Food & nutrition

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Toy soldiers in salad

Registration Open for Annual Food Defense Conference

March 10, 2017

A safe food supply is a cornerstone of a secure society. The annual Food Defense Conference, sponsored by Consortium member center the Food Protection and Defense Institute, brings together experts from around the world to share strategies for the prevention, protection, mitigation, response, and recovery of the food system from intentional acts and adulteration, including those resulting from terrorism and criminal activities. The 2-day event is being held held on May 3-4, 2017 on the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities campus, and provides a unique and intimate opportunity for scholars, policymakers, regulators, and members of the food industry to network and learn from each other about the current state of food defense. Learn more and register here

News

Turkey

Poultry DNA Sequencer a Powerful Tool in Antibiotic Resistance Research

December 21, 2016

A state-of-the-art genetic analysis tool has been deployed to Willmar, Minnesota, the heart of the state's burgeoning turkey business. According to an article in Agweek, beginning in 2017 the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is implementing new restrictions that change how livestock producers use antibiotics in feed to promote growth. The action is being taken to address growing concerns that antibiotic resistance could threaten public health. Veterinary science professor Tim Johnson is leading the project, which is housed at the U's Mid-Central Research and Outreach Center. According to Johnson, the DNA sequencer "will improve the speed and the resolution of our ability to detect pathogens of the bad bacteria and the bad viruses" by helping researchers understand how pathogens travel and examining "emerging diseases of poultry and other animals to be able to quickly identify what's causing problems." The Consortium is hosting a three-part series on a related topic, Emerging Diseases in a Changing Environment, starting on Jan. 24; learn more and register here

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Ear of corn

GMOs Fail to Deliver Higher Crop Yields, Lower Pesticide Use

November 1, 2016

According to an in-depth article in the New York Times, while "the controversy over genetically modified crops has long focused on largely unsubstantiated fears that they are unsafe to eat. . . the debate has missed a more basic problem — genetic modification in the United States and Canada has not accelerated increases in crop yields or led to an overall reduction in the use of chemical pesticides." This conclusion is drawn from data comparing the two North American countries to Western Europe, where genetically modified organisms (GMOs) have largely been rejected. In fact, during the 20-year period studied, pesticide use increased in the US while in France, the biggest European agriculture producer, it has been reduced. Biotech companies like Monsanto defend their products, saying they can help meet the food needs of an explosively growing global population. However, Michael Owen, a weed scientist at Iowa State University, notes "they still 'haven't found the mythical yield gene.'" Read the entire article here

News

Irene Bueno gathering sediment from a river in Chile

Consortium Scholar Sheds New Light on Fish Farms’ Role in Antibiotic Resistance

September 12, 2016

In 2015, Irene Bueno was awarded a Consortium Research Grant to study aquaculture in southern Chile. Dr. Bueno is a doctor of veterinary medicine who is now pursuing her PhD at the College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Minnesota, focusing on ecosystem health and emerging problems within the human-wildlife interface. Aquaculture is a major economic activity in Chile, and has been increasingly criticized for the extensive use of antibiotics. Dr. Bueno’s Consortium-funded research illuminates the mechanisms by which antibiotic resistant bacteria (and associated genes) are released from freshwater fish farms into the aquatic ecosystem. An interdisciplinary team led by Dr. Bueno and her advisers, Drs. Randy Singer and Dominic Travis, collaborated with Chilean researchers and governmental officials to sample and analyze antibiotic resistant bacteria in river sediment, wastewater, and to understand the antibiotic use at the farms. Among the project’s outcomes is the development of a model that can be used to assess interventions that mitigate the dissemination of antibiotic resistance from the fish farms into the watershed. Regarding her research, Dr. Bueno notes, “Characterizing the way antibiotic resistant bacteria spreads through this watershed from sources such as fish farms, will help inform decisions related to waste management at the local level. On a broader scale, the data generated will contribute to advancing our knowledge of how antibiotic resistance is disseminated, bringing us a step closer to understanding the potential health consequences for humans, animals, and the ecosystem.” To learn more about our annual Consortium Research Awards, click here

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Bread and cheese

Register for 2016 Healthy Foods Summit: Food, Microbes, and Health

August 25, 2016

Microbes are everywhere in our food system, inhabiting biomes from soil to human, for better or worse. This year's Healthy Foods Summit will be held on Oct. 27-28. On the first, on-campus day, food scientists, microbiologists, and policymakers will present recent research on how these tiny organisms can be better understood and controlled to ensure healthy, safe food for everyone. The second day at the Minnesota Arboretum will be more applied and practical, featuring talks by community farmers, grocery coops, small food business owners and restaurateurs. Early Bird registration fees are available until Sept. 23; student rates are also offered. For a full agenda, locations and to register, visit z.umn.edu/healthyfoods2016

News

Sean Sherman, American Indian chef

Focus on American Indian Food and Nutrition

August 18, 2016

A group of chefs and scholars that has been working for decades to restore Native American food traditions is experiencing new momentum. One of them is Sean Sherman, who draws from the indigenous cuisine of Midwestern tribes like the Lakota and Ojibwe, precolonial food cultures that were supported by sophisticated trade routes and intra-tribal cultural exchanges. Mr. Sherman plans to expand his catering business, Sioux Chef, to include a restaurant in Minneapolis that will not only feature Native American foods and bring jobs to the local community, but also serve as a driver for American Indian-owned food businesses like those he uses to supply walleye and wild rice. Want to learn more? On Sept. 26-27, the First Annual Conference on Native American Nutrition will be held in Prior Lake, Minnesota. The event is cosponsored by Consortium member center Healthy Foods, Healthy Lives and the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community, and will bring together tribal officials, researchers, practitioners, and others to discuss the current state of knowledge about Native nutrition and food science. Register here.

News

Model of crystal structure for CRISPR-Cas9

There's More Than One Way to Edit a Gene

August 15, 2016

The gene-editing technique known as CRISPR has generated immense excitement for enabling scientists to alter genomes "with unprecedented precision, efficiency and flexibility," in hopes of accelerating cures for genetic diseases. However, while CRISPR has been receiving the lion's share of attention in the media, a new article in Scientific American outlines its limitations: as researchers have used CRISPR, particularly the Cas9 tool, they've been reminded "how fragile every new technology is," according to George Church of the Harvard Medical School. The article describes several alternatives that researchers hope will offer more precise pathways for rewriting DNA, which plant scientist Daniel Voytas of the University of Minnesota notes is essential to the advancement of the field: “Everyone says the future is editing many genes at a time, and I think: ‘We can’t even do one now with reasonable efficiency.'" Each month seems to bring new advances in the field: read the article, which provides an up-to-date overview of what's happening, here

Conference

News

Field of corn

The Unfulfilled Promise of Corn-based Biofuels

July 28, 2016

According to an article in Bloomberg, "More than a decade after conservationists helped persuade Congress to require adding corn-based ethanol and other biofuels to gasoline, some groups regret the resulting agricultural runoff in waterways and conversion of prairies to cropland – improving the odds that lawmakers might seek changes to the program next year." The federal Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), which led to mass production of corn-based ethanol, has proven to be sadly ineffectual; in fact, groups like the Environmental Defense Fund and the National Wildlife Federation have begun to realize that the use and manufacture of biofuels has had "severe, unintended consequences," partly as a result of the way regulatory regimes were implemented. Despite a political divide between legislators from the Corn Belt and others, a revamped RFS appears to be moving forward in the House of Representatives.  

News

FDA logo

FDA Announces Final Rules for New Nutrition Labels

May 20, 2016

Today, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced it has finalized the new Nutrition Facts label for packaged foods. The changes include a refreshed design that will make it easier for consumers to spot key information such as number of calories and serving size. Reflecting advances in nutrition science, the label will include more information about added sugars, which have been linked to heart disease and currently make up at least 10% of the average American's diet. Serving sizes have been updated to better approximate the portions people actually eat. The new labels have been 2 years in the making, and represent the most significant changes to the label since it was introduced more than 20 years ago. It's hoped the new format will make it easier for consumers to make better, more informed food choices. 

News

Fruits and vegetables

FDA Wrestles with Definition of 'Natural' Food

May 9, 2016

Tomorrow, May 10, marks the end of a comment period established by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to gather public input regarding the best way to define what "natural" means in regard to food. This is the third time the federal government has tried to establish such a standard – the first, in 1974, was undertaken by the Federal Trade Commission; the second, in 1991, by the FDA. Those efforts failed, leading to a long period of stasis until 2009, when several lawsuits were brought against food manufacturers who claimed "all natural" ingredients. A post on the National Public Radio website discusses the debate and places it in the context of culinary history. 

News

Turkey

The Looming Threat of Avian Flu

April 13, 2016

An article in this week's New York Times Magazine outlines the challenges of protecting the U.S. agricultural system from devastating diseases. Last year's avian flu outbreak was particularly destructive, with more than 21 states reporting cases of the H5 virus and more than 50 million birds killed. The article outlines some reasons for the growing seriousness of these outbreaks, despite a post-9/11 presidential directive to better protect "the agriculture and food system against terrorist attacks, major disasters and other emergencies." Prevailing wisdom at that time "was that farms, deep in thinly populated rural areas, would not be a danger to one another." University of Minnesota professor of avian health Carol Cardona, DVM, explains: "The food system responded to 9/11 with changes further up the food chain.” she notes, leading to the establishment of organizations like Consortium member the Food Protection and Defense InstituteNow, the USDA is working directly with farmers and trade organizations to better protect farms from the flu and one another. The most thorough, up-to-date resource for information on avian flu and other epidemics can be found at the website of Consortium member the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP). 

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Journal of the American Medical Association logo

New Research Points to Need for Physician Vigilance on Alternative Medicine

March 30, 2016

New research by Judy Jou, PhD candidate in the School of Public Health and Pamela Jo Johnson, MPH, PhD, of Consortium member the Center for Spirituality and Healing, shows that 40% of patients using complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) don't disclose it to their doctors. The article, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, looked at reasons patients gave for not sharing this information with physicians. Research found patients were more likely to discuss participation in yoga and meditation, and much less so the use of herbs and/or supplements. “Not telling primary care providers about using CAM can be dangerous, especially if the type of CAM being used creates adverse interactions with any medical treatments that a patient might be undergoing concurrently,” said Jou. Jou and Johnson concluded, "Physicians should consider more actively inquiring about patients’ use of CAM, especially for modalities likely to be medically relevant." You can learn more about how probiotic supplements and other products, some of which are popular with users of CAM, are regulated at a lecture by Prof. Diane E. Hoffmann, JD, MS (University of Maryland), on April 21. Prof. Hoffmann is a leading expert on health law and policy and will discuss the issues presented by these therapies, their marketing, and advertising, as well as possible ways to address these issues. The event is free and open to the public – register here

News

Alexander Khoruts speaking

Online Video of Evolving Human Microbiome Lecture Now Available

March 11, 2016

On February 17, Alexander Khoruts, MD, of the University of Minnesota's Microbiota Therapeutics Program delivered the first lecture in the three-part Consortium-sponsored microbiome series. Video of that event – including commentary by Dan Knights, PhD, of the BioTechnology Institute and a Q&A moderated by Michael Sadowsky, PhD, also of the BioTech Institute – is now available here. The next lecture in the series is on regulatory challenges in microbiota-targeted therapies, including probiotics. It will be delivered on Thursday, April 21, by Diane E. Hoffmann, JD, MS, of the University of Maryland Law School – register for that event today! 

News

Newly-caught fish on a plate

Training Helps Health Care Providers Advise their Patients on Fish Consumption

March 7, 2016

Healthy Fish Choices, an EPA-funded online course, offers training for health care providers and public health workers who want to spread the word about the safest way to consume fish in the face of concerns about the environmental health impacts of toxic chemicals. The research-based curriculum was developed as part of the USDA's 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which recommend eating fish as a lean, healthy food source but caution that the nutritional benefits of fish consumption must be weighed against the risks of contaminants, particularly mercury. Those who complete the course are eligible for Continuing Medical Education credits. 

News

Super-chewer robot

'Motor Mouth' Helps Food Companies Test New Versions of Products

February 15, 2016

A robot originally built by University of Minnesota dentistry professor Ralph DeLong to test dental restoration materials is now being used by food companies to evaluate new versions of existing products. In response to consumer demand for healthier ingredients, many food items are being made with less sugar, salt, or without artificial coloring. But, as DeLong notes, “Sugar doesn't just make a product sweet and salt doesn't just make it salty. They also have chemical interactions with the other things that affect the texture of the food.” That's where the chewing robot comes in; it can, for instance, objectively measure the crispiness of a product based on audio frequencies. See the robot in action and learn more here

News

Logo of Food Protection and Defense Institute

Introducing the Food Protection and Defense Institute

September 14, 2015

Consortium member the National Center for Food Protection and Defense has changed its name to the Food Protection and Defense Institute. The new name reflects the center's expansion beyond its core research mission into education and training, information technology, and service delivery. The goal is to integrate these areas to provide innovative solutions that meet the needs of the food sector. The core work of the Center will remain protecting the global food supply.

Consortium Faculty

Consortium Faculty

Philip Pardey
Philip G. Pardey, PhD
Director, International Science & Technology Practice & Policy
Professor, Department of Applied Economics
Director of Global Research Strategy for the College of Food Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences and the Minnesota Agricultural Experiment Station

Consortium Faculty

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