Could Your Mobile Phone Reveal Hidden Ingredients in Food and Drink?

The development of advanced mobile phone cameras are used by doctors and patients as an aid to diagnosis and self-diagnosis, but now Zafar Iqbal and Robert Bjorklund, from Linköping University in Sweden, consider how the same devices could reveal the hidden ingredients of your food and drink. The research focused on identifying the authenticity and chemical makeup of food using samples of onion and lamb. If developed the technology could allow shoppers to scan their food for additives, e-numbers and other chemicals before purchasing.

Read more about the research here.

Functional Foods, Nutraceuticals and Degenerative Disease Prevention
by Gopinadhan Paliyath, Ph.D., Marica Bakovic, Kalidas Shetty
  Food Additives Data Book, 2nd Edition
Jim Smith and Lily Hong-Shum


Molecular Gastronomy: Modernist Cuisine Brings the Lab to the Kitchen

Forget microwaves and frying pans. In six volumes and 2,438 pages, the new cookbook Modernist Cuisine trades traditional appliances for cutting-edge machinery more commonly found in science laboratories than household kitchens.

Modernist Cuisine was born in 2004, when in billionaire mathematician and physicist Nathan Myhrvold began explaining sous vide cuisine in eGullet’s online forums. At the time, no one had ever written a book about the French technique in English, so he took it upon himself to write such a book. However, as Myhrvold developed the book, he kept finding reasons to expand its scope. For instance, the sous vide method of cooking works by sealing food in an airtight bag and then submerging it in a hot water bath. How could anyone fully understand this technique without understanding the basic physics of heat and water? Moreover, wouldn’t ordinary people like to understand how traditional cooking actually works?

As a result, Modernist Cuisine is a cookbook that, instead of explaining how to cook, explains exactly what is happening when you cook. This type of cooking is called molecular gastronomy: the application of science to culinary practice. 1 The term was actually coined by two scientists: physical chemist Hervé This, who currently works as scientific director of the foundation “Food Science & Culture” at the French Academy of Science, and physicist Nicholas Kurti.

Because it combines the precision of scientific measurement with the inventiveness of cooking, many of the recipes in Modernist Cuisine better resemble scientific protocols than home-style recipes. The book’s hamburger, for instance, takes 30 hours to prepare. The lettuce and tomato are flavored using a vacuum sealer, the cheese is molecularly restructured with carrageenan (i.e. seaweed extract), and the hamburger patties themselves require hand-grinding the beef. Yet, Myhrvold attests that the majority of his recipes can be followed using standard kitchen appliances. The sous vide technique, for example, can be mimicked on an ordinary stovetop using a pot and a thermometer.

Whether or not his methods can be replicated in ordinary kitchens, Myhrvold is striving to revolutionize the norms of cooking. “Seeing things like propylene glycol alginate in an ingredient list may take some getting used to,” he says, “but it should be no stranger than a meringue recipe calling for cream of tartar.” In response to critics who claim that his precise, scientific approach eliminates the “soul” from cooking, Myhrvold says, “The idea you would rely on intuition to judge something you are terrible at judging makes very little sense to me. Why don’t you blindfold yourself, too?”

Resources from Wiley on This Topic
Professional Cooking, 7th Edition

by Wayne Gisslen

Handbook of Fruit and Vegetable Flavors

by Y.H. Hui, et al.

How Baking Works: Exploring the Fundamentals of Baking Science, 3rd Edition

by Paula I. Figoni

1.This, H. (2005). Molecular gastronomy Nature Materials, 4 (1), 5-7 DOI: 10.1038/nmat1303

Probiotics and Health Claims

This month, Wiley will release Probiotics and Health Claims, a book that investigates the food, feed, and pharmaceutical applications and assessment procedures of probiotics around the world. We sat down with the book’s two editors, Wolfgang Kneifel and Seppo Salminen, to pick their brains about what, exactly, the term “probiotics” means, and how they predict probiotics will be used in the future.

  • What are probiotic microorganisms?
    The scientific definition has undergone some revision during the last decades. Briefly, probiotics are live microorganisms which exert certain beneficial properties to the host (human or animal) depending on their activity and cell density. The spectrum of effects seems to be increasing, and the mechanisms of action are not fully investigated so far, consequently opening up interesting perspectives for future research.
  • What are some of the most common ways probiotics are used in commercial products?
    In principle, there are three types of probiotic vehicles: food products (of which fermented dairy products can be regarded as the dominating segment), pharmaceutical preparations and dietary supplements (which come in different formats, ranging from capsules to tablets, drops and powders), and probiotic feeds.
  • How are probiotics developed?
    Usually, the development process of probiotics is a multidisciplinary one, where microbiologists, medical experts, nutritionists and technologists are cooperating. When formulating a defined product, these scientists start with an extensive screening of isolate candidates and then consider individual properties (e.g. identity and taxonomy, safety, stability, resistance, functional and technological criteria). Often, probiotics have been selected out of hundreds of possible candidates. They are assessed not only in laboratory tests and models, but also in dynamic models, followed by clinical trials under double-blind placebo-controlled conditions. Further in-depth information is contained in our book.
  • Are probiotics ever used for harm instead of health?
    Never. If so, they would not carry the name “probiotic”.
  • What do you think the future holds for companies and products which seek to make health claims?
    There is some evidence that both sides—i.e. the applicant (industry) as well as the assessing bodies—are undergoing a demanding period of progress and development. Very few probiotic claims worldwide have been officially endorsed. As discussion is still ongoing on this subject, it is difficult to foresee to what degree food product development, in general, will be affected health claim regulation in the future.
  • What is the most important piece of advice you can offer to non-scientists regarding probiotics?
    Advice of scientists to non-scientists needs to be simple and meaningful. In this context, scientists should be able to produce these sorts of statements, such as the following: “Probiotics can be regarded as the most prominent pacesetters bridging the two areas health and food like no other product. Probiotic foods are not to be seen necessarily as therapeutics, but they are a proper and attractive way of improving well-being, preventing discomfort, and reducing the risk of diseases.”
  • What inspired you to study Food Science?
    It was mainly the challenge of this topic’s inherent interdisciplinary nature.
  • In your lifetime, what would you consider to be the most significant scientific discovery in Food Science?
    Different milestones can be seen in the development of Food Sciences during the last 20-30 years, e.g. the invention of new processes guaranteeing maximum preservation of important nutrients and maintaining product quality and shelf-life. However, one particularly notable development is the advance of international networking for food safety issues. There is no doubt that food crises have shaken consumers as well as producers; however, the number of food crises has not increased. Rather, food crises have become more easily and readily recognizable due to global monitoring and control mechanisms, which causes them to appear to have become more numerous.

    Related work from these authors
    Handbook of Probiotics and Prebiotics, 2nd Edition
    by Yuan Kun Lee and Seppo Salminen