Japanese Companies Go High-tech in the Battle Against Food Waste

Tetsushi Kajimoto wrote . . . . . . . . .

Japanese companies are ramping up the use of artificial intelligence and other advanced technology to reduce waste and cut costs in the pandemic, and looking to score some sustainability points along the way.

Disposing of Japan’s more than 6 million tonnes in food waste costs the world’s No.3 economy some 2 trillion yen ($19 billion) a year, government data shows. With the highest food waste per capita in Asia, the Japanese government has enacted a new law to halve such costs from 2000 levels by 2030, pushing companies to find solutions.

Convenience store chain Lawson Inc has started using AI from U.S. firm DataRobot, which estimates how much product on shelves, from onigiri rice balls to egg and tuna sandwiches, may go unsold or fall short of demand.

Lawson aims to bring down overstock by 30% in places where it has been rolled out, and wants to halve food waste at all of its stores in 2030 compared with 2018.

Disposal of food waste is the biggest cost for Lawson’s franchise owners after labour costs.

Drinks maker Suntory Beverage & Food Ltd is experimenting with another AI product from Fujitsu Ltd to try to determine if goods such as bottles of oolong tea and mineral water have been damaged in shipping.

Until now, that’s been a time-consuming human endeavour. With the new AI, Suntory hopes to gauge when a damaged box is just that, or when the contents themselves have been damaged and need to be returned.

Suntory aims to reduce the return of goods by 30-50% and cut the cost of food waste and develop a common standard system that can be shared by other food makers and shipping firms.

SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT GOALS

Japan’s notoriously fussy shoppers are showing signs of getting on board, especially as the coronavirus pandemic hits incomes.

Tatsuya Sekito launched Kuradashi, an e-commerce firm dealing in unsold foods at a discount, in 2014 after seeing massive amounts of waste from food processors while working for a Japanese trading firm in China.

The online business is now thriving due partly to a jump in demand for low-priced unsold foods as consumers became more cost conscious amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Sales grew 2.5 times last year from a year before, while the amount of food waste has doubled since the coronavirus cut off food supply chain,” Sekito told Reuters.

Kuradashi has a network of 800 companies, including Meiji Holdings Co, Kagome Co and Lotte Foods Co, who sell it a total 50,000 items including packs of instant curry, smoothies and high-quality nori.

“Japanese shoppers tend to be picky but we attract customers by offering not just a sale but a chance to donate a portion of purchases to a charity, raising awareness about social issues,” Sekito said.

Membership numbers jumped to 180,000 in 2021 from 80,000 in 2019.

Others have also joined forces with food firms in developing new technological platform to cut food waste as part of global efforts to meet sustainable development goals (SDGs).

NEC Corp is using AI that can not only analyse data such as weather, calendar and customers’ trends in estimating demand but also give reasoning behind its analysis.

NEC has deployed the technology to some major retailers and food makers, helping them reduce costs by 15%-75%.

NEC hopes to share and process data through a common platform among makers, retailers and logistics, to reduce mismatches in supply chains.

“Reducing food waste is not our ultimate goal,” said Ryoichi Morita, senior manager overseeing NEC’s digital integration.

“Eventually, we hope it can lead to resolve other business challenges such as minimizing costs, fixing labour shortages, streamlining inventory, orders and logistics.”

Source: Reuters

What You Need to Know About the New J&J COVID Vaccine

Steven Reinberg wrote . . . . . . . . .

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved the emergency use of Johnson & Johnson’s single-shot coronavirus vaccine, adding a third weapon to the arsenal the United States is building to battle the pandemic.

The overall effectiveness of the J&J vaccine in protecting recipients against any case of COVID-19 (66%) is not as high as that of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines (95%). But J&J’s single shot was very effective where it really counted: preventing severe illness. The vaccine showed 86 percent efficacy against severe forms of COVID-19 in the United States and 82 percent efficacy against severe disease in South Africa, where a potentially tougher new variant of coronavirus was circulating. None of the nearly 22,000 people who were vaccinated the trial died of COVID-19.

So, experts believe J&J’s vaccine will be a valuable new option for many Americans.

“It’s easy to look at the numbers and assume this vaccine is less effective, but when the race to develop a COVID-19 vaccine began, scientists were hopeful for a 50% efficacy rate. We have managed to knock that out of the park at least three times now, so we epidemiologists are still very excited about the vaccines with a perceived ‘lower’ efficacy rate,” said Katelyn Jetelina, an assistant professor at the UTHealth School of Public Health, in Dallas.

“The bottom line is this, if you’re eligible to receive any COVID-19 vaccine, it’s important that you take the first opportunity you can. All of the vaccines granted authorization in the U.S. are safe and effective, and we are hopeful that vaccines will help stop this pandemic,” Jetelina noted in a university news release.

So, how does the J&J vaccine work and is it right for you?

Here is what you need to know:

What is the J&J vaccine?

The J&J vaccine is based on existing technology that uses an adenovirus that is a common cause of respiratory infections. The DNA in the adenovirus is changed so that it makes a part of the SARS-CoV-2 virus to which the body develops an immune response.

How does the J&J vaccine differ from other COVID-19 vaccines?

The Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccine technology uses genetic material that codes for parts of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. When injected, the vaccine causes people to make pieces of virus to which the body develops immunity. The genetic material breaks down quickly, so it stays in cells for only a short period. That’s why these vaccines have to be kept in very cold temperatures until they are used.

How safe and effective is the J&J vaccine?

The vaccine produced antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 in 90% of people who received it after the first dose. According to J&J, one dose was 66% effective in preventing moderate to severe COVID-19 and 100% effective in preventing hospitalization and death from COVID-19. No one given this vaccine developed a severe allergic reaction, and side effects were similar to other vaccines, including fever. The vaccine did not appear to cause any serious complications.

These tips were released March 1 by the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Nearly 4 million doses of the J&J vaccine have already been shipped and will begin to be delivered to states for injections starting on Tuesday, the Associated Press reported. J&J will deliver about 16 million more doses by the end of March and 100 million doses by the end of June.

FDA advisory panel members who gave their blessing to the vaccine on Friday said the J&J approval made sense.

“It’s a relatively easy call; it clearly gets way over the bar, and it’s nice to have a single-dose vaccine,” said Eric Rubin, an infectious diseases specialist at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, in Boston, and a member of the FDA advisory panel. He told the Washington Post, “It’s a bit challenging about how to use it clinically right now, but the demand is so large, it clearly has a place.”

Another infectious disease expert also welcomed the approval.

“The addition of a third COVID-19 vaccine substantially reduces the time it takes the U.S. to reach herd immunity — when a high enough proportion of the population is immunized and we can disrupt the spread of this disease,” said Dr. Lisa Lee, a public health expert who specializes in infectious diseases.

“Getting 75% to 85% of the population vaccinated will be easier with this additional vaccine option, especially because it, unlike the first two [from Pfizer and Moderna], does not require a complex frozen or ultra-frozen transport and storage system, and requires only one shot, instead of the two required by the others,” said Lee, who is associate vice president for research and innovation at Virginia Tech.

Source: HealthDay

In Pictures: Food of Duddell’s (都爹利會館) in Central, Hong Kong

Fine Dining Cantonese Cuisine

The Michelin 1-star Restaurant

Stroke Affecting the Eye Requires Immediate Treatment, Can Signal Future Vascular Events

While most people think of strokes affecting the brain, they can also affect the eye. Central retinal artery occlusion (CRAO) is a rare form of acute ischemic stroke that occurs when blood flow is blocked to the main artery of the eye. It typically causes painless, immediate vision loss in the impacted eye, with fewer than 20% of people regaining functional vision in that eye.

Today, the American Heart Association published a new scientific statement, “Management of Central Retinal Artery Occlusion,” in Stroke, an American Heart Association journal. The American Association of Neurological Surgeons/Congress of Neurological Surgeons Cerebrovascular Section affirms the educational benefit of the scientific statement, and it has been endorsed by the North American Neuro-Ophthalmology Society, the American Academy of Ophthalmology Quality of Care Secretariat and the American Academy of Optometry.

“Central retinal artery occlusion is a cardiovascular problem disguised as an eye problem. It is less common than stroke affecting the brain but is a critical sign of ill health and requires immediate medical attention,” said Chair of the statement writing committee Brian C. Mac Grory, M.B.B.Ch., B.A.O., M.R.C.P., an assistant professor of neurology and staff neurologist at the Duke Comprehensive Stroke Center at Duke University School of Medicine in Durham, North Carolina. “Unfortunately, a CRAO is a warning sign of other vascular issues, so ongoing follow-up is critical to prevent a future stroke or heart attack.”

In a comprehensive review of the world literature, committee members from the specialties of neurology, ophthalmology, cardiology, interventional neuroradiology, neurosurgery and vitreoretinal surgery summarized the state of the science in this condition. They found indications that this type of stroke can be caused by problems with carotid arteries, the blood vessels in the neck. However, there is also evidence CRAOs could be caused by problems with the heart, such as atrial fibrillation, which is the most common irregular heart rhythm. The risk of having a CRAO increases with age and in the presence of cardiovascular risk factors such as hypertension, hyperlipidemia, Type 2 diabetes, smoking and obesity.

The new scientific statement notes the lack of large clinical trials on CRAOs leads to uncertainty within the medical community of exactly what causes them or the best way to treat them. As a result, there is wide variability in diagnosis and treatment methods. Most concerning, according to Mac Grory, is that many practitioners may not recognize CRAO as a form of stroke resulting in patients receiving delayed testing and treatment, often in the outpatient clinic instead of the emergency department.

“We know acute CRAO is a medical emergency requiring early recognition and triage to emergency medical treatment,” Mac Grory said. “There is a narrow time window for effective treatment of CRAO and a high rate of serious related illness. So, if a person is diagnosed in a doctor’s office or other outpatient clinic, they should be immediately sent to a hospital emergency department for further evaluation and treatment.”

Current literature suggests that treatment with intravenous tissue plasminogen activator (tPA), a “clot buster” that is also used to treat brain strokes, may be effective. But tPA must be administered within 4.5 hours of the first sign of symptoms to be most effective and safe.

The writing committee also noted that emerging treatments, such as hyperbaric oxygen and intra-arterial alteplase, show promise but require further study. Other potential treatments that require further research and evaluation include novel thrombolytics to break up clots and novel neuroprotectants (substances capable of preserving brain function and structure) for use in tandem with other therapies to restore blood flow in the blocked artery.

Because of the potential for future strokes or even heart attacks, patients should undergo urgent screening and treatment of vascular risk factors. The writing committee notes that the complexities of diagnosing and treating CRAOs require a team of specialists working together. Secondary prevention (including monitoring for complications) must be a collaborative effort between neurologists, ophthalmologists, cardiologists and primary care clinicians. Risk factor modification includes lifestyle and pharmacological interventions.

Source: American Heart Association

Egg White Bundles

Ingredients

1 piece tofu
20 g crab roe
10 egg whites
1 egg yolk
2 scallops
6 stalks Shanghai bok choy (cooked)
4 peeled shrimps
dash ground white pepper
180 g mashed shrimp meat
1 cup stock

Thickening Solution

1 tsp cornstarch
1 Tbsp water

Method

  1. Cut peeled shrimp and scallops into small dices.
  2. Beat egg whites and using a flat bottom frying pan, make six thin egg white crepes.
  3. Mix mashed shrimp meat with egg yolk, tofu and pepper to form filling.
  4. Place filling, and diced shrimp and scallops on egg white crepes. Wrap and form into bundles.
  5. Steam bundles for 5-7 minutes until cooked.
  6. Make a clear sauce using the stock and the thickening solution.
  7. Place the bundles and shanghai bok choy on a serving platter. Garnish the bundles with crab roe.
  8. Spoon sauce on top of the egg white bundles and serve hot.

Source: Great Chefs in Hong Kong


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