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Bay Area Scientist Wins Top National Research Honor / February 12, 2003 / News from the USDA Agricultural Research Service

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Tara H. McHugh

Photo:  New, ARS-developed pear bars capture fresh fruit taste. Link to photo information
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National news release

Story about McHugh's research


Bay Area Scientist Wins Top National Research Honor

By Marcia Wood
February 12, 2003

BELTSVILLE, Md., Feb. 12—Research about how to capture the flavor and freshness of pears, apples, tomatoes and other produce in healthful, fun-to-eat snacks have garnered a top scientific honor for Bay Area food technologist Tara H. McHugh.

For this research and her superb leadership skills as head of the Agricultural Research Service's Processed Foods Research Unit in Albany, Calif., McHugh has received the ARS Herbert L. Rothbart "Outstanding Early Career Research Scientist of 2002" award.

McHugh and other high-achieving ARS scientists were honored today at the agency's annual awards ceremony, held at the ARS Henry A. Wallace Beltsville Agricultural Research Center here. ARS presents the Rothbart award to the agency's top scientist whose highest academic degree was received within the past 10 years. The honor includes a plaque, cash prize and additional research funds.

McHugh holds three patents for her creative, successful new technologies for converting fruit and vegetable purees and concentrates into colorful, all-natural food wraps, snack bars and other healthful, appetizing new food products.

"Dr. McHugh's career has been distinguished by imaginative, effective research," said Edward B. Knipling, acting ARS administrator. "Food items she has invented should help Americans get the recommended five to six servings a day of fruits and vegetables, needed for optimal health.

"Estimates indicate that most Americans eat only half of this recommended amount," he noted. "Dr. McHugh's innovations will give people other ways to enjoy these healthful foods, in addition to already-familiar fresh-market, canned, frozen or dried items.

"In addition, McHugh's inventions provide new profit opportunities for growers and may thus help shore up the financial base of struggling rural communities," Knipling noted.

McHugh began working with ARS at the agency's Western Regional Research Center in Albany in 1993, and, by 2002, had been selected to direct the Processed Foods Research Unit there.

Her edible wraps--tasty, all-fruit or all-veggie films--could reduce the need for synthetic packaging material used today to preserve and protect foods. The work has led to numerous collaborations with companies, attracted the attention of news media nationwide, and won her a Popular Science magazine "Best of What's New" award.

She is the author or co-author of more than 20 scientific publications and has presented results of her work at scientific meetings in the United States and abroad.

McHugh received her bachelor of science degree in 1989 in food science from Cornell University and her doctorate, also in food science, in 1993 from the University of California, Davis.

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Last Modified: 2/12/2003
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