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Table place setting with apple. Title: Food and Nutrition Research Briefs. Link to FNRB home page

July 2021

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Contents

Good Bacteria Could Contribute in the Fight Against Pathogens in the Food Processing Environment

Pickling Cucumbers Fused with Health Promoting Compound

Numerous Health Benefits Found in Summer-Favorite Watermelon

Richard Mattes Presents 2020-21 ARS W.O. Atwater Memorial Lecture

ARS Announces Winners of Innovative Challenge to Preserve Flavor of Catfish  

 

Good Bacteria Could Contribute in the Fight Against Pathogens in the Food Processing Environment

After exposure to unfavorable environmental conditions such as routine sanitation procedures, pathogens such as Escherichia coli O157:H7 and Salmonella enterica can enter a dormant stage, forming a thin, bacterial biofilm that allows for better survival on hard surfaces such as concrete or steel., When Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists and their colleagues compared samples from processing plants that follow similar cleaning procedures but have different levels of pathogens, they found multiple species of bacteria in each location that could either enhance or reduce a pathogen’s chance of surviving the sanitizing procedures. Unique communities of bacteria at each location either collaborate or compete with the pathogens by forming a biofilm community or mixed biofilm structure. Collaboration may lead to high pathogen prevalence at those locations, but strong competition may inhibit pathogen survival at other places. Since many of these environmental bacteria are not harmful to humans or animals, if the specific species that inhibit pathogen biofilm formation can be identified, they could be used as probiotics (preventive measures) against disease-causing bacteria. Another possible economical, effective control that was studied was the use of multi-component sanitizers, a novel multifaceted approach using combinations of various sanitizing reagents and treatments that could inactivate biofilms formed by E. coli O157:H7 and S. enterica, reducing the chances of the pathogens surviving cleaning practices at beef processing facilities.

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Salmonella biofilm on stainless steel surface
Salmonella biofilm on stainless steel surface. Photo courtesy of You Zhou (UNL) and Rong Wang (ARS).

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Numerous Health Benefits Found in Summer-Favorite Watermelon

ARS researchers developed a pioneering concept using big data and computational biology to identify and catalog all of the phytochemicals that exist in watermelon—more than 1,500 diverse phytochemicals. They concluded eating watermelon is an excellent way to increase intake of antioxidants, non-protein amino acids and lycopene. They specifically found the antioxidants in watermelon can help the body fight free radicals and slow down cell damage. The fruit's non-protein amino acids can also help repair body tissue, break down food from other meals, and even regulate blood pressure. The fruit also has more lycopene than a raw tomato, which is linked to healthy eyes, overall heart health and protection against certain cancers. Other nutrients, like carotenoids, flavonoids, carbohydrates and alkaloids, also are found in the flesh, seed and rind. Identifying the metabolic pathways and genome sequence of genes involved in the production of beneficial phytochemicals could be highly useful for plant scientists and breeders aiming to improve nutrient content in fruits and vegetables.

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Slices of watermelon
Watermelon.

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ARS Announces Winners of Innovative Challenge to Preserve Flavor of Catfish

ARS and HeroX have announced the grand prize winners of a competition that invited the public to submit innovative solutions to preserve the flavor of catfish and prevent blue-green algae. Aquaculture researchers have shown exposure to certain varieties of blue-green pond algae, also known as cyanobacteria, can cause a delay in harvest for roughly 50 percent of catfish ponds each year. Cyanobacteria can cause taste and odor problems in the fresh-water fish. The taste and odor must be removed prior to processing Annually, this can cost catfish farmers $15 to $20 million in lost revenue and expenses to maintain the fish and its natural flavor. The competition, known as the 'Preserving the Natural Flavor of Catfish Challenge,' launched in August 2020 and called on a global community of solvers to submit strategies to prevent "earthy" or "muddy" taste in catfish. Judges evaluated submissions for the best overall approach for pre-harvest management practices, pre-harvest treatment technologies and post-harvest treatment technologies.

  • First place winner: Preventing Winter Off-Flavor with Solar Heating
  • Second place winners: Microbubbles Circulating with Submersible Vibrator, Nanobubbles Inhibit Cyanobacteria Growth and System Approach to Reduce Off-Flavors
  • Third place winners: Bacillus to Prevent Blue-Green Algae (BGA) Growth and Filtration of Water through Sawdust-Filled Column

Details

Catfish in a net.
Market-size catfish ready for harvest.

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Pickling Cucumbers Fused with Health Promoting Compound

A stable, naturally occurring, health-promoting compound called γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA), was recently found to be generated through the fermentation of brined cucumbers by ARS and North Carolina State University (NCSU) researchers. Low-salt fermentation enhances the GABA content in pickled cucumber products prepared for direct consumption. Also, fermenting the cucumbers in lower salt brines and storing them in their original fermented juices increases the GABA levels. Previous studies have demonstrated consumption of GABA from foods or supplements has positive health benefits like reducing blood pressure, improving decision making, reducing anxiety, and boosting immunity. Other well-known foods where GABA content has been enhanced through fermentation are sourdough bread, soy sauce and dairy products like yogurt, kefir and certain cheeses.

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Jars of pickles.
Jars of pickles.

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Richard Mattes Presents 2020-21 ARS W.O. Atwater Memorial Lecture

"Predictive Strength of Atwater Values at the Biology: Behavior Interface" was the title of Richard D. Mattes' 2020-21 ARS W.O. Atwater Memorial Lecture, which he presented June 8 at Nutrition Live Online 2021, the annual meeting of the American Society for Nutrition. His Lecture highlighted the interactive relationships between selected determinants of ingestive behavior and energy balance and challenged assumptions that may be impeding a fuller understanding of the energetics of feeding. Mattes has been described as one of America's leading nutrition scientists. He was one of the 20 nationally recognized health and nutrition experts to serve on the 2020 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee. His research has focused on hunger and satiety, food preferences, regulation of food intake in people and the chemistry of taste and smell as they interact with hunger and satiety.

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Richard Mattes
ARS 2020-21 W.O. Atwater Memorial Lecturer Richard D. Mattes.

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