New on food front: some strange items

September 19, 2001|By Sylvia Rector | Sylvia Rector,KNIGHT/RIDDER TRIBUNE

Tired of eating the same old food? Stick around. It's sure to change.

Food scientists and marketers seem to be especially busy lately developing better, more healthful and sometimes stranger things to eat.

Here's a sampling:

White cranberry juice will be in stores nationwide by early December. It's smoother, less tart and less likely to stain, which may make it more appealing to families with children, but it still has the good-for-you properties of regular juice, says the cranberry industry. Ocean Spray will sell it in three varieties - plain and blended with peach and strawberry. The juice, which is about the color of white grape juice, isn't from some mutant fruit; it's squeezed from regular cranberries harvested a few weeks before they turn red.

How about fish-oil ice cream? A Massachusetts food-development and research company, Arthur D. Little, claims to have figured out how to add fish oil's super-healthy omega-3 fatty acids to our favorite dairy treat without adding its fishy odor. The American Heart Association recommends two weekly servings of fatty fish like salmon or tuna for its omega-3's. Don't look for the ice cream in stores soon; it still needs Food and Drug Administration approval and a manufacturer.

Health-food french fries are also in the pipeline. Ranjit Kadan, a scientist for the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service in New Orleans, has developed a rice-flour french fry that closely mimics the texture and cooking properties of potatoes. The rice flour not only absorbs 25 percent to 50 percent less fat during cooking, it's hypoallergenic, nutritious and might even be fortified with vitamins, protein and other good stuff.

A new kind of light yellow sweet potato has less sugar and soaks up less oil, so it can be used to make more nutritious french fries and potato chips. Developed by the Agricultural Research Service in South Carolina, the new sweet potatoes make leaner, crispier fries because their greater density allows them to absorb less fat. One medium sweet potato has more than a day's supply of vitamin A, plus high levels of fiber, vitamin C and folic acid. Wouldn't you love to find those in the drive-through?

Spaghetti with more vitamins A and B and 25 percent more protein than normal has been developed from corn gluten meal, a byproduct of corn milling and fuel-alcohol production, says the August issue of the American Chemical Society's peer-reviewed journal. Trained testers who've tried it give it good marks for texture and flavor, the journal says.

And then there are the Japanese farmers who've figured out how to grow square watermelons, so they'll take up less space in the fridge. According to a report on abcnews.com, the melons are grown inside square glass boxes and naturally take on the shape of the container. They were expected to sell this summer in Tokyo for about 83 U.S. dollars. Now that's a breakthrough we don't need.

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