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Posts Tagged: food

Healthy vending grows in popularity on UC campuses

Raw hunger or thirst usually draws people to buy snacks from vending machines. Healthy options, calorie counts and reminders help consumers make good-sense decisions when they slip in coins or a credit card, according to research by a working group organized under UC's Global Food Initiative and led by the UC Nutrition Policy Institute.

The working group set out to develop guidelines for food service providers at all 10 UC campuses and other UC facilities in stocking and promoting healthy options in their vending machines. They also created a toolkit with step-by-step guidance in making the switch, including everything from early meetings with students, food service and vendors to anticipating and preparing for barriers to implementation.

Healthy options, calorie counts and reminders help consumers make good-sense decisions when buying food or beverages from vending machines.

As part of the project, the Nutrition Policy Institute evaluated data from six UC campuses that show healthy vending options are growing in popularity, which eases concerns about a potential reduction in profit by making vending healthier.

“In 2005, California began introducing policies limiting junk food in vending machines and student stores on K-12 campuses,” said Janice Kao, a researcher at the Nutrition Policy Institute and chair of the working group. “Today's college students are used to having healthy snack options in schools. Customer resistance that some vendors talk about isn't necessarily the case anymore.”

Two UC campuses – UCLA and UC San Francisco – have been early adopters in making healthy vending machine choices available. According to the evaluation, the two locations achieved the goal of having 70% of their beverage vending products fit the “healthy” description. Other UC campuses are working on adding healthy options – with a wide variation in implementation and definition of “healthy.”

The Global Food Initiative working group recommends a higher standard for “healthy” snacks than some campuses and vendors. The key difference is the decision that an item can only be considered “healthy” if the first ingredient is a fruit, vegetable, low-fat dairy, protein or whole grain.

“This guideline means some granola bars cannot be considered a healthy snack,” Kao said.

Even so, the evaluation results showed improvement in the sales of healthy products.

“Campuses that have actively worked on healthy vending saw greater sales of healthy snacks and drinks,” Kao said. “We want to learn from those experiences and develop systemwide standards to provide consistency. With everyone following the same guidelines, there is potential to take advantage of systemwide food procurement economies of scale and contribute to meeting UC's sustainability goals.”

The NPI evaluation compared the greenhouse gas emissions associated with traditional vending and healthy vending. A dramatic difference emerged when comparing candy bar ingredients and healthy snack bar ingredients. Greenhouse gas emissions of candy bar ingredients were estimated to be more than twice as high as healthy snack bar ingredients.

Posted on Tuesday, July 28, 2020 at 1:39 PM
Focus Area Tags: Food

Torres Martinez Tribal Council helped distribute Farmers to Families produce boxes

During the month of June, families at the Torres Martinez Desert Cahuilla Indian Tribe and nearby trailer parks in eastern Coachella Valley received free produce boxes weekly from the USDA Farmers to Families Food Box Program.

This program was created by USDA to give families in need access to fresh food during the coronavirus pandemic. From  May 15 to June 30, USDA purchased agricultural products under Families First Coronavirus Response Act from suppliers who were impacted by closure of restaurants and other food service businesses for distribution to those in need.

The UC Agriculture and Natural Resources CalFresh Healthy Living Program at UC Cooperative Extension in Riverside County helped connect the Torres Martinez Tribal Council with Sunrise Produce Company, a supplier in Southern California that contracted with USDA.

About 400 22-pound produce boxes were delivered to the tribal headquarters every Friday in June. Vice chairman Joseph Mirelez of the Torres Martinez Tribal Council and his team organized the truckload delivery and distribution. CalFresh Healthy Living, UC nutrition educator Jackie Barahona provided indirect education by distributing recipe cards from Leah's Pantry and handouts with the "eating the rainbow" recommendation from the Plate Full of Color storybook produced by CDC Native Diabetes Wellness Program.

According to the American Community Survey (2014-2018), 28% of families in Thermal live below poverty level (shaperivco.org). In addition, 16.7% (14,647) of children in Coachella Valley live in households where their parents/guardians were often or sometimes concerned about their ability to buy food. (harcdata.org, 2019)

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Posted on Wednesday, July 22, 2020 at 2:40 PM
Tags: Coronavirus (0), food security (0)
Focus Area Tags: Food

Study finds 82 percent of avocado oil rancid or mixed with other oils

Avocados hang on a tree at UC South Coast Research & Extension Center. “Consumers seeking the health benefits of avocado oil deserve to get what they think they are buying,” says Selina Wang.

Consumer demand is rising for all things avocado, including oil made from the fruit. Avocado oil is a great source of vitamins, minerals and the type of fats associated with reducing the risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes. But according to new research from food science experts at the University of California, Davis, the vast majority of avocado oil sold in the U.S. is of poor quality, mislabeled or adulterated with other oils.

In the country's first extensive study of commercial avocado oil quality and purity, UC Davis researchers report that at least 82% of test samples were either stale before expiration date or mixed with other oils. In three cases, bottles labeled as “pure” or “extra virgin” avocado oil contained near 100 percent soybean oil, an oil commonly used in processed foods that's much less expensive to produce.

“I was surprised some of the samples didn’t contain any avocado oil,” said Wang.
“I was surprised some of the samples didn't contain any avocado oil,” said Selina Wang, UC Cooperative Extension specialist in the UC Davis Department of Food Science and Technology, who led the study recently published in the journal Food Control.“Most people who buy avocado oil are interested in the health benefits, as well as the mild, fresh flavor, and are willing to pay more for the product. But because there are no standards to determine if an avocado oil is of the quality and purity advertised, no one is regulating false or misleading labels. These findings highlight the urgent need for standards to protect consumers and establish a level playing field to support the continuing growth of the avocado oil industry.”

Testing domestic and imported brands  

Wang and Hilary Green, a Ph.D. candidate in Wang's lab, analyzed various chemical parameters of 22 domestic and imported avocado oil samples, which included all the brands they could find in local stores and online. Wang and Green received a $25,000 grant from Dipasa USA, part of the Dipasa Group, a sesame-seed and avocado-oil processor and supplier based in Mexico.

“In addition to testing commercial brands, we also bought avocados and extracted our own oil in the lab, so we would know, chemically, what pure avocado oil looks like,” Wang said.

Test samples included oils of various prices, some labeled extra virgin or refined. Virgin oil is supposed to be extracted from fresh fruit using only mechanical means, and refined oil is processed with heat or chemicals to remove any flaws.

Fifteen of the samples were oxidized before the expiration date. Oil loses its flavor and health benefits when it oxidizes, which happens over time and when exposed to too much light, heat or air. Six samples were mixed with large amounts of other oils, including sunflower, safflower and soybean oil.

Only two brands produced samples that were pure and non-oxidized. Those were Chosen Foods and Marianne's Avocado Oil, both refined avocado oils made in Mexico. Among the virgin grades, CalPure produced in California was pure and fresher than the other samples in the same grade.

A push for standards

Ensuring quality is important for consumers, retailers, producers and people throughout the avocado oil industry. Retailers want to sell quality products, shoppers want to get their money's worth and honest producers want to keep fraudulent and low-quality oil out of the marketplace.

But since avocado oil is relatively new on the scene, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not yet adopted “standards of identity,” which are basic food standards designed to protect consumers from being cheated by inferior products or confused by misleading labels. Over the last 80 years, the FDA has issued standards of identity for hundreds of products, like whiskey, chocolate, juices and mayonnaise. Without standards, the FDA has no means to regulate avocado oil quality and authenticity.

Avocado oil isn't the only product without enforceable standards. Honey, spices and ground coffee are other common examples. Foods that fetch a higher price are especially ripe for manipulating, especially when adulterations can be too subtle to detect outside a lab.

Wang is working to develop faster, better and cheaper chemical methods to detect adulteration so bulk buyers can test avocado oil before selling it. She is also evaluating more samples, performing shelf-life studies to see how time and storage affects quality, and encouraging FDA officials to establish reasonable standards for avocado oil.

Wang has experience collaborating with industry and the FDA. Ten years ago, she analyzed the quality and purity of extra virgin olive oil and discovered that most of what was being sold in the U.S. was actually a much lower grade. Her research sparked a cascade of responses that led California to establish one of the world's most stringent standards for different grades of olive oil. The FDA is working with importers and domestic producers to develop standards of identity for olive oil.

“Consumers seeking the health benefits of avocado oil deserve to get what they think they are buying,” Wang said. “Working together with the industry, we can establish standards and make sure customers are getting high-quality, authentic avocado oil and the companies are competing on a level playing field.”

Tips for consumers

  • The flavor of virgin avocado oil can differ by varieties and region. In general, authentic, fresh, virgin avocado oil tastes grassy, buttery and a little bit like mushrooms.
  • Virgin avocado oil should be green in color, whereas refined avocado oil is light yellow and almost clear due to pigments removed during refining.
  • Even good oil becomes rancid with time. It's important to purchase a reasonable size that can be finished before the oil oxidizes. Store the oil away from light and heat. A cool, dark cabinet is a good choice, rather than next to the stove.  
  • How do you know if the oil is rancid? It starts to smell stale, sort of like play dough.
  • When possible, choose an oil that's closest to the harvest/production time to ensure maximum freshness. The “best before date” is not always a reliable indicator of quality.
Posted on Monday, June 15, 2020 at 5:38 PM
Tags: Avocado (0), food safety (0), nutrition (0), Selina Wang (0)
Focus Area Tags: Food

Food for Thought: And Now It's Time for Action! Teachers...Join In!

Food ought to be incorporated in every school curriculum, says Christian Nansen. Here his former students at the University of Western Australia, Preth, learn about designing and installing a garden. (Photo by Christian Nansen)

An excellent idea.  Food ought to be incorporated as an integral part of our school curricula, says UC Davis agricultural entomologist Christian Nansen, an...

Food ought to be incorporated in every school curriculum, says Christian Nansen. Here his former students at the University of Western Australia, Preth, learn about designing and installing a garden. (Photo by Christian Nansen)
Food ought to be incorporated in every school curriculum, says Christian Nansen. Here his former students at the University of Western Australia, Preth, learn about designing and installing a garden. (Photo by Christian Nansen)

Food ought to be incorporated in every school curriculum, says Christian Nansen. Here his former students at the University of Western Australia, Preth, learn about designing and installing a garden. (Photo by Christian Nansen)

As part of a parental assignment, 11-year-old Molly Nansen of Davis calculated
As part of a parental assignment, 11-year-old Molly Nansen of Davis calculated "How much cabbage would be needed to meet the Vitamin K requirements for her entire class for a whole year?" (Photo by Christian Nansen)

As part of a parental assignment, 11-year-old Molly Nansen of Davis calculated "How much cabbage would be needed to meet the Vitamin K requirements for her entire class for a whole year?" (Photo by Christian Nansen)

Molly Nansen with the muffin recipe she created, using cabbage. (Photo by Christian Nansen)
Molly Nansen with the muffin recipe she created, using cabbage. (Photo by Christian Nansen)

Molly Nansen with the muffin recipe she created, using cabbage. (Photo by Christian Nansen)

Posted on Monday, June 8, 2020 at 5:32 PM
Focus Area Tags: Agriculture, Economic Development, Environment, Family, Health, Innovation, Natural Resources

Reliable home food preservation videos now available on new website

Americans' interest in traditional homemaking activities – gardening, cooking, baking bread and canning – has risen dramatically over the last few months, according to Google Trends.

Getting reliable information is particularly important when it comes to home food preservation. But internet search results don't always display research-based information at the top. Using the wrong procedure won't qualify as a hilarious Pinterest Fail; it can be fatal.

To make reliable home food preservation how-to videos easy to find, a team of UC Cooperative Extension professionals and volunteers reviewed and aggregated research-based food preservation videos produced by Cooperative Extension programs across the nation on one website – http://ucanr.edu/MFPvideolibrary.

UC Cooperative Extension has compiled a video library on research-based home food preservation at http://ucanr.edu/MFPvideolibrary.

“As far as we can tell, this site is the only website with a full collection of food safety and food preservation videos from the Cooperative Extension system,” said UCCE Master Food Preserver coordinator Sue Mosbacher. In partnership with states, counties and universities, the USDA's Cooperative Extension system provides higher education to farmers, ranchers, communities, youth and families. In California, UC Cooperative Extension is part of UC Agriculture and Natural Resources.

The videos are divided into 10 categories: food safety, food preservation methods, jam & jelly, pickle & ferment, dehydrate, refrigerate & freeze, can fruit, can tomatoes, can vegetables and preserve meat & fish.

The UC Cooperative Extension Master Food Preserver Program trains and certifies volunteers to teach the public about food preservation techniques and safety. Certified UC Master Food Preservers typically hold community classes to extend the information. During the COVID-19 crisis, in-person classes have been canceled, so video-based learning is critical to educating families who are interested in the craft.

Safety is key to home food preservation.
Mosbacher, who leads the UC Master Food Preserver Programs in Sacramento, Amador and Calaveras counties, coordinated the collection and developed the website, along with Jan Fetler, a UC Master Food Preserver volunteer in Sacramento County. Orange County's UC Master Food Preserver coordinator Colleen Clemons created a list of all state Extension offices with food preservation videos on YouTube and gathered the YouTube addresses. The video list was divided among 15 volunteers who reviewed and selected the most appropriate content for the collection. El Dorado County's UCCE office staff administrator Robin Cleveland and Nancy Star tested all the website links. San Luis Obispo County UC Master Food Preserver coordinator Dana Ravalen is writing the video descriptions.

Dustin Blakey, director of UC Cooperative Extension in Inyo and Mono counties and coordinator of the local Master Food Preserver volunteers, created one of the videos in the collection. In seven minutes, Blakey outlines the process of preserving dry beans. (View the video below.)

“Right now, with people losing their jobs, if you have a pressure canner, you can buy a five-pound bag of beans for $5 and make 16 cans of beans,” Blakey said. “If you have the equipment and jars, it's a great way to preserve the food and then this summer, you have it ready to go.”

Blakey said he and his team will be producing more home food preservation videos in the future.

 

Posted on Friday, May 22, 2020 at 10:16 AM
Focus Area Tags: Food

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