Chocolate may reduce stroke risk

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chocolate negroJust in time for Valentine’s Day, research out this week suggests eating chocolate may have a positive impact on stroke. Don’t go buying too many heart boxes just yet, though, say the study authors.

A new analysis, which involved a review of three prior studies, suggests eating about a bar of chocolate a week can help cut the risk of stroke and lower the risk of death after a stroke. But the evidence is still limited, says study author, neurologist Gustavo Saposnik at St. Michael’s Hospital, University of Toronto.

One study they looked at found that 44,489 people who ate one serving of chocolate per week were 22% less likely to have a stroke than people who ate no chocolate. Another study found that 1,169 people who ate 50 grams of chocolate once a week were 46% less likely to die following a stroke than people who didn’t eat chocolate.

The research appears in this week’s Neurology and will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology’s 62nd annual meeting in Toronto in April.

New chocolate-stroke studies should also take into account age and gender of consumers, says Italo Mocchetti, a professor in the Department of Neuroscience at Georgetown University Medical Center. Mocchetti, who has studied flavonoids, says this chemical, which is found in cocoa, is linked to anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties.

The chocolate-health connection is something many clients are interested in, says Katrina Markoff, owner of the premium chocolate line Vosges.

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Cadbury chocolate Fairtrade certified

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cadbury_block_2Cadbury’s dairy milk chocolate will now sport a “Fairtrade” logo on its redesigned packaging, while retaining the smaller block size it switched to last year.

The confectionary maker would also increase the amount of cocoa solids in its product, from 21% to 26%.

All of the ingredients in the company’s nine Cadbury Dairy Milk products that could be certified “Fairtrade” would be, New Zealand managing director Matthew Oldham said.

The move follows widespread criticism of a decision in August last year to switch to using palm oil in its chocolate.

The firm started using palm oil as part of a cost-cutting exercise, which also saw the 150g and 250g bars shed about 20% of their weight.

Palm oil production was responsible for the rapid destruction of rainforest habitats and remained the single greatest threat to the existence of orangutans, and many other South East Asian wildlife species.

Though Cadbury only bought and used certified sustainable palm oil for the brief time it used it in its chocolate, the public had spoken – and wanted the palm oil out, Oldham said.

Cadbury responded to public outcry and changing back to the original recipe the new-look, logo-emblazoned chocolates would be on shelves in time for Easter, he said.

The smaller product size would remain.

The company’s use of Fairtrade product would help improve life for more than 40,000 Ghanaian cocoa farmers, who grew the beans the company used in its chocolate, Mr Oldham said.

Source : Reuters

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Study questions sucralose stability in bakery

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Sucralose-3D-ballsBakery formulators who use ingredients like glycerol or fats should exercise caution when using sucralose, suggests a new study from Canada.

Researchers from McGill University report that the chloride in sucralose may chlorinate glycerol to produce chloropropanols; potentially toxic compounds. However, questions remain as to whether such compounds would be formed in actual foods.

Speaking to FoodNavigator, lead researcher Dr Varoujan Yaylayan from McGill’s Department of Food Science and Agricultural Chemistry said that the purpose of the new study was to “show in principle” that chloropropanols could be formed if food is heated at high temperatures.

“Food matrix components may promote or hinder this process,” he said. “In order to confirm positively that this reaction can happen under realistic food processing conditions specific experiments should be conducted.

“Our aim was to identify if chlorination in principle can occur,” he added.

According to their results, published in the journal Food Chemistry, sucralose may degrade in the presence of glycerol and generate chloropropanols.

“Caution should be exercised in the use of sucralose as a sweetening agent during baking of food products containing glycerol and or lipids due to the potential formation of toxic chloropropanols,” they added.

Unrealistic and implausible?

The study’s findings were dismissed by sucralose supplier Tate & Lyle as “unrealistic”. A spokesperson for the company told FoodNavigator that the stability of the ingredient, including its stability under heat processing, was rigorously tested as part of the original regulatory petition that submitted and reviewed by regulatory authorities around the world.

“All of these tests proved that sucralose does not break down in typical food processing conditions,” said the spokesperson. “These tests were conducted with actual food products including baked goods.”

The spokesperson added that the conditions used in the McGill study were “wholly unrealistic compared to how sucralose is used within a food matrix.

“It is not scientifically plausible to extrapolate from these tests that this is how sucralose behaves in normal food processing conditions.

“Indeed, the process and shelf stability of sucralose is one of the many reasons why it is the leading high intensity sweetener in the food market and sweetens more than 4000 products world wide,” added the spokesperson.

Bakery

The new study, funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), sought to understand the thermal decomposition of sucralose under high temperature environments. Drs Yaylayan and Rahn also studied the “consequences of hydrogen chloride release from sucralose and its ability to chlorinate various food related ingredients such as glycerol to generate chloropropanols”.

The researchers looked at the thermal degradation of sucralose (pyrolysis) at 250 °C in the presence of glycerol “generated significant amounts of 3-monochloropropanediol and 1,2- and 1,3-dichloropropanols based on the relative intensities of their chromatographic peaks which amounted to 15 per cent of the total chromatographic peak area”, they reported.

Dr Yaylayan told this website that the choice of 250 °C was “a little bit higher temperature” than found in many food processes “in order to speed up the reaction”.

A growing concern for foods

Chloropropanols are found in many types of food, said Dr Yaylayan, and that their work was continuing to study chloropropanol formation mechanisms in general, and not specifically sucralose-related.

According to a 2009 report from the International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI), the major chloropropanol is 3-chloro-1,2-propanediol (3-MCPD). It is known to be present in some bakery products. “3-MCPD is formed when fat- and salt-containing foods are processed at high temperatures during production,” explains the report. Dr Yaylayan worked as co-author on the ILSI “3-MCPD Esters in Food Products” report (to read the ILSI report, please click here .)

‘Scientifically sound’ safety

The safety of sucralose was supported in a recent review paper by an expert panel and published in the Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology (Oct. 2009, Vol. 55, pp. 6-12).

The expert panel was convened “because the general public continues to be concerned about the safety of food ingredients, including non-nutritive and nutritive sweeteners, it is important that all safety data regarding food ingredients be made publicly available, and the data should be critically evaluated to assure the public that the conclusions presented are supported by data from properly designed and executed studies,” said the article.

“The extensive safety data of sucralose and maltodextrin have been rigorously evaluated by experts around the world, and the available evidence demonstrates that Splenda, sucralose, and maltodextrin are safe for their intended uses.”

Source: Food Chemistry

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Layered gels may help sugar reduction

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By controlling the distribution of sugar in a gelled product, the overall sugar concentration may be lowered without affecting the perceived sweetness, says a new study from Sweden.

The principle focuses on distributing different sugar concentrations in layers of gelatin within a food product, which could lead to a range of reduced-sugar food products like desserts, jellies, and dairy products, according to findings published in Food Hydrocolloids.

The issue of health is no longer a marginal topic for the food industry but wholly mainstream, and it finds confectioners, biscuit and cake makers seeking to juxtapose today’s consumer desire for indulgence with their desire for foods with a healthy profile.

According to a recent study from the US, only 5 per cent of American children between 6 and 11 were overweight before 1980, but 25 years later this number had risen to 19 per cent. Similar increases have been reported in Europe, with the International Association for the Study of Obesity estimating in 2006 that the number of obese school age children in Europe increased by almost 50 per cents since the late 1990s.

The new study, led by Anne-Marie Hermansson from the Swedish Institute for Food and Biotechnology, indicates that reduced sugar foods may be achievable by distributing sugar in a structure.

“It is plausible that, when eating and chewing these gels, the receptors initially met different amounts of sugar, which gave higher sweetness intensities for the samples with sugar-rich layers,” wrote the researchers. “As the structures broke down, the sugar distribution evened out; all samples got the same sugar concentration and the differences disappeared.”

Sugar and salt

A similar approach was recently reported by Dutch scientists from the Top Institute Food and Nutrition (TIFN) who developed a technique to reduce salt without adding sodium substitutes, or taste or aroma additives.

Along a similar principle, Hermansson and her co-workers produced layered gelatin gels with the sugar concentration varied throughout the structure. According to their findings, sweetness was detected earlier in a seven-layered sample with the same sugar concentration as a single homogeneous gel.

“The higher sweetness intensity in the seven-layered sample was probably because more sugar met the receptors at biting through this gel,” wrote the researchers.

“It is plausible to believe from our results that gels with the sugar unevenly distributed can give similar sweetness as a homogenous sample, but with a lower sugar concentration,” they added.

Source: Food Hydrocolloids

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Unilever ‘may have to leave UK’

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unilever-logoFood manufacturer Unilever has threatened that it may be forced to quit the UK under current financial conditions.

In an interview with the Daily Mail, Unilever chief executive Paul Polman said that current business conditions, coupled with increasing taxes and regulations, meant the company could become “non-competitive” in the UK.

Mr Polman explained: “We do have choices where we put research laboratories, choices for manufacturing facilities and choices where we put our senior management. Any responsible businessman needs to continue to assess that within an everchanging global environment.”

It is thought that increasingly rates of corporation tax are driving companies abroad.

The news follows the release of Unilever’s end-of-year results which show sales growth of 3.5 per cent in 2009.

Commenting on the results, Mr Polman said that the company made progress in emerging markets and strengthened its volume growth in Western Europe.

“Our brands are stronger, driven by better quality innovation and a step-change in advertising and promotional expenditure,” he explained.

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5 ways to celebrate chocolate

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chocolate1Valentine’s Day is the perfect time for chocolate, and it’s never too early to plan for the sweet stuff. These recipes are all quick and easy to prepare. The first two make a single serving, so they’ll work well whether you celebrate with someone else or alone. Simply double the recipe for two. One of the following desserts is made in a slow cooker, so you can start it midday and it will be warm and ready for after-dinner consumption. The last two recipes make enough for seconds. You’ll want to keep them handy because you’ll be asked to make them again soon.

Cake in a Mug

* 4 tablespoons flour

* 4 tablespoons sugar

* 2 tablespoons baking cocoa

* 1 egg

* 3 tablespoons milk

* 3 tablespoons oil

* 3 tablespoons chocolate chips, optional

* a splash of vanilla

Put the dry ingredients in a mug, and mix well. Add the egg, and mix thoroughly. Pour in the milk and oil, and mix well. Add the chocolate chips (if using) and vanilla, and mix again. Microwave for three minutes. The cake will rise over the top of the mug, but don’t be alarmed! Allow to cool, and tip the cake onto a plate if desired — or eat right from the cup. Enjoy!

Chocolate-Peanut-Butter Spread

* 1 tablespoon smooth or crunchy peanut butter

* 2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar

* 1 teaspoon cocoa

* few drops water (boiled and cooled)

* few drops vanilla, optional

In a cup, place the peanut butter, confectioners’ sugar, cocoa and a few drops of water. Add vanilla, if desired. Stir vigorously until blended, and add more drops of water until consistency is reached for spreading. Spread on bread to desired thickness.

Slow-Cooker Cake

* 1 box chocolate cake mix

* 1 box instant chocolate pudding

* 16 ounces sour cream

* 4 eggs

* 3/4 cup vegetable oil

* 1 cup water

Mix all the ingredients together well. Spray the slow cooker well with nonstick spray. Pour the batter into the slow cooker. Cover and cook on low for six hours. Serve with ice cream. Cook’s note: I slid a sharp knife around the edge of the cake, and it slid out quite nicely onto a plate.

Chocolate Layered Dessert

Crust

* 1 stick butter

* 3/4 cup pecans

* 1 cup flour

Filling

* 1 cup powdered sugar

* 12 ounces Cool Whip

* 8 ounces cream cheese

* 1 small box of chocolate pudding (make as pudding)

* 1 small box of vanilla pudding (make as pudding)

Melt butter in a 13-by-9-inch pan in a 375 F preheated oven. Add the pecans and flour. Mix well, and spread out. Stick back in the oven until slightly browned. Let cool.

Mix 1 cup confectioners’ sugar with 6 ounces Cool Whip and cream cheese. Spread all over the crust, add the chocolate pudding (make the pudding first) spread, and then add the vanilla pudding (make first), and over the top add 6 ounces Cool Whip and pecans. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Optional: Use your favorite pudding flavors, such as butterscotch, banana, lemon, etc.

Chocolate-Peanut-Butter Balls

* 1-1/2 cups peanut butter

* 1 cup butter, softened

* 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

* 6 cups confectioners’ sugar

* 4 cups milk-chocolate chips or chocolate candy wafers

In a large bowl, mix together the peanut butter, butter, vanilla and confectioners’ sugar. Roll into 1-inch balls, and place on a wax-paper-lined cookie sheet. Press a toothpick into the top of each ball, and chill in the freezer for a half-hour or the refrigerator for an hour to firm them. Melt the chocolate chips in a double boiler, in a bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water or slowly in a microwave. Stir frequently until smooth and fully melted. Dip the chilled peanut-butter balls into chocolate. Remove toothpick. Put back on a wax-paper-lined cookie sheet, and refrigerate until serving.

Source:  Frugal Village

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Purchasing habits informing packaging trends at Pro Sweets

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Factors such as ease of opening and resealable closures rather than sustainability of materials are driving upcoming packaging developments, claims Mondi Consumer Flexibles.

The supplier, in collaboration with Fuji Packaging, launched a packaging concept at the industry trade show, Pro Sweets, in Cologne this week that it said is informed by a growing demand for convenient formats in addition to product differentiation at the retail level.

Swift Up, according to Kim Pihl, product manager at Mondi Consumer Flexibles, is suitable for a huge range of sugar and chocolate confectionery. It can employ any type of film or laminate and is not restricted to any particular type of format, size or shape.

“Positioning of the fin is at the end of the packaging where traditionally it has been in the middle. The end-user simply pulls on the fin to fully open the pouch and an optional reclosable strip enables resealing to ensure the content stays fresh for longer,” he said.

The material, added Pihl, is applicable to a wide range of existing packaging lines such as vertical and horizontal Form-Fill-and-Seal (FFS), with only slight adjustments to the machinery required.

He told ConfectioneryNews.com that Mondi saw in Fuji a partner that was willing to take chances and experiment with new packaging concepts, which he stressed is vital for encouraging innovation. The two are collaborating on bringing the pack to market and said feedback from Pro Sweets has been more than positive.

Meanwhile, in contrast to the packaging supplier, the German Packaging Institute claims that sustainability is still critical when it comes to factors dictating the buying habits of a new type of consumer group called the LOHAS, which means Lifestyle of Health and Sustainability.

The Institute said this market segment is focused on health and fitness, the environment, personal development, sustainable living, and social justice.

Thomas Bastian, who represented the Institute at the trade show, told this publication that confectioners need to consider this group in terms of design and the incorporation of environmentally friendly materials into their packaging as they value services and products that make sense in terms of a balance between the economy, health and ecology.

“Research has shown that these consumers have high earning potential, and are enticed by visionary design and biodegradable packaging materials. They are five consumer types within this group. Some are status orientated and they want to be perceived as buyers of premium products – but others are more genuine in their “green” habits,” he continued.

LOHAS consumers are also used as predictors of upcoming trends, as they are early adopters of many attitudinal and behavioral dynamics, explained Bastian.

He said that 15 per cent of the German population subscribe to this new lifestyle and market research has shown it is a developing trend elsewhere in Europe. And subscribers are estimated to be at 30 per cent in the US.

According to Bastian, confectioners have LOHAS products in their portfolio – such as sugar free products and those using natural colours – but the packaging they are wrapped in is not appealing to the LOHAS group as it is either not biodegradable or the design is not innovative enough to attract this consumer.

He said the Institute is aiming to set up round tables involving packaging converters, suppliers and designers in addition to manufacturers to press home the factors required to attract this core group.

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Fats & Oils: Omega 3, 6, 9

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All fats are made of various mixtures of saturated and unsaturated (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated) fatty acids. All fatty acids are composed of chains of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen atoms. Fatty acids are named and numbered based on how their carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen atoms are arranged. “Omega-3”, “Omega-6”, and “Omega-9” are actually chains of unsaturated fatty acids categorized based on where the double bond between two carbon atoms occurs. Omega-3, omega-6, and omega-9 have a carbon–carbon double bond in the #3 position, the #6 position, and the #9 position of their carbon chains, respectively.

omega3Omega-3 fatty acids are extremely important to health because they help suppress inflammation, an underlying cause of many diseases. There are a number of omega-3 fatty acids. They can be categorized according to short chain or long chain configurations. One important short chain omega-3 fatty acid is alpha linolenic acid (ALA). It is essential to health; however, our bodies cannot make it, so we must get this fatty acid from our diets. It is a nutrient most Americans do not get enough of as relatively few foods are good sources. Canola and soybean oils are two widely available dietary sources of essential ALA so their inclusion in the daily diet is healthful. Longer chain omega-3’s are found in fatty fish, which also have health benefits.

Omega-6 fatty acids are also essential to health and are nutrients that our bodies cannot make. The most familiar omega-6 fatty acid is called linoleic acid (LA). Many oils contain omega-6 fatty acids, including safflower, sunflower, soybean, corn, cottonseed, and peanut oils so it is much easier to get the amount needed through our daily diet. There has been some debate regarding the importance of a balanced ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids in the diet, but others feel that it is the absolute amounts of each fatty acid in the diet that matters. The current recommendation for omega-6 fatty acid intake is 5-10% of total calories.

Omega-9 fatty acids are found in various vegetable oils and animal fats. Unlike omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, they are not essential, but they too are important to health. Oleic acid is one of the main omega-9 fatty acids, and emerging evidence is showing that it may be important in metabolism and weight regulation. Oleic acid is the main component of olive oil, as well as, some of the new generation, heat stable oils, including high-oleic canola and sunflower oils. Another term for high-oleic oils is Omega-9 oils. Omega-9 oils refer to a category of oils that have over 70% oleic acid and less than 3% linolenic (ALA).

When it comes to frying, the fatty acid composition of the oil determines how well it stands up to the high heat of frying. Oils high in oleic acid are very heat stable. Omega-3 fatty acids are not very heat stable however they impart an important flavor profile to the oil so when there is just enough (above 1% or so), taste perception of the cooked food product is improved. New generation, low linolenic (ALA) soy oils also have enhanced heat stability and improved frying performance.

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Chocolatier enjoy sales uplift

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hotel-chocolate2Hotel Chocolat, the 42-store luxury chocolatier, has revealed that its underlying sales rocketed by 14 per cent in the second half of 2009 and that it will open its first stores in the Middle East next month.

Angus Thirlwell, the co-founder and chief executive of Hotel Chocolat, said the sales uplift had been driven by a sharper focus on buying and merchandising, as well as “product innovation”. He added that its H2 sales momentum had been maintained throughout the crucial festive trading months of November and December. The chain will open two stores in Kuwait and Bahrain in February, followed by a further store in Dubai in March, all through its franchise operator Jawad Business Group.

Mr Thirlwell also said that Hotel Chocolat, which has two stores in Boston, US, sees an opportunity to tout its UK manufacturing credentials in the wake of Kraft’s successful take-over approach for Cadbury. He said: “We plan to tap into the heightened interest in British chocolate, following the Kraft bid for Cadbury.”

The majority of Hotel Chocolat’s chocolate is manufactured at its factory in Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire, where it has created 500 jobs over the past three years. While it developed the phrase before Kraft formally kicked off its bid for Cadbury in September, Hotel Chocolat is pushing its tag line – British cocoa grower and chocolatier – underneath its logo on products.

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