Database Makes Fiber Analysis Faster, CleanerBy
Scientists with the Agricultural
Research Service have filed a patent on a faster, cleaner way to determine
fiber content in cereal or grain products--something companies must tell
consumers under the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act of 1990.
Currently, fiber in baked goods is estimated with a 3-day chemical analysis.
This requires costly enzymes that mimic human digestion. Removing fiber from
the foods calls for chemical solvents that have costly disposal requirements.
Under the new process, near-infrared light is beamed onto a food sample.
The amount of light that bounces back indicates differences in the food's
chemistry, such as fiber content.
The process is simple for the user, but creating it was no easy task.
Today's foods are made from mixed grains and can be high in sugar, fat or
both--which complicates NIR fiber analysis. Variation in snack and cereal
recipes makes the analysis even more difficult.
NIR is only as accurate as the number and kinds of samples available for
comparison with an unknown. Chemists worked the past five years at ARS'
Quality Assessment Research Unit in
Athens, Ga., to build a database with more than 200 product samples, including
many trademarked U.S. snacks and cereal products. The ARS chemists then
developed mathematical formulas and measurement guidelines that make it possible
to predict fiber even for high-sugar or fat products.
It is this new process that combines the data, the equations and the
guidelines into one highly precise fiber measurement system that is the subject
of the patent, filed earlier this year. Companies may someday use this system to
determine the fiber content in new products.
The ARS chemists collaborated on the project with
Foss North America, an
international producer of food analysis equipment in Eden Prairie, Minn.
Scientific contact: F. E. Barton,
Quality Assessment Research Unit,
Richard B. Russell Research Center, Athens, Ga., Phone (706) 546-3288, fax
(706) 546-3607, email@example.com.