four years after the first-ever cultured burger in 2013, numerous start-up companies are looking to enable mass production of cell-cultured meat, also known as clean meat, or (less charitably) shmeat.

Clean meat is produced by extracting live cells from a live animal (usually a cow at this stage in the game) and growing them into a tissue and then a muscle. Producers tout that if it ever reaches the grand scale they envision, the industry could produce meat with no need for antibiotics or hormones, no senseless animal suffering, and 90% less greenhouse gas emissions. Even if a hypothetical version of the clean meat industry is only a fraction of that envisioned by its supporters, it could be a win-win for the environment and consumers.

While producers have only managed a slightly off-putting burger and some shmeatballs, cell-cultured chicken, turkey, and even milk and eggs are possible. Imagining a clean meat industry seems to raise more questions than answers, though. Supporters claim shrinking the livestock industry could free up valuable land for other types of farming, but how simple would it be to “convert” this land, if it’s possible at all? What happens to the existing livestock? Do we care for domesticated animals for a generation then let them go extinct?

Perhaps the biggest question facing clean meat in the US is its regulation, and which agency will do the regulating. The Department of Agriculture (USDA) oversees meat, eggs, and poultry, and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) oversees food additive safety and “biologics,” which includes products made from human tissues and cells. Some see clean meat as straddling both agencies. According to a White House memo, the government has been working to clarify regulation of biotechnology products since 2015. Given that the USDA and FDA guidelines were last updated in 1992, it seems like the time has come. The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine has also been at work on enhancing regulation of biotech products since the middle of 2016.

While it might seem far-fetched to even be discussing widespread clean meat production, it might be closer than it seems. Clean meat start-up Memphis Meats hopes to be selling cultured meatballs, sausages, and hot dogs within the next five years, and clean-dairy company Perfect Day is shooting for providing cow-free dairy products by the end of this year.

Of course, most consumers know that none of this really matters until we actually taste clean meat and find it a close-enough alternative to the real thing. Until that day comes it’s all speculation.

Image credit: Mike Licht / CC BY 2.0

17 comments; last comment on 01/26/2017
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