Food News: 2001 Predictions

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Predictions for 2001
In 2000 we saw a rapid decline of new fat-free/lowfat foods as manufacturers realized that consumer taste is important.

This past year did see an increase of "functional foods" such as calcium-fortified products, margarines with plant sterols, etc. Tropicana has introduced many new flavors of calcium-fortified juice, the cereal aisle is full of sweetened cereals with added calcium and the freezer aisle contains frozen waffles with added calcium. We watched as Benecol first launched many new products with plant stanol esters to help lower cholesterol and then finally settled on their bulk margarines. They even have an interim final rule from the FDA which will allow them to state: "3.4 grams of plant stanol esters daily, added to a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, may reduce the risk of heart disease. Benecol Spread contains 1.7 grams of stanol esters per serving."

Unfortunately we also saw a strong trend towards higher calorie/indulgent foods such as peanut butter with chocolate chips, cheese stuffed cheese pizza, etc. One more new example is Aunt Jemima Waffle Sticks with chocolate chips. These sticks contain 330 calories and 13 g of fat per 3.5 ounce serving and are meant to compete with other breakfast toaster-style pastries. Another new example of indulgence is Keebler Peanut 'n Caramel Clusters (shortbread cookies covered in caramel and roasted peanuts and then dunked in fudge).

Our predictions for 2001 is that indulgent will still rule and manufacturers will still dabble with functional foods. We will also see an increase in dinner kits and other convenience foods to help consumers prepare meals in minutes. Consumers want to be part of the cooking process but they also want speed and convenience. It is important to remind them to read the label because many of these items are high in fat, sodium and calories.
Freshmade Creations by Kraft are now available in Midwestern markets. These refrigerated kits include everything but the meat to make a meal in 30 minutes. Southwestern Style Chicken and Rice, Classic Italian Lasagna, Four Cheese Chicken Alfredo and Chicken Parmesan with Linguine are but a few of the choices.

The nutrient information for the Southwestern Style Chicken and Rice, per cup prepared, is 380 calories, 8 g fat, 4 g saturated fat, 20 mg cholesterol, 750 mg sodium, 44 g carbohydrate, 2 g fiber, 9 g protein. In our opinion, this is too high in fat and sodium and too low in fiber. We would suggest only using half the cheese and sauce and adding beans and serving plenty of fresh veggies on the side to improve the nutritional outcome. FMI call 800-582-4582 or visit www.kraft.com.

Hunt's Family Favorites Seasoned Tomato Sauces are a tomato-based meal starter. Varieties include tomato sauces for lasagna, pasta, pizza, tacos, meatloaf, etc. The tomato sauce for soup/stew, per half cup, contains: 40 calories, .5 g fat and 300 mg sodium. In our opinion, that is high in sodium. Consumers should use this product sparingly and add it to a lot of vegetables along with salt free tomato sauce so the end product is lower in sodium. FMI call 800-858-6372.

Egg Safety
The FDA is requiring that by September 4, 2001, all cartons of shell eggs that have not been treated to destroy Salmonella must carry the following safe handling statement, "Safe Handling Instructions: To prevent illness from bacteria: keep eggs refrigerated, cook eggs until yolks are firm, and cook foods containing them thoroughly." Following these instructions is important for everyone but especially for those most vulnerable to foodborne disease. Eggs that have been treated to destroy Salmonella, by in-shell pasteurization are not required to carry safe handling instructions. FMI call 202-401-2022 or visit the FDA website at www.fda.gov.

Potassium Health Claim
After October 31, 2000, manufacturers may use a new claim on foods which contain at least 10% of the daily value for potassium. The claim states "Diets containing foods that are good sources of potassium and low in sodium may reduce the risk of high blood pressure and stroke." Qualifying foods must have at least 350 mg of potassium per reference amount and 140 mg of sodium or less. In addition, qualifying foods must also contain 3 g or less total fat, 1 g or less saturated fat and not more than 15 percent of calories from saturated fatty acids. They must also contain 20 mg or less of cholesterol. FMI?see www.fda.gov or call 202-205-4144.

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