Palm oil is a major industrial commodity today. It is economical, versatile, immensely popular, and it is being produced in an increasingly sustainable way. An industrial feedstock in food and confectionery goods, cosmetics, detergents, and biofuels, it is also an important food source in large parts of the developing world.
But a number of factors suggest that the future lies in new oils. Rapid expansion of palm oil production has destroyed areas of the rain forest, contributing to greenhouse gas emissions and eroding biodiversity. The planet cannot sustain ever-expanding production levels, which some project could nearly triple by 2050. And while in some food uses palm oil doesn’t require hydrogenation, its ubiquity in packaged foods still makes it a health concern in the developed world, where diets are high in saturated fats. Alternatives are required. Although sustainable palm oil and other vegetable oils are necessary elements in today’s oil portfolio, they are insufficient. Buyers, governments, and nongovernmental organizations need to accelerate initiatives to develop new oil sources. Keep Reading
With the increased interest in how we address obesity and the associated metabolic risk factors, there has been more focus on greater understanding of how macronutrient intake (source and amount) affects our health. A big splash occurred with the re-issuing of Atkins’ Diet over a decade ago. Since then, and with the ever-increasing impact of social media, societal interest in how food impacts health has exponentially escalated.
Currently, there are discussions surrounding:
Whether calories are as important to health outcomes as we once thought
The “toxicity” of certain ingredients and nutrients
How the source and type of macronutrient influences our bodies and environment
How genetic alterations of our plant-derived food impacts our health
Last month, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) issued a final ruling in a case involving POM Wonderful LLC, determining that certain ads for its juice products made misleading claims about the drink’s health benefits. This case has implications beyond the immediate effects on the company involved. The decision will affect a wide swath of the food and beverage industries by further tightening the criteria that will be required to sustain claims that a given product treats a disease. The FTC said that the claims in the instant case must be backed by two randomized, controlled clinical trials. These are essentially the same criteria employed by Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in assessing new drugs. Keep Reading
On November 20, Hostess announced that mediation with its bakers union had failed and that the 82-year-old company would proceed with liquidation plans. The good news is that the company’s iconic brands, such as Twinkies and HoHos, may not be gone for good. There may be multiple buyers of the individual product brands under the Hostess umbrella or there may be a single buyer who acquires them all. But rest assured, they will be sold because they have real market value. Estimates are that the combined sale of Hostess could be worth over $2 billion.
On Nov. 6, California voters defeated Proposition 37 (53.1% to 46.9%), “The California Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act,” requiring label disclosure of foods containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs). If passed, the proposition would have prohibited GMO food and other processed food from being labeled “natural.” Keep Reading
The U.S. Senate and U.S. House Committee on Agriculture have passed their respective versions of the 2012 Farm Bill, but the legislation is stranded, and the 2008 Farm Bill expired on Sept. 30, 2012. Here is a summary report on the current state of play and practical implications of the 2008 Farm Bill expiration. Keep Reading
On August 10, the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture revised its estimated for this year’s corn crop, cutting it by nearly 17% due to the severe drought the United States experienced this spring and summer. And yet, this year’s corn harvest is expected to be perhaps the fifth largest on record. Recently, Kelly Hensel, IFT Digital Media Editor, spoke with Colin Carter, Professor of Agricultural and Resource Economics at the University of California, Davis, to get his insight on how techniques, including genetic modification, have helped U.S. farmers meet increasing demands under extreme weather variation. In addition, Carter addresses the concerns surrounding GM crops. Listen to the interview on IFT’s ePerspective blog and don’t forget to add your opinion to the dialog by commenting.
IFT is a nonprofit scientific society of individual members working in food science, food technology, and related professions in industry, academia, and government. The views and opinions posted on ePerspective are those of authors and these opinions do not necessarily reflect the positions of IFT.