Highlights from the week in food science news:
Genetically modified food’s DNA could be absorbed by our bodies and wreak havoc on our DNA! Wait, what? That’s right, the Atlantic published a very confusing food science column a few weeks ago, making a substantial leap from an interesting Chinese paper about mircoRNA from rice being found in people who eat rice, to aggressive GMO DNA invading our bodies. This week, Emily Willingham wrote a great analysis of the flaws in the Atlantic story, including that the paper referenced had nothing to do with GMO foods. You can find her excellent explaining here.
The next article goes out to my boyfriend, who enjoys combining flavors in his cooking that I would consider against the rules. Our infamous example, pasta with tomato sauce featuring cheese, sage, cumin, mexican hot sauce (think vinegar) and oregano. Ugh. Some flavors just do no mix. And, now I have science to partially back me up! Wired columnist Samuel Arbesman wrote about a study in which scientists mapped related flavors, according to chemical composition, and then to co-occurrence in recipes. To read about what the analysis discovered, check out the Wired blog here. Check out the flavor map below to see some of the connections the researchers documented:
NPR’s food blog, The Salt, ran a story this week analyzing the environmental consequences of industrial beef production; on water use, land use, and fossil fuel consumption. The conclusion might surprise you, beef production is LESS environmentally costly today then it was 30 years ago. However, this increased efficiency reported by the study does not account for the environmental costs of the growing the cattle feed, or the damage caused by waste runoff. Read the NPR post here.
Beef isn’t the only meat making news this week. The export market for American Pigs could be in trouble because of ractopamine hydrochloride, a drug given to pigs to stimulate the growth of lean meat. Functioning as a stress hormone mimic, the drug is given to 60-80% of pigs raised in the US. Many of our trade partners have banned the drug, citing human health concerns. You can read a full breakdown of the situation at FERN, the Food and Environment Reporting Network, here.
And lastly, raw milk made the news again this week. A campylobacter infection in the milk from a Pennsylvania dairy sicken 38 people to date. Although careful, clean raw milk production can be safe, plenty of problems just like this one have been cropping up as more people decide to drink raw milk. People invented pasteurization for a reason! Read about this case on Food Safety News here.
That’s my food science highlights for the week. Hope I didn’t ruin your appetite with the last few stories. Next week I’ll search for some sunnier news!