Gadget: Fruit and Vegetable Keeper

Astro from Ototo

Vegetarian Devilled Eggs


1/4 cup cooking oil
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1 cup chopped (or halved and thinly sliced) red onion (1 medium)
1 Tbsp finely chopped garlic (3 medium cloves)
1/2 cup finely chopped tomato (1 medium)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp crushed cayenne pepper (optional)
1/2 tsp ground cumin or garam masala
1/2 tsp ground fenugreek seeds (optional)
dash of black pepper
1/4 cup plain yogurt (minimum 2% milk fat), stirred
4 to 5 eggs, hard boiled, cooled to room temperature and peeled
1/4 large jalapeno pepper, finely chopped


  1. Heat oil in a small pot on medium-high for 1 minute.
  2. Add cumin seeds and allow them to sizzle for 30 seconds, or until the seeds are dark brown but not black.
  3. Add onion and saute for 4 minutes, or until light golden.
  4. Add garlic and saute for another 2 to 3 minutes, or until golden brown.
  5. Stir in tomatoes, then immediately add salt, cayenne, ground cumin (or garam masala), fenugreek seeds and black pepper. Saute the masala for 4 to 5 minutes, or until oil glistens on top. Turn off the heat.
  6. Place yogurt in a small bowl. To prevent curdling, spoon 1 Tbsp of hot masala into yogurt. Stir well, then pour the yogurt mixture into masala. Turn on the heat to medium, and mix well but gently. Cook for 3 minutes, stirring continuously, then remove from the heat.
  7. Cut eggs in half lengthwise and carefully scoop the yolks into a medium bowl. Mash yolks with a fork until they are smooth (don’t add any water).
  8. Add the warm spice masala to yolks and mix well. Using a teaspoon, stuff egg white halves with the filling.
  9. Sprinkle 1/8 tsp of the jalapeno pepper over each egg half. Serve immediately, or refrigerate, covered, for 3o minutes, or until chilled.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Source: Vij’s at Home

Gene-Edited CRISPR Mushroom Escapes U.S. Regulation

Emily Waltz, Nature magazine wrote . . . .

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) will not regulate a mushroom genetically modified withthe gene-editing tool CRISPR–Cas9.

The long-awaited decision means that the mushroom can be cultivated and sold without passing through the agency’s regulatory process—making it the first CRISPR-edited organism to receive a green light from the US government.

“The research community will be very happy with the news,” says Caixia Gao, a plant biologist at the Chinese Academy of Sciences’s Institute of Genetics and Developmental Biology in Beijing, who was not involved in developing the mushroom. “I am confident we’ll see more gene-edited crops falling outside of regulatory authority.”

Yinong Yang, a plant pathologist at Pennsylvania State University (Penn State) in University Park, engineered the common white button (Agaricus bisporus) mushroom to resist browning. The effect is achieved by targeting the family of genes that encodes polyphenol oxidase (PPO)—an enzyme that causes browning. By deleting just a handful of base pairs in the mushroom’s genome, Yang knocked out one of six PPO genes—reducing the enzyme’s activity by 30%.

The mushroom is one of about 30 genetically modified organisms (GMOs) to sidestep the USDA regulatory system in the past five years. In each case, the agency’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has said that the organisms—mostly plants—do not qualify as something the agency must regulate. (Such organisms may still undergo a voluntary review at the US Food and Drug Administration, or face oversight by the US Environmental Protection Agency.)

Several of the plants that bypassed the USDA were made using gene-editing techniques such as the zinc-finger nuclease (ZFN) and transcription activator-like effector nuclease (TALEN) systems. But until now, it was not clear whether the USDA would give the same pass to organisms engineered with science’s hottest new tool, CRISPR–Cas9.

All Clear

Yang first presented the crop to a small group of USDA regulators in October 2015, after being encouraged to do so by an APHIS official. “They were very excited,” Yang says. “There was certainly interest and a positive feeling” at the meetings. He followed up with an official letter of inquiry to the agency later that month.

The USDA’s answer came this week. “APHIS does not consider CRISPR/Cas9-edited white button mushrooms as described in your October 30, 2015 letter to be regulated,” the agency wrote in a April 13 letter to Yang.

Yang’s mushroom did not trigger USDA oversight because it does not contain foreign DNA from ‘plant pests’ such as viruses or bacteria. Such organisms were necessary for genetically modifying plants in the 1980s and 1990s, when the US government developed its framework for regulating GMOs. But newer gene-editing techniques that do not involve plant pests are quickly supplanting the old tools.

The United States is revamping its rules for regulating GMOs, which collectively are known as the Coordinated Framework for Regulation of Biotechnology. To that end, the US National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine have convened a committee that is charged with predicting what advances will be made in biotechnology products over the next 5–10 years. It will hold its first meeting on April 18.

In the meantime, Yang is mulling over whether to start a company to commercialize his modified mushroom. Fruits and vegetables that resist browning are valuable because they keep their color longer when sliced, which lengthens shelf life. In the past 18 months, biotech companies have commercialized genetically engineered non-browning apples and potatoes.

“I need to talk to my dean about that. We’ll have to see what the university wants to do next,” he says about the prospect of bringing his mushroom to market. But he notes that last autumn, Penn State filed for a patent on the organism.

Source: Scientific American

Decorative Vegetable Cakes


The cake is a new concept in food design created by Japanese food stylist Mitsuki Moriyasu in 2015. By taking vegetables out of the salad bowl and reassembling them into colourful, eye-catching cakes, Mitsuki aims to make diners smile with healthy foods that are both fun to look at and fun to eat.

Icing of the cakes are made from tofu or cream cheese, blended with vegetables to give them a natural colour.

High Consumption of Fast Food Linked to Higher Levels of Plastics-related Compounds in Urine, Study Found

Eating fast food may expose a person to potentially harmful chemicals known as phthalates, a new study suggests.

People who consumed lots of fast food tended to have levels of phthalates in their urine that were 24 percent to 40 percent higher than people who rarely ate take-out fare, the researchers found.

“We found statistically significant associations between the amount of fast food consumed in the prior 24 hours and the levels of two particular phthalates found in the body,” said study author Ami Zota. She is an assistant professor of environmental and occupational health at George Washington University’s Milken Institute School of Public Health, in Washington, D.C.

However, the study did not prove a cause-and-effect relationship between fast food and phthalate exposure.

The two phthalates in question are di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP) and diisononyl phthalate (DiNP), Zota said. Industries use these chemicals to make plastics flexible, and they can be found in a wide array of food packaging and food-processing machinery.

The U.S. Congress has permanently banned the use of DEHP in children’s toys, baby bottles and soothers, and it has temporarily banned DiNP for the same uses, according to the Environmental Working Group. The group is a nonprofit that focuses on environmental health issues.

The bans are based on concerns that phthalates can affect the development of the male reproductive system, Zota said. The chemicals also have been implicated in birth defects, childhood behavioral problems and childhood chronic illnesses, such as asthma.

The two phthalates can get into fast food during the processing of the food, explained Shanna Swan. She is a professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive science with the department of preventive medicine at Mount Sinai’s Icahn School of Medicine, in New York City.

The chemicals also can leach into the food from the packaging in which it is stored, both prior to cooking and when it is served, Zota said.

Fast food even can pick up phthalates from the vinyl gloves that restaurant workers wear to prevent food poisoning, Zota added.

“To reduce exposure to phthalates, my recommendation always is to minimize exposure to processed foods, and the ultimate processed food platform is the fast-food restaurant,” Swan said. “They don’t use anything fresh.”

The U.S. National Restaurant Association did not respond to a request for comment on the new findings.

To see whether people who eat fast food have more phthalates in their systems, Zota and her colleagues reviewed data on nearly 8,900 people participating in a regular survey on health and nutrition conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The participants all had answered detailed questions about their diet in the past 24 hours, including consumption of fast food, and provided a urine sample that could be tested for signs of DEHP and DiNP.

Researchers defined fast food as anything obtained from a restaurant without waiter or waitress service, or any type of pizza place. All carryout and delivery foods were also considered fast food.

People were considered heavy fast-food connoisseurs if they obtained more than 35 percent of their daily calories from such sources, Zota said.

Zota and her team found that the more fast food participants in the study ate, the higher their exposure to phthalates.

People with the highest consumption of fast food had 24 percent higher levels of the breakdown product for DEHP in their urine sample. Those same fast-food lovers had nearly 40 percent higher levels of DiNP byproducts in their urine compared to people who reported no fast food in the 24 hours prior to the testing.

Grains and meats most significantly contributed to phthalate exposure, the study reported. Grains include a wide variety of items, such as bread, cake, pizza, burritos, rice dishes and noodles, Zota explained.

But a group that represents the chemical industry took issue with the findings.

“The authors acknowledge that a limitation of the study is that they cannot establish a link between any phthalate exposure and fast-food consumption,” Lisa Dry, senior director of product communications at the American Chemistry Council, said in a statement.

“No phthalates were actually measured or confirmed to be present in any foods,” Dry added. “Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention over the last 10 years, the same data on which this study is based, demonstrate that exposure to phthalates from any source is extremely low, including any contribution from fast foods, and significantly lower than acceptable levels as set by regulatory agencies.”

Besides phthalates, the researchers also looked for exposure to another chemical found in plastic food packaging — bisphenol A (BPA). The investigators found no association between fast-food intake and BPA, but people who ate fast-food meat products had higher levels of BPA than people who reported no fast-food consumption.

The findings were published online April 13 in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

Expectant mothers should limit or eliminate fast food in their diet to prevent phthalates from affecting fetal development, Swan and Zota suggested.

“This is of particular concern for pregnant women, or women who might get pregnant,” Swan said. “The risky period seems to be early in pregnancy.”

Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

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