The editors and advisory board hope every piece of content in Food Quality & Safety magazine contains at least one (and hopefully more) teaching moments. I define a teaching moment as an “Aha” or “Wow” where a piece of knowledge is conveyed in a way that will be filed and remembered for future reference or the reader will say, “Now there is something that I/we can use in our operations.”
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I’m fortunate to have many of these moments over my career in the food industry. Going far back to sophomore year at Rutgers University, I can thank Dr. Roy Morse. The topic for the day in our food science laboratory was blanching. Dr. Morse tossed a 303 x 406 can plus two 8-ounce bags of spinach to a man in the class and challenged him to put 1 pound of spinach in the can. The student worked like crazy and got about 5-6 ounces in the can. Dr. Morse then put the contents of two more bags into a steamer. He covered the steamer and two minutes later, voila—a pound of spinach goes easily into a can. Lesson #1: Blanching reduces volume and removes intracellular air. The blanched spinach also had a bright green color—Lesson #2: Blanching fixes color. Dr. Morse then ran an enzyme assay to show that proper blanching inactivates enzymes. Very applied, very visual, and easily remembered.
I can thank Dr. Fergus Clydsedale of the University of Massachusetts for another teaching moment. Dr. Clydsedale did a talk on “Food Facts and Fallacies” while on sabbatical at UC Davis. One of his stories resonated with me for years. He asked students how would they react to the following proposal if they worked for the FDA:
I have a new business. I am going to create an army of giant six-legged, winged creatures. Each day, I will let them out of the barn and encourage them to eat and eat. When they return in the evening, another giant winged creature will stimulate them to regurgitate on the floor after which the second creature will fan the vomit with its wings to dry the material out. This will lower the water activity and help preserve it. I will then package the product and sell it to the public.
As he was telling the story, the faces of the audience ranged from grossed out to horrified. Dr. Clydsedale ended by saying, “Well, that is exactly how honey is made.”
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So why talk about teaching moments? We as editors encourage our readers to share their own teaching moments, especially those pertaining to food safety, quality, and sanitation. Send your moments to Marian Zboraj ([email protected]), Dr. Vasavada ([email protected]), or myself ([email protected]).