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Tag: Food Science

New Director of Food Science Institute

The Food Science Institute at Kansas State University welcomes Dr. Jeanette Thurston as Director of the Institute. Dr. Thurston began her position on June 17, 2019.

For the last 10 years, Dr. Thurston has held positions of increasing responsibility at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture, advancing basic and applied research, education, extension and strategy in the area of food safety.

Dr. Thurston holds a Ph.D. in soil, water and environmental science and microbiology, a master’s in environmental science, and bachelor’s in microbiology – all from the University of Arizona.

For the last three years, she has served as NIFA’s science program officer. Among her responsibilities are serving as the champion for NIFA’s science portfolio, providing strategic support and counsel to top leadership regarding the agency’s science programs and helping develop and execute an annual budget of roughly $1.5 billion.

From 2009-2015, Thurston was a national program leader for food safety at NIFA, leading science programs and serving as a liaison to land-grant and other universities, national laboratories, industry partners, federal agencies and other stakeholders.

She began her career as a research microbiologist with the Agricultural Research Service where she established and managed a public-health microbiology research lab on the campus of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.


Food Science vs. Food Myths

Clean label. Organic. Natural. Preservative free. The list goes on. These messages are bombarding consumers when shopping for food. Are these messages helping or just confusing? Researchers at Alabama A&M University are working to crack the myths and confusion.

It is assumed that organic foods are healthier, safer, and contain less synthetic pesticides and fertilizers. Plants have a natural defense system of bioactive phytochemicals. So, it is assumed, that because organic foods are not treated with synthetic pesticides, they would have more bioactive phytochemicals. Many research studies have been conducted on this concept and are inconclusive. Nutrient content varies by growing region and the soil in which the plants are grown. This is true whether a food is grown organically or conventionally. Therefore, nutrient content between them is not statistically different.

As far as food safety from microbial contamination, when foods that are considered organic, natural, clean, or minimally processed, they can be at a higher risk of causing foodborne illness. These types of foods do not have protection from preservatives and antimicrobials. All foods, no matter the label or growing method, are at risk of microbial contamination. When scientifically proven technology makes food safer, what will it take for consumers to truly understand these benefits?
Source: Food Technology, April 2019


Food Science in Action Competition

The Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) is sponsoring the fourth annual competition for students to show off their video skills and creativity in the STEM fields. The theme for the 2019 competition is “Teaching and Learning Science Through Food.”

This competition is open to anyone and does not require membership to IFT. Students create a 1– to 5–minute video to teach viewers about an aspect of food science. The video must be detailed and include a materials and equipment list so viewers can easily repeat the project at home or school. Scientific accuracy is important, so attention to detail is critical. This is very competitive and all submissions will receive constructive feedback. Video submissions are due April 8, 2019.

Learn more at

Learn about how Food Science Engages Students at


What is CRISPR?

CRISPR-Cas9 editing of the genome National Institutes of Health

The challenge of feeding 10 billion people by 2050 seems impossible. But, with the advancement of science, one new tool, CRISPR gene editing, could be an answer to food production that is sustainable, nutritious, safer, less wasteful and more.

What is CRISPR? It stands for Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats. Within a species, a gene or DNA is precisely edited without adding genes from another species (i.e. transgenic). Because of this, the process is quicker and does not need to pass as many regulatory hurdles as other methods.

There are two parts to this technology. In the picture at left, the Cas9 protein acts like a socket wrench (top of the picture). Specific RNA guides, CRISPRs, act like the socket heads. The RNA guides direct the Cas9 protein to the correct area on the DNA strand that controls a specific trait (bottom of the picture). This technique is targeted and in real-time.

This technology is being used in research to develop low-gluten wheat, leaner pigs, disease resistant cacao, rice and citrus plants, food crops with greater yield and others.

Sources: National Institutes of Health, Food Technology, March 2018,



Keeping up with the constantly changing world of food is a challenge. One source of the latest information in food science is through the Institute of Food Technologists newsletter IFTNEXT.

You can subscribe to this weekly newsletter at You do not have to be a member of IFT. So it is free!

Past issues of the IFTNEXT newsletter can be found at


Walnut Syrup and Birch Syrup

Harvesting birch sap
Photo courtesy Cornell University

While maple syrup rules on many breakfast tables, walnut syrup or birch syrup may be an alternative. It is not common knowledge that syrup is tapped from walnut trees or birch trees. So, currently, the market is small.

Birch syrup has an intense fruity molasses flavor. It takes about 150-200 gallons of birch sap to equal one gallon syrup.  It is quite expensive at $350-$400 per gallon due to the expensive and time-consuming process. Walnut syrup has a nutty butterscotch flavor and is much like a light maple syrup.



Science and Our Food Supply Curriculum

What captures the interest of students? FOOD! Yes, food can be used to engage students in inquiry-based science — really!

The Science and Our Food Supply Teacher Guides are challenging hands-on, minds-on activities that link food safety and nutrition to students’ everyday lives. They are crafted in a teacher-friendly modular format that easily fit into science, health, and other classes.

FDA in collaboration with the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) have created Science and Our Food Supply: Investigating Food Safety from Farm to Table, an innovative, interactive supplementary curriculum for use in middle level and high school science classes.

The topics include learning about bacteria, food storage and handling, pasteurization technology, the science of cooking a hamburger, DNA fingerprinting, and outbreak analysis. Nutrition topics include the Nutrition Facts Label, serving size and calories, sugar in beverages, sodium in snack foods, meal planning, and eating away from home.