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Wood vs Plastic Cutting Boards : New German Study Reinforces Dr. Cliver's Report: Wood cutting boards inhibit bacteria growth, and are equal to or better than plastic cutting boards. Just recently, Dr. Ulrike Kleiner, from the Laboratory of Hygiene Research at the Anhalt University in Bernburg, Germany, performed a new study on hygienic qualities of wood and plastic cutting boards. Dr. Kleiners results reinforced Dr. Dean Clivers study: that hard rock maple wood cutting boards are more sanitary than plastic cutting boards. It has been proven that wood cutting boards inhibit bacteria growth, while plastic cutting boards have been proven to harbor bacteria. Furthermore, wood cutting boards are known to be easier on your knives and they are sustainable and biodegradable, where plastic cutting boards are not. Food safety is a universal concern whether it involves the commercial food service industry or the confines of our own home. As many as 1 in 6 Americans get sick by consuming contaminated foods resulting from Salmonella, E-Coli, and Botulism. These food borne illnesses are common, costly, yet are preventable and can be dramatically decreased by practicing smart food prep habits in your kitchen. For years, the use of plastic cutting boards was recommended over wood cutting boards, by public health authorities. However, the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture said they had no scientific evidence to support their recommendation that plastic, rather than wooden cutting boards were safer to use. So, in response to this, Dean O. Cliver, Ph.D, (USA) had conducted a scientific study. The findings in fact proved that knife-scarred plastic surfaces were more difficult to clean and disinfect, as a result of significant damage to the plastic surfaces due to knife cuts. Furthermore, it has been proven that hard maple cutting boards inhibit bacteria growth. As a result of the study, a new scientific conclusion had been uncovered despite what others thought before this test: More bacteria are recovered from a used plastic surface than from a used wood surface. Wood cutting boards are known to be easier on your expensive knife blades and they are sustainable and biodegradable, where plastic cutting boards are not. Testing NSF-certified hardwood cutting boards manufactured by John Boos & Co., were used in the testing. These professional butcher block cutting boards used in the testing were made of North American Hard Rock Maple. For the plastic cutting boards, a professional German product was used: the Profi-Schneidbrett PE 500: by cookmax Pentagast. Conclusion The experiments show that among the cutting boards on which meat was cut, the unoiled wood board exhibited the least amount of residual waste and residual germs. The oiled wood board came close to this result in second place, and the worst results with regards to hygiene came from the plastic cutting board. For the two variants of cutting boards on which lettuce had been cut, the oiled wooden board and the plastic board, we could detect an almost comparable residual waste and residual bacterial presence. Finally, our results can be evaluated as the following: with proper care and cleaning, high quality hardwood maple cutting boards that are certified do not pose a greater health risk and are equal to or better than plastic ones. In addition, because of its sustainability, the use of wood in cutting boards is also recommended.
Food prices increased 3.9% in February, the biggest monthly jump in 37 years, making the issue of food inflation increasingly important for restaurant operators large and small. International companies including Darden and DineEquity can lock in long-term contracts to ensure lower prices, but smaller operators often must get more creative and look to increasing their local buying and revamping menus to safeguard the bottom line. Watch for menu prices to rise.
Why do customers leave tips? Conventional wisdom holds that consumers tip everyone from food servers to hairdressers to reward a job well done, but several studies show the real motivation may be very different. U.S. restaurant guests leave bigger tips for attractive female servers, women tip male servers more, and we tend to leave larger gratuities for those who offer us compliments or hand over a piece of chocolate with the check.
Restaurants and Eating and Drinking Places sales rose for the third straight month to reach a new record high in September, according to NRA analysis of the U.S. Census Bureau data. Restaurants and Eating and Drinking Places sales rose 0.3 percent to a seasonally adjusted $39.8 billion. That followed gains of 0.1 percent and 1.0 percent in July and August. As a result of the gains, sales increased 4.4 percent between September 2009 and September 2010 after adjusting for seasonal and holiday factors. That marks the strongest 12 month gain in nearly three years. Bottom line, most people like to eat out!
With the recent series of food borne illness outbreaks in the U.S., the hottest topic in the hospitality industry is food safety. Restaurant owners are going out of their way, now more than ever, to demonstrate their commitment to the safety of patrons purchasing and consuming their food products. No longer is the phrase - we serve the freshest food, enough to set the American public's mind at ease when choosing where to eat. It is critical to understand exactly what it means for a foodservice establishment to demonstrate a commitment to the public's safety. But first, the public's perception when an outbreak of food borne illness occurs has to be examined, and subsequently, how difficult it is for an establishment to recover from such an incident. For example, you are a restaurateur and have run Restaurant X for 15 years, developing a great reputation in your area for excellent food and quality service. One week you get a series of calls from recent patrons of Restaurant X that have developed symptoms of Salmonella poisoning. Lawyers and the local media get involved and it is all over the news that Restaurant X may be responsible for the spread of food poisoning. After some investigation, it is found that uncooked vegetables in a particular salad were the origin of the contaminant, most likely the result of cross-contamination from a knife that was used to cut chicken and not properly washed and sanitized. Suddenly, you are responsible for several hundred thousand dollars in medical bills, causing Restaurant X to close indefinitely. After a year of paying legal penalties and compensation, you are able to get a loan to re-open Restaurant X, and now will be able to resume operations as you once did. However, you find that Restaurant X is not as well received by the public as it once was, primarily because consumers still remember the Salmonella outbreak from the year before. It may take you as long as another 15 years to get Restaurant X to the point of success and financial prosperity that you once enjoyed. The above example is not as extreme as you might think. Depending on how serious the outbreak is, a once successful restaurant may suffer unsuccessfully for several years before it is again profitable. The ramifications can be even more severe if the restaurant is independently owned or newly opened. The reason for this long recovery time is long-term negative public perception. It is human nature to remember the negative events and forget about the positive. Once a potential or previous customer reads that Restaurant X has spread Salmonella to its customers, it is extremely difficult to counter that information or create a positive perception regarding the establishment. The recommendation from a friend who told you Restaurant X has a great hamburger goes right out the window, along with the business? patrons and profits. Previously in the foodservice industry, it was thought that no news is good news in reference to food safety; meaning that as long as a restaurant stays out of the headlines and receives no negative press, it was a good thing. In these ultra-sensitive times of food safety awareness, some leading restaurants, both chains and independently owned operations, are proactively advertising their commitment to the public's safety. Popular methods of demonstrating safe food handling and preparation practices are serving irradiated meat products, implementing hand-washing systems that ensure employees wash their hands often and correctly, and providing food safety training for all food handling employees. Most state regulations mandate that at any given time, at least one manager on duty must be certified in food safety by a state-approved certification course. That manager in turn is required to pass the training information on to the line-level employees who are responsible for handling, preparing, and serving food. This second-hand training rarely occurs, and when it does, it's usually the result of a food safety guideline having been compromised. However, aware of the current technology that exists in foodservice operations, food safety educators are offering comprehensive food safety training through CD-ROMs, the Internet, and POS systems that QSRs, table service restaurants, hospitality establishments and institutional feeders can immediately make use of with all of their employees. These rapidly deployable E-learning methods of training are more cost efficient and effective than the traditional instructor-led seminars and VHS video courses. Not only are restaurants training their employees immediately and repeatedly in food safety standards, but they are sharing these efforts with the public through print, television, and radio ads, as well as displaying window stickers supplied by the food safety education providers. This type of training and the demonstrative efforts to make the public aware of the emerging commitment to food safety by operators says: Were going above and beyond the level of education that is required by local and state health departments. You will often see a story on your local news that shows a reporter walking through a local restaurant pointing out roaches, mold, rodents, and other disgusting, unsanitary occurrences. It is almost impossible for the restaurant to recover from such negative exposure. It didn't take a day, a week, or even a month for things to get that bad; it was the lack of attention to food safety principles over many months and years that led to such neglect. While these examples are extreme situations, they show the dangerous situations that can result from ignorance to food safety standards. Rather than avoid the subject of food safety by not training your employees and hoping an outbreak doesn't occur in your foodservice establishment, restaurant owners immediately benefit from proactively implementing safe food handling and sanitation practices for all employees through their direct bottom line, long-term existence and the positive public perception that is created and maintained. Lee Biars, the director of industry relations for Safe Food Solutions, can be reached at lbiars@safefoodsolutions.com
20 hot food trends
Smaller portions, "good" carbs and new ethnic tastes make the list. And you'll really love the top pick. The tricky thing about tracking food trends is that many evolve over time, spanning years, even decades. Others come and go as quickly as the year itself. Just when you think you're on top of things - Kale is hot! - something else comes along - No, it's brussels sprouts! - to replace it. With that in mind, we offer our predictions for 20 top food trends for the future. While many began with chefs and other culinary elite, a few claim grassroots origins.
1. Chocolate, the gourmet health food. It's about time something that tastes so good is actually good for you. Dark chocolate, which is at least 70 percent cocoa, is a source of polyphenols, the antioxidants in red wine and green tea that help keep plaque from forming in arteries. It also contains flavonoids, which make blood platelets less sticky and are thought to lower blood pressure and LDL, or bad cholesterol. Look for artisanal and varietal chocolates touted for their subtle taste distinctions (as are single-estate wines and coffees) and for candies laced with offbeat flavors such as green tea, black pepper and beer. And yes, there is also chocolate-flavored beer.
2. Fast food with style. Fast-food chains are lightening their menus, proving that fast needn't mean over processed, over-salted, and full of fat and empty calories. Decor is being upgraded, too. A McDonald's opening in Chicago this year will offer wireless Internet access and a hangout atmosphere. The resurgence of neighborhood restaurants with character, regional foods, and casual fare that is fresh, well-executed, and familiar enough not to be threatening also continues.
3. Affordable luxuries. Starbucks is often credited with starting the "small indulgence" trend. Other small food splurges are vintage wines, premium vinegar, a catered meal, or the Kobe beef and foie gras found these days on more restaurant menus.
4. Ethnic regions. Upscale Spanish and Mexican dishes lead the current ethnic taste trek. But foods of distinct regions are getting more attention, too. We've feasted on the foods of Provence, Hunan and Sicily. Next up? Recipes unique to Galicia, Barcelona and Oaxaca.
5. Small plates. From Spanish tapas to Chinese dim sum and Greek meze, small portions are becoming a big deal. With their presence on menus increasing, small plates also feed into the quick-dining trend. The lounge at Tangerine in Old City has introduced an all-meze menu and, at Brasserie Perrier, executive chef-partner Chris Scarduzio says he is concentrating more on flavor and less on portion size because customers are eating less. "Small plates are great for young professionals on the move who don't have time to sit at a table for two hours," Scarduzio says. Along with mini meals come cupcakes and other mini cakes, the hot option for wedding receptions as well as for everyday snacking.
6. Carb comeback. "Good" carbs, including fruits and vegetables, are back in the good graces of dieters. Carbs are the body's most efficient fuel. The good ones break down slowly for steady energy. Sugar carbs quickly turn to glucose, with the excess stored as fat.
7. Whole grains. These nutrient-rich carbs were surely missed by many low-carb dieters deprived of their morning Cheerios. Now they're back and will take center stage when the U.S. Department of Agriculture lists them as a key element in a healthful diet in its revised Food Guide Pyramid, to be released this month. Look for more whole grains in processed foods, from cereals to prepared meals. Average adult consumption is just one serving a day, well under the government's recommendation of three a day.
8. Convenience. When Gourmet magazine touts dishes to make ahead on Sunday for a week's worth of heat-and-eat meals, you know times have changed. Everyone wants more convenience in the kitchen. The NPD Group, a market research firm, reports that half of American cooks are putting dinner on the table in 30 minutes or less, often by eliminating side dishes and even desserts, which are now served after only 14 percent of at-home suppers.
9. Organics. Sales have risen more than 20 percent annually for a dozen years, reaching an estimated $15 billion in 2004, with more than $32 billion projected by 2009. The fastest-growing segments are meats and poultry (sales jumped 78 percent in 2003) and snack foods (up 30 percent). There's even organically farmed fish. If you blinked, you may have missed organics also slipping into the mainstream of packaged goods, canned foods, meal kits, and baking mixes.
10. Functional foods. Food has become the new wonder drug as researchers unlock the secrets of phytochemicals, omega-3 fats, and other substances that promise to help forestall ailments ranging from aggression and attention-deficit disorder to macular degeneration, Alzheimer's disease and stroke. Penny Kris-Etherton, a nutrition professor at Pennsylvania State University, cites nuts and salmon as nutritional powerhouses, along with fruits and vegetables. Also, look for cultured beverages - yogurtlike drinks infused with "friendly bacteria" - marketed for digestive health.
11. Of the moment. Wild blueberries (available as juice or whole berries, canned and frozen), fresh figs, beets (in salads), yams, Honeycrisp apples (a new cross between a Macoun and a Honeygold), and microgreens are hot. Among meats, duck and bison have new cachet. And sweep up the sawdust: Steak houses are suddenly chic with the 20-something set.
12. Cooking with kids. Children's cooking classes are burgeoning, as are cookbooks for the younger set from cooks as prominent as Rick Bayless, who wrote Rick & Lanie's Excellent Kitchen Adventures (Stewart, Tabori & Chang, $29.95) with his teenage daughter, and Rachael Ray (Cooking Rocks! 30 Minute Meals for Kids, published by Lake Isle Press, $16.95).
13. Dining etiquette 101. There was little early training at the table for many young professionals who now find themselves dining out nervously with clients (and bosses). Hence, the raft of "practice banquets" and classes offering much-needed instruction in polite public dining rituals. Classes are held at fine restaurants, on college campuses (including Philadelphia University), at career seminars, in cooking schools, and online. One elementary-dining class for children at Eleven Madison Park, Danny Meyer's deco-detailed restaurant in New York's Flatiron District, sold out within hours and filled the waiting list for a second session.
14. Bottled water. Sales rose 20 percent in 2004, making this the fastest-growing segment of the U.S. beverage market. In addition to funky flavors, new-age waters are "enhanced" with vitamins, minerals and/or electrolytes and are being pitched to a market beyond health club addicts and joggers.
15. Trans-American wines. Think past France and California. Wine consumption is on the upswing, and local wineries are blossoming in all 50 states. (Yes, there is wine produced in Alaska.) Look to microwineries - sometimes clustered, like Chaddsford and others in Chester County - as a source of varietal wines, filling a niche market much like that of microbrewed beers.
16. No-cal sugar. Little yellow packets of Splenda have joined, and increasingly are replacing, the pink Sweet'N Low and blue Equal packets on restaurant tables. The natural-tasting sucralose also is being used in almost every food category - cereals to sodas, pickles to beef jerky.
17. Specialty salts are going mainstream, thanks to celebrity chefs talking up the taste profiles of sea salts from around the world. More food companies are adding less sodium to processed foods and many consumers are cooking from scratch (or semi-scratch), giving at-home diners more chances to sample the unique flavors of gourmet salts.
18. Technique. Look for more variety in the way foods are prepared. Grillings popularity is booming, thanks to the growing obsession for must-have outdoor "trophy" kitchens among the upper-income set. Brined meats and poultry are timesavers coming to supermarkets. And other cooking methods are surfacing, not just in restaurants and home kitchens but also for prepared foods. " 'Fire-roasted' and 'charcoal-grilled' are already on the labels of canned goods and frozen vegetables," Philadelphia cookbook author Andrew Schloss says. "Look for frozen dinners identified as 'braised' and canned fruits labeled 'poached.' "
19. Flavors in favor. Lemongrass has gone mainstream. Now sumac (a fruity-astringent spice) and yuzu (a sour citrus fruit) are showing up. Expect more exotic and highly flavored foods, from olive oils (Meyer lemon and blood orange are popular) to adult-friendly snacks (wasabi-ginger pecans). Pique timid taste buds with a dash of chile powder in your hot cocoa.
20. Food entitlement. Don't be afraid to ask for what you want. More and more, consumers expect their dietary needs and special requests to be met, whether motivated by allergies, a special diet, or personal preference. Most restaurants and grocery stores try to meet any reasonable demand. At the South Street BYOB Next, chef Terry Owens gets a couple of special orders a week, most often allergy-related. And a diner's recent request to substitute chicken for the scallops in one dish was not unusual, nor was it a problem. But since neither planned sauce worked with the new pairing, chef and diner negotiated an alternative: lemon butter. "You never say 'no' to a customer," Owens said. By Marilynn Marter
The National Restaurant Association reports consumers eat out to the tune of $440 billion a year, and the rise in dining out has led to a 4% rise in wait time at casual restaurants, according to one analyst. Some consumers treat the wait time as a social opportunity, while others leave in frustration, sometimes taking the restaurant's pager with them. Restaurants are introducing video games and free samples to keep waiting customers occupied.
Burgers Anyone? While carb-conscious diners are ordering their hamburgers without the bun, condiments become more important to the burger's flavor. Grilled balsamic onions, sliced avocado and cilantro aioli are all options to jazz up the traditional grilled beef patty.
Registered dietitian Susan Finn told a meeting of the Society for Nutrition Education that blaming food companies for obesity is misguided. "The fight against obesity is not about restrictions, lawsuits and taxes," she said, adding that educating consumers about nutrition and healthy lifestyles is more important. Finn represents the American Council for Fitness and Nutrition, a group backed by food companies, the grocery industry, and nutrition advocates.
Piggly Wiggly has unveiled a new payment system that identifies customers by scanning their fingers at four of its South Carolina stores. The device, produced by Pay By Touch, allows customers to store their age and loyalty card information in a central database and access it by pressing their finger against a scanner, reducing checkout time by one-third, according to Piggly Wiggly.
McDonald's announces executive realignment New McDonald's CEO Charlie Bell announced Vice Chairman Jim Skinner would gain responsibility for overseas operations while Mike Roberts, president of McDonald's USA, will take on a new role of domestic CEO and focus on both strategy and relations with franchisees and suppliers.
Chicago neighborhood welcomes Starbucks as part of grander plan. The opening of the first Starbucks in Chicago's South Side neighborhood is the culmination of efforts by Leslie Hairston, 5th Ward alderman, and through the help of retired basketball star Magic Johnson. Hairston hopes retailers such as Target, Best Buy and Kinko's also consider setting up shop on Chicago's South Side. "You are officially a neighborhood when you get a Starbucks," she said. Chicago Tribune
New Denny's ads feature employees, emphasize hospitality Following a successful employee-training workshop on hospitality, Denny's decided to use real employees in its "abundant value" ad campaign. The chain is also featuring a tie-in with the movie "A Cinderella Story" and a new health-oriented menu for children.
In Britain, an hour lunch break is a thing of the past A report on lunchtime habits found the average Briton takes a 27-minute lunch break, with only one in five taking a full hour. One labor professor says workers are under more pressure to produce and often use their lunch time to catch up on e-mail. BBC
Midcalorie colas start slow Coca-Cola C2 and Pepsi Edge, the companies' midcalorie colas, are experiencing flat sales, according to early estimates. Both companies say it's too early to predict what ultimately will happen with the new products, while the editor of Beverage Digest says midcals have big potential. Journal and Constitution (Atlanta)
Study: Children's TV habits, obesity linked A study published in The Lancet reports children between 5 and 15 who watched more than two hours of TV a night had a higher body-mass index and were more likely to smoke and have high cholesterol. The researchers pointed out there is no proven causation between watching TV and these factors, but they hypothesized that time spent watching TV may replace exercise for some. The New York Times/Associated Press
Life-extending compound identified in red wine Researchers report in the journal Nature that the same compound in red wine known to provide health benefits also may lead to increased life expectancy. Resveratrol has been shown to extend the life of fruit flies, worms and monkeys and some hope it eventually could be used to treat age-related diseases, such as diabetes. MSNBC/Reuters
Study: Exercise, veggies and not smoking can lower women's cancer risk New research offers yet another reason for women to exercise and eat their vegetables -- it can reduce their risk of cancer. The study of nearly 30,000 women found exercising daily; refraining from smoking; gaining no more than 11 pounds after age 18; eating five or more vegetables and fruits a day; and limiting alcohol, red meat, fat and salt can reduce the risk of cancer by as much as 30%. USA TODAY
Identity theft bill signed into law President Bush signed the Identity Theft Penalty Enhancement Act into law yesterday. The law, which adds two years to prison sentences of criminals convicted of using stolen credit card numbers and other personal data, and adds five extra years to violators who use that data for "terrorist offenses," follows a report from the Federal Trade Commission that found identity theft cost businesses and consumers $53 billion in 2002 alone. The Washington Post (free registration)
Senate passes landmark tobacco bill A sweeping bill passed by the U.S. Senate on Thursday would end a quota system for tobacco growers and would give the Food and Drug Administration the power to impose new restrictions on tobacco advertising as well as mandate the removal of hazardous ingredients. Differences with a House-passed version of the bill and infighting among large tobacco companies, however, make it unclear what the final bill will contain. Chicago Tribune/The New York Times News Service
Commentary: Genetics, environment are main culprits of obesity. The two main factors behind weight are genetics and environment, but the former has not kept pace with the latter, according to The Washington Post's Katherine Tallmadge. People overeat because they're genetically predisposed to do so, and marketing, availability, flavor and abundance of food make healthful eating a challenge. The Washington Post
Argentina approves GM corn brand Monsanto will be able to sell genetically modified corn in Argentina after its government approved the use of the company's NK603 corn. The corn is engineered to survive applications of the company's weedkiller product, Roundup. The Wall Street Journal
The move toward dark chicken meat While Americans express a two-to-one preference for white chicken meat over dark, Mark Bittman prefers his dark and he sees others moving in that direction. Chefs also are reporting a change, with Suvir Saran of New York's Amma and soon to open Devi, noting that more customers are asking if the restaurants serves dark meat. Dark meat may have four times as much fat as white. The New York Times

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