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Photo: ARS food technologist Tara H. McHugh performs a test to evaluate the shelf life of the 100-percent natural pear bars that she helped develop. Link to photo information
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Researchers' New, All-Natural Snacks Nab National Award

By Marcia Wood
May 9, 2003

Techniques for making great-tasting, healthful and fun-to-eat foods from pears, tomatoes, carrots and other fruits and vegetables have garnered a national honor for a pair of Agricultural Research Service scientists.

Research food technologist Tara H. McHugh of the ARS Western Regional Research Center, Albany, Calif., and recently retired colleague Charles C. Huxsoll, formerly an agricultural engineer at Albany, received a 2003 Excellence in Technology Transfer Award earlier this week at the Tucson, Ariz., annual meeting of the Federal Laboratory Consortium for Technology Transfer.

The consortium helps move to the marketplace technologies developed at any of more than 600 major federal research and development centers.

McHugh and Huxsoll have used an array of food processing techniques to create new foods made of up to 100 percent pure fruits or vegetables. That's in contrast to the majority of fruit- or vegetable-based snacks on the market today that typically don't contain as high an amount of pure fruit or vegetable.

The Albany scientists' creations include a soft, chewy pear bar that provides the nutritional value of two fresh pears. The bars are a convenient snack that's about the size and shape of a typical energy bar. HR Mtn Sun, Inc., of Hood River, Ore., is producing the bars and distributing them through several supermarket and drugstore chains. Success of the novel product could boost employment in the region.

In other work, the researchers invented edible wraps that could serve as an environmentally friendly alternative to some of the plastic films used in home and commercial kitchens today. The team has made colorful prototypes from purees of tomatoes, broccoli, apples, apricots and nearly a half-dozen other fruits and vegetables.

These appealing new foods could help Americans meet the recommended daily requirement of five to six servings of fruits or vegetables. Most Americans consume less than half the recommended total.

ARS is the chief scientific research agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.