Archive for 'Research News'

Phase separation of cheese fondue – and what can be done about it [new study]

Monday, May 27th, 2019

“The irreversible phase separation of fondue is a common issue and has ruined countless dinners.” This state of affairs has been compounded by the fact that : “Many half-truths persist in Swiss kitchens on how to prepare the perfect fondue.” So explain Pascal Bertsch, Laura Savorani, and Peter Fischer of the Institute of Food Nutrition and Health, ETH Zurich, Switzerland, in a new paper for ACS Omega, 2019, 4 (1), pp 1103–1109,

Their research project is intended to sieve out problematic half-truths and replace them with hard science facts. Such as :

“Fondue can be considered a water-continuous system with dispersed fat droplets, caseins, and starch. The caseins remain aggregated after melting and are governed by pH-dependent electrostatic interactions.”


“The irreversible phase separation of fondue is a common issue and has ruined countless dinners. It may be avoided by sufficient addition of water-binding thickeners, for example, 3 wt % starch relative to the total water content.”

Click here to dip into a full copy of Rheology of Swiss Cheese Fondue 

The carbon footprints of various sandwiches [study]

Thursday, May 23rd, 2019

There’s a chance (as yet unquantified) that you’re eating a sandwich as you read this. If so, you might pause to consider its carbon footprint  – which, it turns out, is likely to be content-dependent. That’s one of the findings of a 2018 study from Dr Namy Espinoza-Orias and Professor Adisa Azapagic of the Sustainable Industrial Systems dept., School of Chemical Engineering and Analytical Sciences, The University of Manchester, UK.

“This study estimated the carbon footprint associated with the production and consumption of sandwiches, prepared commercially and at home. In total, 40 most popular recipes were considered. The carbon footprint of a ready-made sandwich ranges from 739 g CO2 eq. for egg & cress to 1441 g CO2 eq. for the breakfast option. The carbon footprint of the most popular home-made sandwich (ham & cheese) varies from 399-843 g CO2 eq. per serving. The average impact from the home-made option (609 g CO2 eq.) is 2.2 times lower than the impact from the commercial equivalent with the same ingredients (ham, cheese and mayonnaise).”

Details of their paper : Understanding the impact on climate change of convenience food: Carbon footprint of sandwiches can be found online in the journal Sustainable Production and Consumption, Volume 15, July 2018, Pages 1-15.

And which may be digested in full here 

“National Income Inequality Predicts Cultural Variation in Mouth to Mouth Kissing”

Wednesday, May 22nd, 2019

A new study marries, so to speak, economics and kissing. The study is:

National Income Inequality Predicts Cultural Variation in Mouth to Mouth Kissing,” Christopher D. Watkins, Juan David Leongómez, Jeanne Bovet, Agnieszka Żelaźniewicz, Max Korbmacher, Marco Antônio Corrêa Varella, Ana Maria Fernandez, Danielle Wagstaff, and Samuela Bolgan, Scientific Reports, vol. 9, article no. 6698 2019. (Thanks to Tony Tweedale for bringing this to our attention.) The authors explain:

Romantic mouth-to-mouth kissing is culturally widespread, although not a human universal…

Here, we test for cultural variation (13 countries from six continents) in these behaviours/attitudes according to national health (historical pathogen prevalence) and both absolute (GDP) and relative wealth (GINI)…. When aggregated, the predicted relationship between income inequality and kissing frequency was over five times the size of the null correlations between income inequality and frequency of hugging/cuddling and sex.

Here is some numerical detail:

Migrant Warning: Crossing the Coffee-Cup Barrier

Sunday, May 19th, 2019

When you get a cup of coffee from a vending machine, are you getting a soupćon of ink in your drink? This study looks into that question:

Determination the Set-Off Migration of Ink in Cardboard-Cups Used in Coffee Vending Machines,” Esther Asensio, Teresa Peiro, and Cristina Nerín, Food and Chemical Toxicology, epub 2019. The authors, at the University of Zaragoza, Spain, explain:

Food and beverages may interact strongly with the materials that they touch and this is specially important in vending machines, where often the contact is at high temperature. These interactions may result in migration of substances from the food contact materials to the beverages, affecting both the odour, quality of food as well as the health of consumers….

The aim of this study was the determination of the migration of compounds coming from different types of cardboard-cups used in coffee vending machines. The volatile compounds present in cardboard-cups were studied and specific migration studies were carried out by solid phase microextraction with headspace coupled to gas chromatography (HS-SPME-GC-MS). The migration of compounds from the cardboard-cups manufacturing material, plastic coating (LDPE) and printing inks were identified and quantified….

it is important to highlight the presence of compounds from both the material of the cardboard-cups (wood pulp) and the plastic coating (LDPE). Several compounds classified as Class II and Class III according to the Cramer rules, stand out the importance of the study and the required control of them, while their analysis suggests that this food contact material is unlikely to contribute significantly to dietary Cramer-threshold exceedance….

Some of the compounds found are not authorized for building food packaging materials. Even though they are coming from printing inks, the contact layer in the cups is LDPE, what makes this structure as a multilayer and then, included in the regulation 10/2011/EU. It is well known that diffusion of low polar organic molecules in LDPE is very fast and consequently the sorpted compounds in direct contact with LDPE can be easily transferred to the food.

Using Amino Acids to Identify Pornographic Images

Friday, May 17th, 2019

This study pioneers the use of amino acids for identifying pornographic images:

Using Amino Acids of Images for Identifying Pornographic Images,” Vijay Naidu, Ajit Narayanan, and Manoranjan Mohanty, 2019 IEEE Conference on Multimedia Information Processing and Retrieval (MIPR), 2019.

The authors, at Auckland University of Technology and the University of Aukland, New Zealand, report:

The pornographic images need to be regulated as they can have an adverse effect on the society. This paper purposes an image amino acid-based method to identify a pornographic image. The proposed method works by converting an image into biological amino acid form (e.g., to A, C, D, G, H, etc. form) and then extracting a signature from the image (which is represented in amino acid form) using biological tools. Using this method, a number of signatures are obtained from a set of few known pornographic images. These signatures are then matched against a database of images to find out the pornographic images. The matching is done using the openly available anti-virus scanner Clamscan. Here, the signatures obtained from the pornographic images are represented as signatures of viruses. The experimental result shows that the proposed method can identify a pornographic image with a high detection rate.

Many biologists who view themselves as being experts in the study of amino acids. This up and coming application of amino acids to pornographic images may be surprising to them.

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