University of FloridaâsInstitute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) faculty work on myriad of food-related topics. As 2014 approaches, here are just a few of their food-related predictions âÂ everything from better fruit packaging to a new focus on reducing food waste âÂ that may soon be on the publicâs radar:
- Good taste, less waste: Food researchers like Doug ArcherÂ say roughly one-third of food produced for humans around the globe is lost or wasted each year â 1.3 billion tons of it. Discussion of this problem is expected to make its way from food industry and academic circles and into American homes, with home food preparers becoming more sensitive to reducing food waste.
- Fresher fruit:Â Jeff Brecht works on ways to improve fruit flavor and consumer experience. To that end, heâs worked with UF and University of California, Davis researchers on âmodified atmosphere packagingâ for a range of fruits, including berries and tomatoes. In that packaging, specialÂ polymers interact with fruit respiration so thatÂ oxygenÂ is decreased while carbon dioxide is increased.Â The result? Handlers can wait longer to pick fruit; it takes longer to go bad. Â And tropical and subtropical fruits can be held at higher temperatures to avoid flavor-robbing chilling injury.
- Better-tasting home-grown tomatoes: Harry Klee, UFâs tomato-taste tinkerer, has worked for years to target the most universally consumer-pleasing tomato flavors. He and colleagues are poised this year to release two hybrid tomatoes, suitable for non-commercial growers, and both are said to knock it out of the park in taste tests.
- Garlic: Sue Percival, chairman of IFASâ Food Science and Human Nutrition department, and colleagues found modest changes in the immune responses of human subjects who consumed an aged garlic extract every day, as part of a six-month research study. A control group took placebos. Both groups kept health diaries and gave blood samples. The garlic didnât prevent colds or flu, she said, but researchers did find that cold and flu symptoms were reduced between 30% and 50%.
- Eat your broccoli: According to Archer, consumers will begin to focus more on vegetable consumption, both for better health and to lessen their environmental footprint. Demand may outpace supply, and while Food Safety Modernization Act requirements will help ensure safer produce, it will undoubtedly boost costs for growers, packers and grocers âÂ and consumers.
- And your mushrooms:Â Â In a more recent study, Percivalâs team tested shiitake mushroomsâ effect on human health outcomes. One group ate a daily serving of chopped, dried mushrooms; a second group ate two servings. Blood was taken from both groups at the start and end of the study. Both groupsâ test results revealed âremarkableâ beneficial changes in their immune-system regulating cytokines and immune function, she said.