What were some of the food happenings in 2007?
Probiotics: Everyone started saying "yo" to yogurt, cheese and foods that contain probiotics beneficial bacteria in the digestive tract that are supposed to help with digestion and the immune system. Just like germs, the products are still multiplying, from books such as "The Probiotics Revolution," by Gary B. Huffnagle (Bantam, $24), to nutritional supplements, snack bars, drinks, baby formula and chocolate. The products claim to help "regulate your digestive health" or "strengthen your body's defenses."
Concerns over digestion aren't new early-1900s newspapers were full of ads about tonics and remedies for "indigestion" and "dyspepsia." But probiotics appears to be backed by real science.
Fresh fervor: This is still a major selling buzzword, from restaurant menus to farmers markets to convenience foods. Latest to jump on the bandwagon are frozen entrees that "steam-cook" in microwave packaging, such as Birds Eye Steamfresh and Healthy Choice Cafe Steamers. This is great if products are really fresh; bad if it's just more marketing hype.
Popcorn lung: Once again we discovered the dangers of seemingly innocent food additives. A butter flavoring in microwave popcorn, diacetyl, was linked to a severe lung ailment in popcorn plant workers. The nation's four biggest makers of microwave popcorn recently announced that they are removing the chemical from their popcorn recipes. Diacetyl occurs naturally in foods such as butter, cheese and fruits, and the FDA approved its use as a flavor ingredient.
Kicking it down a notch: Chefs Emeril Lagasse and Mario Batali became celebrities, thanks to the Food Network, but this year the cable channel didn't renew contracts for "Emeril Live!" and "Molto Mario." And "Wolfgang Puck" moved to the Fine Living TV Network.
Next year, instead of professional chefs, you'll likely see more gorgeous babes such as Rachael Ray, Sandra Lee and Giada De Laurentiis. (Who really cooks wearing low-cut tops and white pants?)
Reality shows "The Next Food Network Star" and Bravo's "Top Chef" captured the highest ratings for cable TV food shows. Paula Deen, who would probably douse an aspirin in butter before taking it, remained popular, as did the foul-mouthed Gordon Ramsay's "Hell's Kitchen" and "Kitchen Nightmares" on Fox TV.
100-calorie snacks: More snack foods, from chips to crackers to cookies, have been pre-portioned in 100-calorie packages. The trend means more profits for food manufacturers, because individual snack-packs are nearly always more expensive per ounce than economy-size bags. The pre-portioned packs can guard against overeating, if you stop at one (or two) packs. But all that extra packaging can't be good for the environment.
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