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Health Science

USA Set To Add Sesame As 9th Major Allergen Requiring Labeling

Photo: Shawn Hempel // Shutterstock

The United States currently requires foods that contain eight different major allergens to be labeled with a warning for those who may react to them. These include tree nuts, peanuts, soy, wheat, milk/dairy, fish, shellfish, and eggs.

Soon, the country will also be adding sesame, the ninth most allergenic food source in the United States, as the ninth major allergen to require those warnings.

Sesame’s updated status comes with passage of the Food Allergy Safety, Treatment, Education, and Research (FASTER) Act in the U.S. House of Representatives on April 14th. The Senate already passed the bill back in March, meaning it now heads to President Biden’s desk. According to Allergic Living, the President is expected to sign the legislation into law.

The USA is not the first country to add sesame as an allergen, as the EU, Australia/New Zealand, and several other countries already do so. However, this represents a major step forward in getting more awareness around these lesser known food allergens and making sure consumers are aware if a product contains something they could react to.

As part of the FASTER Act legislation, the FDA will also begin developing and implementing a risk-based model for establishing other food allergens that may also be labeled in the future. Some of the other common food sources this might pertain to in the future would be celery, mustard, or sulfites.

The Secretary of Health and Human Service has 18 months to work on this, as well as reporting on potential therapeutics that could treat allergens and ways to help prevent their onset.

Congress’s passing of the FASTER Act marks some of the biggest food safety legislation enacted since 2011, when President Barack Obama signed the Food Safety and Modernization Act (FSMA) into law.

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Science Video

Guy Literally Slaps Chicken And Steak Until They’re Perfectly Cooked

A couple of years ago on Reddit, someone decided to ask how much energy it would take to cook a chicken by slapping it. The internet, of course, responded as best it could, with answers saying how fast you would need to slap it (over 3,700 miles per hour) or how many times total (over 23,000 times).

Of course, this was all just theoretical until recently, when science YouTuber Louis Weisz did the unthinkable and cooked a whole chicken and steak purely through the power of slapping.

Weisz accomplished this culinary feat through some science and robotic ingenuity, putting together a piston, a cutting board for slapping, and some aerogel for insulation. This kept all of the heat generated by slapping the meat inside of the food, meaning that it wouldn’t get lost and the entire thing would cook.

@louisweiszyt

Eat your heart out @gordonramsayofficial ##mythbuster ##science ##chickenslap ##engineerscience ##extremescience ##physicsmemes

♬ WII SHOP TRAP – Flixterr

It took a few attempts, but Weisz managed to get a steak up to a perfect medium rare (about 60 degrees Celsius) and keep a whole chicken at 55-58 degrees Celsius long enough to kill any bacteria and render the meat cooked. While he didn’t eat the chicken (one of the protective bags broke into the meat), the steak was tasty, even though the texture was a little off from all of the slapping.

Weisz wouldn’t recommend trying this at home, however, since the energy needed to cause all of that slapping is a lot more than what your oven would use to cook the same chicken. Nonetheless, the world of culinary science has solved another puzzle bequeathed to it by the internet.

Categories
Health News Plant-Based Science

Plant-Based Filet Mignon Is Now A Reality

Photo: Juicy Marbles

The plant-based meat wave is no longer just that and truly the green movement is here to stay, with the ebbs and flows of the notion mellowing out as a dietary constant. The popularity and mainstream appeal of Impossible and Beyond Meat are the banners for this declaration, with more plant-based innovations on the way. One of which happens to be a game changer courtesy of Juicy Marbles: plant-based filet mignon.

Co-founders of Juicy Marbles, Tilen Travnik, Luka Sincek and Maj Hrovat, managed to create a plant-based cut of filet mignon without any use of 3D printing, GMOs or laboratory alterations. The secret lies in how Juicy Marbles was able to use soy protein to mimic the muscle texture and marbling of real meat by arranging and layering the protein fibers from the bottom up using a patent-pending machine they call the Meat-o-matic Reverse Grinder™ 9000. Playful name aside, the reality of this applied technique is groundbreaking.

“The biggest challenge was getting the right fiber alignment and intramuscular fat structure – the marbling. The most expensive steaks in the world are known for their lush marbling. It takes a lot of energy and a rare breed of cow to attain that. With plant meat, we control it and, thus, over time, can scale up our steak production and bring down the price. Eventually, we’ll be able to make the most premium meats attainable for everyone,” explains Luka Sincek.

Photo: Juicy Marbles

So thanks to Juicy Marbles, the world’s first plant-based steaks can be purchased on their website and ship to the 48 states and throughout Europe for a limited time only.

According to the Juicy Marbles website the cuts of meat have a firm texture “while the linear fibre placement results in juicy chunks tearing away softly, like real muscle.”

With the possibility of actual plant-based cuts of meat being available directly to consumers, it will only be a matter of time before the flood gates open for other proteins to get a fully plant-based treatment in the form of individual cuts of meat that have an uncanny resemblance to the real thing.

Categories
Fast Food Food Policy Food Waste Science Sustainability Technology

The Top 10 Most Climate Friendly Fast Food Chains, Ranked

Photo: Erik McClean // Unsplash

One of the biggest things that has to change for the world to be able to feed 9 billion people by 2050 is our food systems. Many produce food at unsustainable rates that don’t give back to the environment or allow things to regrow and populations to recover. 

While eating in such a climate-friendly way is oftentimes expensive, many fast food chains are contributing to the cause by altering how they source their food, plastics, and energy. It’s a key step in helping change our food systems, since chains affect massive swaths of the food supply while feeding millions of people.

Sure, fast food isn’t what you would think of as completely “climate-friendly,” but many chains have made some big efforts in making their systems more sustainable. The ten chains on this list have done the most in that regard compared to other fast food giants. 

When looking at what chains would make this list, we looked at the efforts they’ve made in providing sustainable food options, reducing waste and plastic usage, and overall conservation efforts for energy, water, and other resources needed to run a restaurant empire. Any support given to farming and conservation efforts that aim to make the food chain sustainable are also a big plus. 

“Clean label” was not a factor considered, although many may link it to a chain that’s more environmentally friendly. “Clean label” has more to do with ingredients than it does with sustainability, and not all “clean label” chains make equitable efforts when it comes to the environment. If they do, however, chances are they’ll show up on here!

10) White Castle

White Castle was one of the first major fast food chains to add any plant-based meat alternatives, incorporating Impossible Foods into their arsenal in 2018. That’s not the only change they’ve been making to their food, however: they ensure that their fish is certified by the Marine Stewardship Council as sustainable, they recycle some of their cooking oil for biodiesel fuel, and use post-consumer recyclables to make their packaging. This includes items like the Crave Cases, which are made using recyclable materials.

The OG burger chain also has a commitment to drop their emissions by at least one percent every year. While they’re not posting regular reports about their sustainability efforts, they are transparent about the steps they are taking to improve their food system, and have a couple of sustainable meal options.

9) Taco Bell

Taco Bell makes it onto the bottom part of this list for a couple of reasons: they have a wide variety of vegetarian and vegan options for those looking to avoid more meat (a climate resource-heavy protein), and they commit to using sustainable palm oil in their food. Most of their packaging is also recyclable, reusable, or compostable, and all of it will be by 2025. 

On that alone, they probably would have not made this list. However, their earlier announcement that they were beginning to test Beyond Meat products in 2021 means that one of the world’s largest fast food giants is making a serious effort to look at alternatives to ground beef, and that deserves inclusion for the impact this 7,000-plus location giant can have on the industry.

8) Subway

While Subway often doesn’t make the conversation as a ground-breaking chain, they do have a lot of efforts in place when it comes to being climate-friendly. They’ve developed ECO restaurants, use packaging that’s all recyclable or compostable, and have begun piloting energy conservation and food composting/waste diversion programs. 

The sandwich empire also sources ingredients from suppliers that practice environmental stewardship and eco-friendly farming, according to their website. A lot of this is dependent on different franchisees taking these steps themselves, although it is being fostered into the larger company culture. 

Subway also does have a Beyond Meatball Sub for those looking for plant-based protein options.

7) Starbucks

When it comes to packaging and sourcing, Starbucks is definitely a global leader in being climate-friendly. They’ve already taken plastic straws out of their restaurants, made their cups recyclable, and are striving to halve their emission, waste, and water usage by 2030. 

The coffee titan also sources 99% of its coffee through “ethical practices,” although it should be noted that these are internal ethical standards, and have been shown to be weaker in practice than they are on paper, especially when it comes to establishing minimum coffee prices and preventing slave labor. They are one of the largest purchasers of externally certified “Fair Trade” coffee, to be fair, but they are also the world’s biggest coffee company. That should be expected.

Starbucks has also dipped its toes into the plant-based meat game, introducing an Impossible Breakfast Sandwich to their menu. They’re also looking at bringing oat milk nationwide, and already have soy and almond milk as dairy-free alternatives.

6) Shake Shack

This is the first chain on this list that doesn’t have a dedicated plant-based meat offering either available or in the works, though their vegetarian Shroom Shack should not be slept on. However, Shake Shack does have an extensive animal welfare program set up that their suppliers follow, and have committed to updating their progress annually via third-party audits. 

Shake Shack also goes a step above other spots by using biodegradable straws and cups (for beers and shakes), building their locations with eco-friendly materials, and using sustainable power options like wind and renewable energy. They also invest in composting and recycling cooking oil to be used for biodiesel fuel. 

As the Shake Shack empire continues to grow, so will their mission of spreading climate-friendly food, environments, and structures. If they had some true plant-based alternatives to their burgers, they would definitely be higher on this list.

5) IKEA

People normally don’t think about IKEA as a food chain. Between its wide spread of cafes and food courts, however, it classifies as the world’s sixth largest, an astounding number. 

While they’re known for cheap prices and accessibility, IKEA also is taking massive steps forward when it comes to being climate-friendly. Here we’re just focusing on the food aspect, which is still pretty big: they’ve launched plant-based and salmon meatballs as more sustainable alternatives to their traditional and iconic beef version. 

IKEA also has ambitious plans to improve their entire food supply chain by 2030. This includes reducing food waste, sourcing from sustainable sources, making healthier food, and promoting animal welfare. The first of their programs from this “Better Food Programme,” focused on chicken, launched in 2018

Having one of the world’s largest food chains making such huge commitments is amazing. As those commitments are reached, it will almost certainly climb up on this list to compare with those who have taken huge steps already.

4) Jimmy John’s

Surprised? So were we, to be honest. Jimmy John’s and its 2,000 locations do a lot of amazing environmental work behind the scenes, but are public about the commitments they make on their site. This includes listing their suppliers on their website, as well as talking about the environmental commitments each of those suppliers have made. 

Jimmy John’s also has their own commitments that they practice, which includes reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent by 2030. They also support improved environmental practices for raising meat on over 2 million acres of land, and target suppliers that use recyclable materials, energy, water, or all of the above. 

The sandwich chain also uses plenty of recyclable materials in its packaging. All of these are practices that have been in place since the company started in 1983, according to the website, so it’s deeply embedded in the company’s culture. They may not have plant-based meat offerings, but as sandwich chains go, these guys are doing great on the climate-friendly front.

3) McDonald’s

When we talk about fast food giants taking huge steps to be more climate-friendly, none have taken bigger and further steps than McDonald’s. Across all fronts, they are working to improve their food system, from sustainable agriculture to recycling and energy conservation. 

For their food, they’ve switched over their Filet-o-Fish sandwiches to all be Marine Stewardship Council certified for sustainability. They’ve been growing their lineup of ranchers to be more sustainable, use 100% sustainable espresso beans for their coffee, and follow United Nations guidelines when it comes to evaluating and implementing research in those fields. They’ve also tested many plant-based meat options globally, and we could finally see one hit US stores nationwide soon in the “McPlant” lineup

McDonald’s is also one of two fast food titans that have joined the NextGen Cup challenge to find a renewable solution for one of their largest pieces of waste (Starbucks has also joined). They also have extensive commitments and goals to minimize water, plastic, and energy usage, all of which can be viewed and evaluated on their corporate website

One of the chain’s biggest accomplishments in the climate-friendly space is creating a “Net Zero Energy” restaurant, which opened in 2020 at Disney World. It creates enough renewable energy to cover 100% of its needs annually, and is being used as a research hub to test solutions for locations nationwide to reduce energy and water use. These include photovoltaic panels, solar-powered lights, and even bikes that generate electricity.

2) Rubio’s

The fish taco specialist is one of the top chains in the world when it comes to sustainability. This is because nearly every option on its menu is already meeting, or close to meeting, goals when it comes to being climate-friendly. 

Just about every seafood option on Rubio’s menu is certified as “Responsibly Managed” according to a third-party certification from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), and the company displays as such on their website. This includes limited-time offerings like Langostino Lobster, an impressive feat. The only seafood to not be on that list is mahi mahi, and Rubio’s suppliers are working now to reach that certification. 

Rubio’s also emphasizes local sourcing for its other ingredients, like tortillas, and even has plant-based options from Impossible Foods on its menu. 

On top of its ingredient sourcing, Rubio’s also uses compostable and biodegradable takeout containers and napkins, meaning that its primary uses of packaging can go back into the earth and be reused. It also obtains third party certifications for its cups and paper menus to ensure they are recyclable as well, a huge plus.

Rubio’s gets close to the top for all of the remarkable efforts this chain is making, which are arguably the most of any restaurant empire on this list. Despite all of these efforts and transparency, however, there is one company that does more.

1) Chipotle

In the world of climate-friendly and sustainable food efforts, no chain is more thorough and transparent than Chipotle. They’re not just looking at the overall climate footprint picture, they have a tracker that shows how much environmental impact is reduced in each digital order. They’ve also begun to release annual climate reports that don’t just show targeted metrics: they’re transparent about whether those goals have been currently met, exceeded, or if they’re still behind on them. 

Chipotle has plant-based options that have long been on the menu, like Sofritas or their veggie bowl option. However, they’re also willing to remove options if they’re not up to par, like when Carnitas was temporarily taken off the menu after it was discovered that some pork suppliers had animal welfare problems. 

In terms of waste, the chain also goes above and beyond there. They have a program that donates used equipment and furniture (ie. grills and food processors) to local schools and nonprofits, and even has a Harvest Program that generates meals from leftovers that get donated to local communities. It also has set up composting in close to a fifth of its restaurants. 

Overall, Chipotle is the most climate-friendly fast food chain out there because it is taking the most steps to improve environmentally andis also the most transparent and open about it. They openly market environmental sustainability to the point where you can track it online orders, promoting a future of food that is better for the environment and the planet. What other major fast food players can say that? 

Categories
Fast Food Opinion Science

Is Subway’s Tuna Lawsuit Too Fishy To Be True?

Photo: Dontree on Shutterstock

Fast food sandwich giant Subway was rocked with another potential scandal this week. Years after dealing with allegations about their chicken containing other proteins, a lawsuit has been filed claiming that Subway’s tuna salad isn’t made with tuna.

According to the Washington Post, plaintiffs in the lawsuit got samples of the tuna from multiple locations in California. They declined to say the ingredients found, but claim that the salad mix was “not tuna” and “not fish.”

Subway has vehemently denied the allegations, saying they use “pure tuna” in a statement to the Post. Their ingredients list on the chain’s website also only has two ingredients for the salad mix: Flaked tuna in brine (which has tuna, water, and salt) and mayonnaise (which also contains spices and a preservative called EDTA that protects its flavor).

Obviously, given the history of fast food claims in the past, this controversy has swarmed swarmed the food news cycle. However, there are some questions brought up in the nature of the lawsuit that suggest it may not succeed.

Specifically, the lawsuit does not name what tests it used to determine how Subway’s tuna salad has no tuna. The most obvious forms of testing would be DNA barcoding or identification tests, which were used back when the chain’s chicken was evaluated in Canada.

While we don’t know if the plaintiffs used that kind of testing, we do know that it can raise some potential concerns on accuracy. Canned tuna (which the flakes come from) is known to cause issues when used in a DNA barcoding test. A 2017 review of DNA barcoding techniques in fish from Chapman University found that canned fish products often had a lower success rate and quality when it came to results.

The DNA barcoding sequences used could also be hindered by other ingredients in the salad mix. Given how the tuna is blended into mayonnaise, which is made with eggs, the possibility exists that the test results could be mixed with chicken DNA from the mayo.

The tests were conducted in independent labs, which should help reduce bias in the plaintiffs’ results. Unless they would be able to get the actual pre-mixed tuna from Subway, however, we don’t know for sure if any test results would be accurate. To date, the plaintiffs haven’t offered up additional information on how their testing was conducted.

It’s also unclear if any replications were performed to confirm results for the same samples, which was done back when CBC did their investigation of Subway’s chicken. Without knowing more information about how testing was conducted, given the data the plaintiffs have released, it’s hard to trust the veracity of the claims they’ve made to news outlets.

Of course, the plaintiffs could also be right, and probably wouldn’t be going to court unless they believed they had a strong case. Either way, we’ll have to see how this lawsuit plays out in court.

Categories
Fast Food Food Challenges Food Policy Food Waste Science

McDonald’s Begins To Make Their Trays Out Of Trash

Photo courtesy of Arcos Dorados

When it comes to finding ways to reduce waste and carbon footprint, McDonald’s has been one of the leaders in the fast food industry. They’ve been working to source all of their packaging from recyclable and renewable sources, and are 78 percent of the way there so far.

In Brazil, McDonald’s is testing a renewable plastic for one part of their food system we normally wouldn’t think of: the trays your food gets served on.

Photo courtesy of Arcos Dorados

The test is happening thanks to a collaboration between major McDonald’s franchisee Arcos Dorados and UBQ, a company that takes trash and other common waste and converts it into plastic materials.

UBQ was able to use their thermoplastic product to create McDonald’s trays, and Arcos Dorados sent them to several locations across Brazil. The initial test produced 7,000 trays that went to 30 locations, and Arcos Dorados will be expanding this to McDonald’s locations nationwide.

Photo courtesy of UBQ

The initial test has already diverted over 2,000 pounds of waste, and the Brazil-wide expansion would translate to over 8,000 pounds of carbon dioxide taken out of circulation.

Whether McDonald’s will look at their franchisee’s success and make more trays globally remains to be seen. However, this marks a key step on the chain’s attempts to reduce their carbon footprint as much as possible.

Categories
Animals Science Technology

FDA Approves Genetically Altered Pigs Meant To Prevent Meat Allergies From Triggering

Photo: Shutterstock

The FDA has given the green light to the usage of “GalSafe” pigs, a genetically engineered variety that is designed to prevent meat allergies from getting triggered when consuming pork.

GalSafe pigs were developed by biomedical firm Revivicor, who received the first-ever joint approval for their pigs in both food and medical uses. This means that in the future, we could see these pigs both being consumed and used in place of standard pork cells in current medical treatments.

Red meat allergies can be triggered by contracting “Alpha-gal Syndrome,” which is a condition that causes us to react to a specific sugar called “Alpha-gal” that is common in many mammals (excluding humans). These allergic reactions can range from mild to severe.

Alpha-gal Syndrome is believed to be transmitted via the bite of the Lone Star tick, but more research needs to be done to determine the role that the ticks play there.

Photo: Shutterstock

These GalSafe pigs have been genetically engineered to have the Alpha-gal sugar removed, preventing those with Alpha-gal Syndrome from getting an allergic reaction when eating meat from these specific animals. They would also not get these allergic reactions from any medicines developed with cells from these specific pigs.

Revivicor’s safety studies focused on the potential for allergic reactions to occur in medicinal uses of the GalSafe pig cells. The FDA also reviewed the safety of consuming pork from these pigs, and determined they would also be safe to eat, finding that the Alpha-gal sugar was removed across multiple generations of pigs. However, safety of eating was not evaluated for those with Alpha-gal syndrome, meaning that more research needs to be done there before confirming that those with meat allergies can eat the pork with full confidence.

For those concerned about any potential danger of eating genetically engineered foods, it should be noted that there is a global consensus from scientists that such foods are safe to eat.

The FDA also found that the pigs were no more environmentally harmful or at risk of a food safety outbreak than standard pigs. GalSafe pigs have more stringent living conditions than standard pigs, so if anything, they might be getting slightly better care.

While GalSafe pigs have been approved to eat, it may take a while before pork products from these pigs start becoming available for sale. These are just the second-ever genetically engineered animal approved for eating, after AquAdvantage salmon, a product still not available for purchase yet.

When it is available, however, Revivicor has indicated that they intend to sell it by mail order, not through grocery stores.

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#foodbeast Alcohol FOODBEAST Restaurants Science

How Different Types Of Sake Affect The Umami Taste In Fish

Sake has to be one of the most versatile alcoholic beverages in the world. With all of the different types and flavors available, the options in your grasp when it comes to picking a sake are almost endless. 

One thing they all have in common, however, is their synergy with seafood when it comes to umami. Research has shown that sake is much better at enhancing the sensation of umami in our mouths when compared to other alcoholic beverages like white wine.

This is because sake contains an umami compound called glutamic acid that can interact with the umami compound in seafood, called inosinic acid. The two react on our taste buds to boost the effects of umami, and sake plays a large part in supplying the glutamic acid for that burst of flavor. 

Foodbeast and Instagrammer George LaBoda @atlasandmason got to try this out firsthand while visiting Hermanito, a restaurant in Los Angeles, California. There, he met up with sake sommelier Bryan West to sample three different sakes with Hermanito’s Hamachi and Uni Agua Chili Sunomo. Each of the sakes had different properties that affected LaBoda’s perception of umami. 

jfoodo hyaku moku edited

One of the properties discussed was the ability to blend sakes, which was the case for the bottle of Hyaku Moku Alt. 3 from Kiku-Masamune Sake Brewing they started with. This blend of Junmai Daiginjo and Junmai Ginjo has a collection of fruity aromas to it. LaBoda also noted that the sake and seafood together opened up flavors he couldn’t perceive with just the dish on its own.

Another property of sake the pair dove into dealt with the polishing of rice. A higher degree of rice polishing doesn’t necessarily translate to a higher quality of sake. Instead, it refers to the amount of protein left, which means that something less polished has more protein available to create a unique range of umami flavors.

In comparing the final two sakes, a Tokugetsu Junmai Daiginjo from ASAHI-SHUZO SAKE BREWING and a Shirakabegura Tokubetsu Junmai from Shirakabegura Brewery, that difference was made clear. The Asahi-Shuzo sake was a lot more balanced, and even provided a cooling effect, lending itself to the fish. On the other hand, the full, rounded, and savory flavors of the Shirakabegura sake lent to the vegetables, creating unique experiences for both sakes from the same dish. 

None of the above necessarily has to be the “ideal” or “correct” pairing for a dish. If anything, the different qualities of the sakes show that each can provide a unique experience to the meal. However, the one commonality they do have is that synergy when it comes to umami. 

Hermanito’s Hamachi and Uni Agua Chili Sunomo will be available, with the Hyaku Moku Alt. 3 sake to pair with, through the month of December as part of the Unlock Your Palate campaign by JFOODO

You can learn more about the relationship between sake and seafood, as well as other restaurants featuring it, through JFOODO’s website, or by following the hashtags #UnlockYourPalate and #SeafoodAndSake. 

Created in partnership with JFOODO.