While traditionally associated with Thanksgiving, cranberries may be a healthful complement to any meal, according to research in the November 19 issue of the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. Conducting a comprehensive review of 20 commonly eaten fruits, researchers found “cranberries contained significantly more disease-fighting antioxidant phenols than any other fruit measured.”

Over 4,000 known phenols in plants help protect them against oxidative damage from the sun and other environmental hazards. When used in foods or beverages, phenols may protect against heart disease, certain forms of cancer and other health problems.

The greatest phenol content is found in cranberries, pears, grapes, apples and blueberries, according to Joe Vinson, Ph.D., professor of chemistry at the University of Scranton in Scranton, Pa. As part of his research, Vinson measured the quantity and quality of phenols, described as the most potent type of antioxidant isolated in foods.

“On both a gram-weight and serving size basis, cranberries were the richest source of antioxidant phenols. Cranberries are loaded with antioxidants and should be eaten more often,” Vinson advised. Routinely enjoyed during the holidays, cranberries are less common on the dinner table during other times of the year.

Cranberries may not be available year-round, but they still retain their antioxidant content during freezing or processing into sauces, dried fruit or juice.

For more information on the cranberry research, contact Julie Walsh, 212-665-5374.

Attitude Is Everything

The United Soybean Board (USB) has finished its eighth annual nationwide survey examining consumer attitudes and perceptions on health and nutrition issues that may affect the food and healthcare industries. Through its survey, the USB hopes to assist food and healthcare industry members in making sound decisions related to soy usage.

Among the survey's findings, the percentage of Americans concerned about food's nutritional content has remained fairly constant since 1997, consistently in the 86-89% range. This year's survey found similar results, with 88% of consumers expressing concern about the nutritional content of their food.

The survey reported nine in 10 consumers consider nutrition an important factor when grocery shopping, and seven in 10 said they were willing to pay more for a healthier version of the foods they purchase. Healthiness is on the minds of consumers, as the number who have changed eating habits due to health and nutritional concerns grew to 72%, the highest percentage in the last four years of the survey.

According to the results, nine in 10 consumers say the health and nutritional information is a “big help” when looking for healthy foods and agree that the “Nutrition Facts” label plays an important role in their purchase. Further emphasizing the label's importance, fewer consumers say they are confused about health and nutrition information, falling from 63% in 2000 to 56% in 2001.

Points of Interest

• Coca-Cola Company and Procter & Gamble are formulating vitamin-enriched beverages to help combat anemia, blindness and other maladies common to poorer parts of the world. According to The Wall Street Journal, the two companies will target middle- and lower-middle-class families who do not live in poverty, yet still lack a healthy diet.

• SKW and Alex Fries merged into Degussa last year, joining other international flavor experts such as Dairyland Food Labs and Mero. Now, Degussa has unveiled a new brand name to identify all of these companies—Maxens. Degussa will continue to operate under the other existing legal names, but the brand name change to Maxens was effective January 1.

• Continuing its focus on three core businesses (fresh dairy, water and non-alcoholic beverages, and biscuits), Groupe Danone is selling its 60% interest in Wuhan, China breweries to CRE Beverage Ltd., a joint venture between China Resource Enterprise Ltd. and South African Breweries plc. Wuhan's breweries accounted for two-thirds of Groupe Danone's beer revenues in China in 2000.

• Cargill announced that its Cargill Nutraceuticals business unit henceforth will be known as Cargill Health and Food Technologies. The company made the announcement following the merge and expansion of its nutraceuticals and specialty food ingredients business units.

• A federal appeals court ruled that the USDA may no longer shutter meat processing plants that repeatedly fail to control potentially harmful salmonella bacteria. USDA spokesperson Alisa Harrison said the court left no doubt regarding the department's authority (or lack thereof): “We have no more ability to shut a plant down.”

The department can still ensure meat safety through testing and recalls of contaminated products, she said, adding that the USDA is “taking a look at our options.”

The Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the decision by U.S. District Judge A. Joe Fish in Texas, who ruled in 2000 that the USDA acted improperly in closing a Supreme Beef Processors plant for failing a salmonella test on three separate occasions.

The National Meat Assoc. challenged the USDA's authority to close plants on such grounds, arguing that the action unfairly penalizes companies that provide safe meat. The association also noted that salmonella is not a concern if meat is properly cooked. A spokesperson related that the salmonella came from the slaughterhouses, and a grinder could do nothing to remove it.