February 6, 2009

Scrapin' Up the Bits... Sciencey Style

A whole bunch of cool, interesting, outraging stuff, starting with a little science.

One thing that I find to be confusing is the extent of peanut allergies in kids. It's like every fourth kid has one. Why? I'm sure there are theories as to why, and I hope to read up on them at some point. But, in the meantime, there is this:

Chicago researchers report the development of a new mouse model for food allergy that mimics symptoms generated during a human allergic reaction to peanuts. The animal model provides a new research tool that will be invaluable in furthering the understanding of the causes of peanut and other food allergies and in finding new ways to treat and prevent their occurrence... Peanut allergy is of great public health interest because this food allergy is the one most often associated with life-threatening allergic reactions, resulting in up to 100 deaths in the United States each year.

As a dorky science writer, this sounds to me like an important advance. Yeah, it's just a mouse. But, as the news release explains, the model does a good job of mimicking what happens to humans who experience an allergic reaction to peanuts. That kind of thing can help, if nothing else, improve the efficiency of this research, pointing to good leads that are worth following in terms of prevention and treatment.

Speaking of kids and peanuts
, the fallout from the peanut recall gets worse:

Peanut Corporation of America sold 32 truckloads of roasted peanuts and peanut butter to the federal government for a free-lunch program for poor children even as the company's internal tests showed that its products were contaminated with salmonella bacteria....
Schools in California, Minnesota and Idaho received the suspected peanut products between January and November 2007, said Susan Acker, a spokeswoman for the Agriculture Department. Federal officials notified the affected schools last week and told them to destroy any uneaten food, but officials said most of it has already been consumed, Acker said. She said the agency is not aware of any illnesses linked to the peanut products it bought.
Sen. Tom Harkin from Iowa expressed outrage during a Senate hearing on the recall. The time for outrage, Senator, is long past. As is the time to finally do something significant about improving food safety. Please reserve your energies for the latter.

Quickly back to a little science. In the biz, this is what you call a really poor news release. However, it's about one of the most essential of cooking ingredients, extra-virgin olive oil, so it caught my eye.

The study has proved the anti-HER2 effect of fractions of phenolic compounds directly extracted of extra virgin olive oil in breast cancer cell lines. They have used solid-phase extraction methods of semi-preparative liquid chromatography to isolate fractions of commercial oils and, later, separation techniques (capillary electrophoresis and liquid chromatography connected to mass spectrometry) to check the purity and composition of the fractions.

Oh, yeah, that' s going to make journalists' brains go all googly with excitement. How about:

Compounds derived from extra-virgin olive oil killed breast cancer cells in a laboratory dish.

So not only is it ideal for making pesto, but it's got that going for it as well!

Two really good recipes
that I can highly recommend:
I was a little stingy with the tomatoes, so the meatballs weren't as saucy as I might like, and I don't think I softened the butter enough, so it didn't work into the cookie as much as it probably should have, so mine were a little crumbly. They were still quite good, though.

Finally, saw this over at Serious Eats, which the SE folks disccovered at AnnatheRed's Bento Factory:

That's right. It's Where the Wild Things Are characters made from real food items (rice, cheese, etc.), packaged all nice and neat in a bento box! Doesn't make me hungry, but does make me wish I had that kind of time on my hands.

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