Christmas Comfort and Joy

CHRISTMAS COMFORT AND JOY
Michele Chandler’s Plum Pudding–Fit for a King

The King George Christmas Pudding

The King George Christmas Pudding

I remember childhood Christmases in New England. Snowflakes in my face and angels in the snow. The forever waiting for all good things like Santa’s presents and the huge turkey dinner with family and friends. I waited patiently- well not so patiently, check really, for dessert. I knew what it would be and it only came once a year. It was Christmas pudding with the brandy flames dancing around the platter. The flames warmed the spicy cake with the sweet, rich fruit wrapped inside. I used to let the soft parts melt and the chewy parts linger. That way I could make each mouthful last that much longer.

Now my long ago experiences live again. My friend, Michele Chandler, has created a plum pudding fit for a king. In fact her creation is called the King George pudding, celebrating the comfort and joy of this tradition which began as Christmas dessert in the court of this English monarch in the 1700’s. Ms. Chandler’s plum pudding is one pound of pure heaven containing many dried and candied fruits including figs, raisins, mangoes cherries and apricots. Fully one quarter of the dessert is fruit, making it much softer and moister than its cousin, the fruit cake.

The rituals which surround plum pudding add to the anticipation. Traditionally, plum pudding is prepared months before the Holidays. Brandy or other liquor is poured over the dessert to steep and blend the flavours. Then it is gently steamed before serving to enhance its aromatic charm. The flambe presentation adds to the drama. The warm pudding is served with hard sauce, a flavoured, fluffy butter-sugar topping which gently melts over the tender pudding. Fit for a king, indeed!

The King George plum pudding has been a long time in the making. Ms. Chandler, who has a history in hospitality and food service, took years to perfect her creation. Starting with her British tradition, she prepared plum pudding as a favourite activity for family and friends. She has grown her talents into a successful company, The Art of Pudding. Michele has been unrelenting in her search for the best ingredients, recipe and preparation. The result is a unique dessert which tempts us all. This season she anticipates sales of over 4000 puddings.

Ms. Chandler’s pudding is now retailed through a number of speciality shops in the greater Toronto area as well as upstate New York and New England. With its attractive packaging, the pudding makes a great hostess gift and travels well to send some Christmas cheer to distant family and friends. The King George pudding may also be purchased on line. Visit http://www.theartofpudding.com for more information.

We only celebrate the Christmas holidays once a year. This year why not celebrate an old tradition or start a new one? Own and experience the King George pudding. Add some comfort and joy to your holiday meal.

Alice Chapman
Food Scientist and Marketer
Writing about Food Happenings

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The Guelph Food Research Centre

A World Class Research Facility to Support Production of Safe, High Quality, and Nutritious Food

The Guelph Food Research Centre (GFRC) is located in Guelph, Ontario, at the heart of Canada’s largest concentration of expertise dedicated to food research and development.  Established in 1997, it is one of a network of 18 Federal research centres across Canada created by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC).  The Centre employs about 60 full time staff including 17 Research Scientists with support staff.  Scientific activities at GFRC are managed by Dr.Gabriel Piette, Director Research, Development, and Technology Transfer (RDT), and by Dr. Puni Piyasena, Associate Director RDT.

The mandate of the GFRC is “to contribute to a sustainable and profitable agri-food sector in Canada by carrying out world class research in food safety and quality.”  Research is undertaken in two main areas.  The first of these is food safety which is targeted at reducing the risks at the farm and processing levels from pathogens (e.g. C. Perfringens) and spoilage microorganisms and minimizing the creation of adulterants (e.g. acrylamide). The centre also investigates the special attributes of Canadian food that will enable the agrifood sector to seek new opportunities and enhance its competitiveness through innovation. This includes, for example, the development and enhancement of functional foods, with proven specific health benefits.

The Centre has a unique pilot-scale food processing plant, rated at Risk Level 2. This rating allows the GFRC to conduct research on foods known to contain or inoculated with pathogens such as Salmonella, Listeria and E. coli 0157. The facility, the most up-to-date in Canada, houses equipment for the evaluation of techniques like high pressure and high temperature processing and for documenting the extent of pathogen inactivation with commercial or novel manufacturing processes. The GFRC also has research underway with a specialized Genomics Research Unit for both the study of harmful bacteria and the outcomes of health enhancing applications.

The areas of specific research undertaken by GFRC scientists are wide ranging and too numerous to expand upon here.  Recent successes include support in the substantiation of the physical effects for oat beta-glucan which allowed the food industry to make a health claim for cholesterol reduction and thus increase potential sales for Canadian crops. Another success is in the demonstrated antioxidant capacity of purple vegetables over non-purple.  High antioxidants may reduce chronic disease risk.

The work which goes on at the GFRC helps the agri-food industry in many ways. These include increasing profitability through value added products for new markets, increasing markets through identifying new agricultural bio-products, preserving and identifying new nutritional and therapeutic uses for foods and ingredients, and finally increasing Canada’s competitive position by working with other research bodies to share problems and solutions.

The GFRC has a history of collaborating with Canadian industry and farm organizations, the University of Guelph and other universities and research groups here and abroad. The Centre has an ongoing relationship with the Canadian Research Institute for Food Safety (CRIFS) and jointly provides an annual seminar with this Guelph-based group.

Under the first round of Growing Forward funding provided by AAFC, GFRC conducted research to support the agriculture and food industry under the Agricultural Innovations Program and the Canadian Agri-Science Clusters Initiative.  These funding sources were available for projects in the pre-commercialization and commercialization stages of innovation.

The programs have been replaced with the AgriInnovation Program (AIP) announced under Growing Forward 2. Second round of this five year program “Growing Forward 2” is now in place until March 31, 2018. Of the $698 million in total funding, $468 million is available for funding projects from industry. There are two streams: the Industry-lead Research and Development Stream and the Enabling Commercialization and Adoption Stream. The first of these streams requires a collaborative effort and encourages a cluster approach, where the GFRC is well-suited to participate.

The GFRC will continue to be a partner in projects with industry, farm groups and Universities. The Centre is committed to ensuring that Canadian food ranks among the safest and highest quality worldwide.

For the first time the GFRC is participating in the Doors Open Guelph event on Saturday, May 3, 2014.  Public tours of this unique facility will be available from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM.

For further information contact the GFRC at 93 Stone Rd West, Guelph, ON, N1G 5C9, phone (519) 829-2400, or Ms. Margaret Boyd, Regional Communications Officer at the AAFC Ontario office, 174 Stone Rd. West, Guelph, ON, N1G 4S9, phone (226) 217-8193.

CTFF

Canada’s Technology for Food (CTFF)
High Tech + Food Processing = Improved Productivity + Lower Costs

In June 2013 the Accelerator Centre in Waterloo, Ontario, renowned for its cultivation and commercialization of advanced electronic and software technologies, announced a partnership with the City of Waterloo to launch a new program targeted at the Ontario and Canadian food and beverage processing sectors. The program, Canada’s Technology for Food (CTFF), has received $200,000 in seed funding from the City of Waterloo.  Ted McKechnie, former president of the Canada based multinational, Maple Leaf Foods, is CTFF’s first chair and will head up the effort.

One focus of CTFF’s activities will centre on the application of information and communication technology (ICT) to food processing operations.  The program brings together North America’s third largest food processing cluster consisting of the Greater Toronto Area and the Highway 401 corridor west to Waterloo with state of the art capabilities from Ontario’s universities, colleges and the private sector.

CTFF’s goal is to facilitate collaborations between food industry manufacturers who have real opportunities and challenges and providers of knowledge, technical skills and commercialization expertise in ICT.  A consortium of solution providers will be matched to a manufacturer to build an answer to their challenge.  When the technology solution has application beyond the first client the Accelerator Centre will be engaged to commercialize the technology and grow the business.  Eventually, the objective will be to reach world markets with new technologies.

There are, of course, many examples of ICT expertise in Canada being applied to manufacturing.  The National Research Council (NRC) considers the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) industries as the backbone of the global digital economy and a key driver of productivity growth in a knowledge based economy (http://www.nrc-cnrc.gc.ca/eng/rd/ict/index.html).  However, there is no focus on food processing – Ontario’s second largest manufacturing sector.

NRC offers the Digital Technology Adoption Pilot Program (DTAPP).  This is a $76.5 million program to encourage adoption of ICT by small and medium enterprises in Canada.  DTAPP is delivered by the Industrial Research Assistance Program (IRAP) and its Industrial Technology Advisors.  The main focus of the 400 projects delivered to date seems to be Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP).  While incredibly valuable, CTFF plans to go well beyond ERP.

An example of where CTFF plans to go is offered by NIZO Food Research in the Netherlands (http://www.nizo.com).  NIZO is an independent contract research lab who won the 2013 IFT Innovation Award.  The organization has developed a proprietary simulation model for evaporators called NIZO PREMIA.  Using this mathematical modelling and simulation technology they worked successfully with a large commercial dairy and have reduced the energy costs of drying whey by 60%.

Another example is the European Commission who in 2008 funded a 5 year project with 16 partners called “Computer-Aided Food Processes for Control Engineering (Food Processing). CAFÉ, (http://www.cafe-project.org) as the project is known combines process analytical technology and sensing devices with mathematical models and simulation capability.  Four processes have been studied: wine making (bioconversion), microfiltration of beverages (separation), freeze-drying of lactic bacteria (preservation) and ice cream crystallization (structuring).

These last two examples offer an exciting insight into the future which CTFF plans to bring to Ontario’s food processing industry.

Sound interesting?

FoodTech Innovation Portal

A Valuable Resource for Canadian Manufacturers

On May 1 of this year HighTech Europe launched their “Food Tech Innovation Portal.” The portal is a free compilation of food processing resources, information and tools for innovation.

HighTech Europe, the parent program, is a food processing excellence network consisting of 22 organizations (21 from Europe, 1 from Australia). The FoodTech Innovation Portal (FTIP) is one of many projects funded by HighTech Europe which is currently operating with a contribution from the European Commission of €5.87 billion ($7.89 billion) over 56 months.

The FTIP was four years in development.  Its objective is to provide a central address with bundled information for those interested in innovation, including open innovation. The FTIP supports the implementation of new technologies and thus fosters the competitiveness of the European food sector. Small and medium sized companies are especially encouraged to use the resources of the portal as they often possess limited internal resources.

As a comprehensive and detailed go-to centre, the Portal lists 205 distinct technologies related to food processing.  The list extends from acrylamide mitigation strategies to X-ray for non-invasive food quality control.  The technologies can be sorted alphabetically or by principle (physical, chemical, biological), or by type of operation (separation, stabilization, structure formation, conversion, packaging) or by innovation source (information & communication technology, nanotechnology, biotechnology).

Each technology listing contains a description of the technology, the principles behind it, where it can be used, where it cannot be used, its status, resource centres with capabilities and references to experts in the field.

Another interesting feature of the Portal is the innovation “tool box” or “road map” that is available under the “Innovation Guide” heading.  This feature should be exceeding valuable to smaller companies or to anyone interested in taking a more disciplined approach to innovation.

The “Tool Box” consists of a matrix containing the four stages of innovation: Pre-feasibility, Feasibility, Development and Launching.  Each of these stages is broken down into issues about technical, legal, financial, marketing and management.  Perhaps of even more significance is the check list of questions between each stage of the innovation process designed to encourage a company to avoid prematurely moving to the next stage.

A final point about the FTIP is the ability of an interested organization to join, at no cost, as an “Associated Member” and post its own profile page and promote its own capabilities internationally.  This status is required to obtain access to the contact information of the portal resources.  At present there are 11 Canadian Associated Members.

The Craig Richardson Institute of Food Processing Technology

A Unique Resource for the Ontario Food and Beverage Industry

Ontario now has a food processing training facility like no other in Canada.  The IFPT, located on Conestoga College’s new Cambridge campus, boasts an 8,000 sq. ft. pilot plant. It is the only centre dedicated solely to the development of a skilled work force tailored to the needs of the food manufacturing sector. This state of the art facility, equipped through a $2.3 million FedDev grant and matching funds from Conestoga College, has three complete lines for beverage (UHT), bakery and fresh vegetable processing.  Built in 2009 in partnership with the Alliance of Ontario Food Processors (AOFP), the Institute is named for Craig Richardson, former AOFP president, who championed the IFPT from idea generation to completion. In the Fall of 2011 the Institute received its first students.

The Institute’s programs are flexible, comprehensive and hands-on with both on-line and in-class instruction.  The programs have been designed to satisfy the needs of a demanding manufacturing environment and the schedules of trainees and employers.  Programs offered include Advanced Sanitation Practices, Food Processing Supervisor, and Food Processing Technician (Co-op).   Also offered is an apprenticeship program for Process Operator-Food Manufacturing overseen by the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities.  Graduates from the Institute programs are not only valuable assets to their employers, but have the training to proceed forward with a crossover into electronics and robotics. Additionally, the Institute has courses in Food Safety and periodic courses such as the upcoming May/June six week course in Food Processing Operations for university Food Science students.

The Institute’s practical approach appeals both to current workers wanting to upgrade/retrain and companies who wish to upgrade their workers’ skills, in order to be on the forefront of technology and innovation. With regard to the latter the IFPT is available to customize courses for individual companies or groups.  The IFPT is also actively marketing its program at the high school level to attract entry level students.  In the future the IFPT may consider additional activities to augment its growth and become more valuable to the food processing community. These include becoming a food incubator and undertaking research projects with industry.

The IFPT has arrived at a pivotal time for the food processing industry and for the Province of Ontario. There is a documented skills shortage in food manufacturing which could only worsen. The food industry is the largest manufacturing sector in Canada. In Ontario the food and beverage industry has 127,000 employees and contributes $35 billion in sales value annually to Ontario’s economy (Economic Impact Analysis: Ontario Food and Beverage Processing Sector, September, 2012; Alliance of Ontario Food Processors).  It is the province’s leading employer in the manufacturing sector.  Furthermore, Ontario food manufacturers process over 65% of what is grown and produced by the agricultural sector.  The food processing industry is instrumental to the economic health of the Province.

At a time when the food processing industry is buffeted by increased competition from tech-savvy foreign exporters, attacks from a sometimes strident and biased media, less than complimentary comments from some customers, increased costs to keep pace with constantly shifting regulations and a potential opening of our markets due to future trade agreements, Ontario has a strong competitive advantage with the Institute of Food Processing Technology.  We have a state-of- the-art, customized, flexible and highly interactive resource to upgrade our work force and foster technological innovation in order to remain cost-effective and competitive.

In the author’s experience the Institute is not well known through-out the industry. Hopefully we can help remedy that to the benefit of both the Industry and the IFPT.

Information on Omega-3 Fatty Acids

We have all heard of omega-3’s but how many of us really know what they are, what they do and why they are important?

Fatty Acids

Omega-3’s are fatty acids

  • This means they are molecules composed of carbon, oxygen and hydrogen.
  • The fatty acids we are interested in consist of linear carbon chains 18 to 22 carbons long
  • They have a carboxyl  group (COOH) at one end and a methyl group (CH3) at the other end

Saturation, Unsaturation and Polyunsaturation

  • Fatty acids can be saturated and thus they do not contain double bonds
  • This results in a straight molecule
  • Fatty acids can be unsaturated and contain 1 or more double bonds
  • These molecules bend at the double bond
  • The more double bonds the more the molecule bends

Oleic acid: a mono unsaturated fatty acid

Alpha Linolenic acid (ALA): an omega-3, polyunsaturated fatty acid, 3 double bonds

  • Of critical importance is the impact of unsaturation on the shape of the fatty acid molecule

Omega-3s: A Very Special Class of Fatty Acids

  • Omega-3 fatty acids have their first double bond at the third carbon atom from the end of the carbon chain
  • This omega-3 configuration must be contained in the human diet as we cannot synthesize it. Thus ALA is an essential fatty acid and a precursor for other omega-3’s
  • Alpha linolenic acid (model above) has its first double bond at the 3rd carbon atom, the other 2 double bonds are at carbons 6 and 9
  • If the first double bond is moved three carbons up the chain to carbon 6, (omega-6 fatty acid) with the other two at carbons 9 and 12 the shape of the molecule is altered with the bend moving to the middle of the molecule. Compare gamma linolenic acid (below) to alpha linolenic acid (above).

Gamma Linolenic acid: an omega-6, polyunsaturated fatty acid

  • The omega-3 fatty acids of biological significance are:
  • EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) a 20 carbon, 5 double bond fatty acid C20:5n3
  • DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) a 22 carbon, 6 double bond fatty acid C22:6n3
  • EPA and DHA are poorly synthesized from ALA in the human body
  • As the number of carbon atoms and double bonds increases the shape of EPA and DHA becomes even more “bent” than ALA
  • The size and shape of these molecules has a critical impact on their function in the body

What Is So Special About the Omega-3 Carbon Atom?

There are two impacts of the shape of EPA and DHA molecules that are driven by their omega-3 structure

  1. The size and shape of these molecules plays a large role in allowing them to remain flexible while functioning in cell membranes
    • DHA especially functions in cell membranes
    • DHA’s flexibility allows metabolically important molecules to cross the cell membrane and enter or leave the cell
    • Saturated fatty acids in the same function would be too rigid and may actually crystallize – not a good thing in a cell membrane!
  1. The shape of unsaturated fatty acid molecules, driven by their omega-3 or omega-6 status, has a very large impact on their substrate specificity for enzymes, especially those involved in prostaglandin (cell regulator) synthesis.
    • Omega-6 fatty acids, especially linoleic acid (C18:2n6), are used to produce series 2 prostaglandins
    • Omega-3 fatty acids, especially EPA, are used to produce series 3 prostaglandins.
    • Series 2 prostaglandins (from omega-6 fatty acids) result in:
      • Increase platelet aggregation, vasoconstriction, pro-inflammatory, decreased oxygen flow, narrow respiratory passages, suppress the immune system, increase pain, lower endurance
    • Series 3 prostaglandins (from omega-3 fatty acids) have the opposite effect on each of these impacts
    • Clearly, these classes of prostaglandins must be in balance for healthy functioning of the human body. Therefore, the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 in the body and thus the diet must be in balance as well.
    • For most of us in North America Omega-6 and Omega-3 are not in balance
    • We over consume Omega-6 and under consume Omega-3

Omega-3’s have gained in consumer popularity and importance. Some projections indicate continued double digit growth well into the future.

Entries to follow will cover foods naturally high in omega-3’s, foods on the market fortified with omega-3’s, sources and types of omega-3’s for the product developer and issues around the use of omega-3’s in formulated food products.

If omega-3’s are of interest to your business, to improve the nutritional characteristics of your food products and thus allow your firm to participate in a rapidly growing segment, Douglas Chapman and Associates can help. We offer a deep background in fats and oils. Contact us today: doug@chapmanfoodconsult.com