Eat a Good Breakfast To Start a Good Day
The habit of eating breakfast has declined in all age
groups over the past quarter centurybut especially among young
women aged 15 to 18 years. Yet research is showing that the old USDA
adage is proving to be all too true: For teens, the nutrients taken
in at breakfast set the tone for the whole day. Teens who eat breakfast
are two to five times more likely than breakfast-skippers to consume
at least two-thirds of recommended daily levels of calcium, magnesium,
riboflavin, folic acid, phosphorus, iron, and vitamins A, B6, and D.
Individuals who consume breakfast also have total daily intakes lower
in fat and higher in carbohydrates than those of breakfast-skippers.
Studies have shown that teens who eat breakfast make better
food choices all day long. Not only do those who skip breakfast fail
to compensate for the missed vitamins and nutrients when they eat at
other times, a few studies have shown that they also tend to have a
higher body mass index. Extra efforts are needed to inform 15-year-olds
of the importance of eating breakfast in terms of their overall dietary
adequacy and growth.
Theresa A. Nicklas,
USDA-ARS Children's Human Nutrition
Research Center at Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas; phone
Bacteria in Feather Follicles?
For years, it's been assumed that bacteria enter empty feather follicles
during poultry processing. Scientists have investigated ways to cleanse
the follicles of potentially harmful microbes. But recently, they found
that the amount of bacteria present on poultry skin is basically the
samewith or without empty feather follicles.
To see this, the researchers first had to breed featherless chickens
with commercial broiler breeders. Using artificial insemination, they
propagated offspring that would produce both feathered and featherless
broilers that would grow to comparable size in the same length of time.
One week before processing, the birds were all given Campylobacter
orally. They were then slaughtered and defeathered. Examination of the
breast skin under sterile conditions revealed no significant differences
between feathered and featherless carcasses in the levels of Campylobacter,
Escherichia coli, and total aerobic bacteria present.
R. Jeffrey Buhr,
USDA-ARS Poultry Processing and
Meat Quality Research Unit, Athens, Georgia; phone (706) 546-3339.
Snails Can't Take Caffeine
For the first time, researchers have looked at caffeine as a possible
control for slugs and snailsincluding the orchid snail, Zonitoides
arboreus. This common, damaging pest likes to feed on the roots
of Hawaii's colorful and exotic tropical orchids. Scientists discovered
the effects of caffeine on mollusks by accident while using it to control
a different pest of potted plants. They found that a 2-percent solution
of caffeine sprayed onto the coconut husk-chip materialcalled
coiron which orchids were being grown killed nearly 95 percent
of snails infesting the pots. In another trial, a 2-percent caffeine
solution killed all but 5 snails infesting a group of orchid plants
within 30 days of application, compared to 35 snails left after a standard
dose of a common molluscicide.
Caffeine is a naturally occurring compound in coffee and chocolate
and is considered to be Generally Recognized As Safe by the Food and
Drug Administration when used as a food additive to cola-type drinks.
Future studies will show how well caffeine sprays may protect other
floral crops from snail attack.
Robert G. Hollingsworth,
U.S. Pacific Basin Agricultural
Research Center, Hilo, Hawaii; phone (808) 959-4349.
New Food Safety Allies: Chemical-Detecting Wasps
Scientists have learned that parasitic wasps can be trained to detect
the chemicals associated with foodborne toxins, such as aflatoxins.
These mycotoxinsthe naturally occurring metabolic byproducts of
certain molds, such as Aspergillus flavus and A. parasiticuscan
cause problems in harvested peanuts and corn. Some strains of these
Aspergillus species produce aflatoxins, but others don't. Current
methods to test for aflatoxins are limited, time-consuming, and expensive.
Now, the researchers have devised a model system to show that parasitic
wasps can differentiate between chemicals associated with toxin- and
non-toxin-producing Aspergillus. They feed sugar water to the
wasps while exposing them to the scent that is to be tracked. Through
typical associative learning, the wasps can learn to link this chemical
scent to their food. The next step will be to determine what in particular
attracts the wasps, because although certain airborne vapors are associated
with aflatoxin, their specific chemical makeups are unknown.
W. Joe Lewis,
Crop Protection and Management
Research Unit, Tifton, Georgia; phone (229) 387-2369.
James H. Tumlinson,
III, USDA-ARS Chemistry
Research Laboratory, Gainesville, Florida; phone (352) 374-5730.
"Science Update" was published in the May
2003 issue of Agricultural Research magazine.