I contributed to this Studio 360 show on Wylie...
In America, we have become strangely divorced from our bodies, counting calories...– Richard Klein
The #foodthanks tag today trended today in twitter as users thanked the people who bring us our food. The effort, coordinated by the people behind @Agchat, provided a timely and often moving complement to the Thanksgiving holiday. It was interesting though just who was thanked. Based on my qualitative analysis of the data (OK - keeping half an eye on the stream over the course of the day)...
Industrial food and indoor plumbing
There are lots of things I should be grateful for in my life and I’m not. I should be grateful there is an internet that allows me to share this message, I should be grateful that tap water is drinkable and that the toilet takes waste…somewhere. I should be but I’m not; I only notice when they don’t work properly. So it is with the industrial food system in the developed world. I can eat...
In a recent commentary, Carlos Monteiro argues that the rise is obesity and diet-related chronic disease lies not with specific foods or nutrients but rather with the increased consumption of processed foods. At face value this seems classic Pollanism; a romantic, binary and often morally-based criticism of the food system. Good to make you think but not a great basis for policy. However on...
McDonald's is EVIL →
These pictures of a gracefully aging McDonald’s Happy Meal created a minor internet buzz. The reaction in blogs and on twitter amongst critics of our industrialized system was that McDonald’s must be doing something to make it resist the natural processes of decay. As a food scientist it seemed pretty obvious. Mold is the main reason for bread spoilage and mold doesn’t grow below a...
A simple picture of fluid flow and viscosity. Discussion of how adding particles to the liquid increase the viscosity. Particle aggregation increases the viscosity further and can even lead to gelation. Useful to understand many liquid to solid transitions in foods (e.g., yogurt, cheese curd, tofu)
Cooking for Food Scientists
Cooking is a wonderful way for a student of food science to study the effects of processing and ingredients. The kitchen environment frees the student from the need to measure anything and is familiar enough so the focus is on the food rather than unfamiliar pilot plant equipment. A student of food science should cook mindfully but with minimal reference to clocks, scales or recipes. Experiment,...
To earn a PhD in most Nordic countries, the candidate must first get his thesis approved by his committee. Depending on the field, the scope of a thesis can vary widely but in Food Science perhaps 4-6 academic papers is typical. Once the committee approves, the candidate must then publicly defend his thesis. The thesis defense is very public, on stage in front of as large an audience as...
Water migration between two components in the same food is driven by differences in water activity not differences in water content.
A simple model of an intermolecular bond as the sum of an electrostatic attraction at long ranges and a steric repulsion at a shorter range. The bonds are weak and fairly short range, typically only nearest-neighbor. The changes in the number and type of bonds is critical to understanding how molecules organize themselves against the randomizing effects of entropy.
The Board of Directors of IFT recently accepted recommendations to change the structure of divisions. (The work of the taskforce I was involved in. IFT members can read the full report here). Members can now (or at least soon) join divisions at any time without paying dues and the divisions will be freer to organize activities that bring value to the membership. In the past, the majority of...
Mixing is fundamental
To understand food (or anything else) as a chemical system we need a pathway between molecular properties and bulk properties we can see, smell touch and see. One of the simplest and most useful ways to explore this problem is to think about why some ingredients will mix with one another and others will not. Sugar will dissolve in water but not in oil. Olive oil will mix with canola oil but not...
An alternative to raw milk (2) →
Follow up article from Food Safety News on how farmers are developing raw milk alternatives for sale direct to consumers (original article, my response). All good practical advice on increasing farm profitability while maintaining consumer safety. I found this quotation particularly interesting (my italics): Michele Jay-Russell, Food Safety and Security specialist at the Western Institute for...
An alternative to raw milk
Food scientists tend to disapprove of raw milk (to put it mildly). We see the risks as real and the benefits small enough to be negligible. Raw milk enthusiasts strongly (to put it mildly) disagree and present alternative data. Normally I would expect that a scientific argument like this would reach some sort of resolution. The opposing sides would agree on ways to compare data and some sort...
"Desecration" of Food
“Cotton-candy flavored Go-gurt” is “the final desecration of yogurt” according to the blog Fooducate. He reviews the ingredients label and nutritional declarations of the product and correctly points out that the product is sweetened with sugar and corn syrup, artificially colored and flavored and concludes the product should be “confined to the snack aisles”. Go-Gurt contains no more sugar...
Relating water content to water activity in a moisture sorption isotherm. I got a little carried away with the “zones” of water argument - no-one really uses this anymore. There are a variety of more or less tightly bound states for water in a food not distinct populations. Individual water molecules will exchange between states. My initial diagram of the moisture sorption isotherm...
Water Activity #1: Definitions. A simple introduction to what water activity means in foods and how it differs from water content. This is aimed at undergraduate students and glosses over important issues regarding ideal solutions and water-solute interactions. (It is also, quite obviously, my first effort at doing video.)