Artisanal cheesemaking is an important industry in Mexico, but many varieties of artisanal Mexican cheeses are in danger of disappearing because they have not been adequately documented. A team of dairy science experts is working to prevent that loss by collecting the information needed to standardize, protect, and preserve traditional artisanal production processes and to seek protected designation of origin (PDO) status for those that qualify. Their review is published in Articles in Press and will appear in the May 2016 issue of the Journal of Dairy Science. "Currently, cheesemaking is one of the most important industries in Mexico," explained lead investigators Aarón F. González-Córdova and Belinda Vallejo-Cordoba, of the Laboratorio de Química y Biotecnología de Productos Lácteos, Coordinación de Tecnología de Alimentos de Origen Animal, at the Centro de Investigación en Alimentación y Desarrollo, A.C., in Hermosillo, Mexico. "The importance of artisanal cheesemaking is reflected in the estimation that around 70% of all Mexican cheese comes from small-scale productions." González-Córdova, Vallejo-Cordoba and colleagues examined the challenges facing artisanal cheesemaking in Mexico. Among those challenges are: In their review, the authors describe the production methods and characteristics of eight important artisanal cheese varieties produced in Mexico and discuss efforts that have been made to preserve these cheeses. "Certain varieties of artisanal Mexican cheese, such as Bola de Ocosingo, Poro de Balancan, Crema de Chiapas, and regional Cotija cheeses, possess unique characteristics that make them potentially eligible to be protected as PDO products. This distinction could help to expand their frontiers and allow them to become better known and appreciated in other parts of the world," added González-Córdova and Vallejo-Cordoba. "With sufficient information, official Mexican regulations could be established that would encompass and regulate the manufacture of Mexican artisanal cheeses." "There is a rich cultural heritage in the dairy foods that we eat. Artisanal Mexican cheeses are part of that heritage. Unfortunately, a lack of scientific information on manufacturing endangers the future of these unique foods. Preservation of these cheeses will depend, therefore, on dairy foods research," said Matt Lucy, PhD, Editor-in-Chief, Journal of Dairy Science, and Professor of Animal Science, University of Missouri, USA. Explore further: Gustatory richness and health quality assured by natural cheese microbiota More information: "Invited review: Artisanal Mexican cheeses," by A. F. González-Córdova, C. Yescas, Á. M. Ortiz-Estrada, M. de los Ángeles De la Rosa-Alcaraz, A. Hernández-Mendoza, and B. Vallejo-Cordoba, Journal of Dairy Science, published online in advance of Volume 99, Issue 5 (May 2016)
News Article | December 18, 2015
Statoil ASA has submitted to Norwegian authorities the plan for development and operation (PDO) of Oseberg Vestflanken 2 in the North Sea.
It’s official: 2015 was the hottest year on record. Global data show that a powerful El Niño system, marked by warmed waters in the tropical Pacific Ocean, helped to drive atmospheric temperatures well past 2014’s record highs. Some researchers suggest that broader Pacific trends could spell even more dramatic temperature increases in years to come. Released on 20 January, the global temperature data come from three independent records maintained by NASA, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the UK Met Office. All three data sets document unprecedented high temperatures in 2015, pushing the global average to at least 1 ºC above pre-industrial levels. Although El Niño boosted temperatures late in the year, US government scientists say that the steady increase in atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases continues to drive overall warming. “The reason why this is such a warm record year is because of the long-term trend,” says Gavin Schmidt, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York City. “And there is no evidence that this long-term trend has slowed.” Average global surface temperatures in 2015 were 0.16 °C higher than in 2014, the next-warmest year on record, says NOAA. Almost all areas of the globe, including both land and sea, experienced above-normal temperatures. Satellite and balloon records of temperatures in the upper atmosphere showed less warming owing to a delayed response to El Niño, but are expected to rise faster in 2016. Overall, global temperatures have increased by 0.1–0.2 ºC per decade since the 1970s, says Thomas Karl, director of NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information in Asheville, North Carolina. “Clearly the 2015 data continues the pattern,” Karl says. “This trend will continue.” The current El Niño is predicted to continue to boost the average global temperature over the next several months. This could translate into another year of record heat. But the question facing scientists is whether the near-record El Niño that developed in 2015 has helped to flip the Pacific Ocean into a warmer state that will favour the development of such systems in future, and will boost global surface temperatures. The Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) is a 15- to 30-year cycle that increases sea surface temperatures across the eastern Pacific in its positive phase and produces cooler temperatures in its negative phase. Since 1998, after the last major El Niño and a subsequent La Niña cooling system, the PDO has been mostly negative. Some scientists say that the cooling helped to suppress the increase in global temperatures in the early part of the millennium. But since early 2014, the PDO has been largely positive. “It sure looks to me like we’ve changed phases in the PDO,” says Kevin Trenberth, a climate scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, Colorado. Some studies have tied the PDO to long-term temperature trends1. The PDO was largely negative in the mid-1970s, when global temperature increases slowed. It was mostly positive in the 1980s and 1990s, when temperatures registered faster increases. But scientists debate the climatic links between the PDO and both El Niño and global temperature. “If you try to look at PDO and global temperatures, you can come up with a variety of relationships,” says Karl, who questions whether the oscillation is an independent phenomenon or merely an extension of El Nino. Trenberth notes that the PDO is related to the El Niño–La Niña cycle in the tropical Pacific. That leaves open the possibility that it could fade with El Niño, which models predict will diminish over the next several months. But he says that the PDO is also a result of longer-term fluctuations in ocean currents that push warm water deep into the ocean or keep it closer to the surface. Jerry Meehl, a climate modeller at the NCAR, has a study under review that suggests that the PDO is likely to remain in a positive state over the coming decade. In that analysis, Meehl and his colleagues plugged actual atmospheric and ocean data from 2013 into a global climate model and then ran the model forward to simulate how the climate might change. The model evolved into a positive PDO and remained there. “Over the next ten years, we see higher rates of warming,” says Meehl. He adds that this does not change the overall assessment that global warming has proceeded apace over the past century. Rather, he says that global temperatures vary and often increase in stepwise fashion over decades. Scientists are now trying to understand how ocean circulation works and how much changes in it can affect global temperatures. “We are still trying to figure that out,” says Meehl. “It’s really intriguing. That’s why it’s exciting for climate science.”
The crimson stigma of the saffron flower (Crocus sativus) is one of the oldest and most expensive spices in the world, particularly those varieties which are internationally recognised for their quality, such as saffron grown in Spain. This has led to the fraudulent labelling of non-Spanish saffron. "Over the past few years the media have been reporting this fraudulent activity, but up until now there were barely any analytical tools that could be used to detect said fraud. So, we created a new strategy to determine the authenticity of saffron based on metabolomics or, in other words, the chemical fingerprints of foods," explains Josep Rubert, a researcher at University of Chemistry and Technology (UCT Prague, Czech Republic) and the University of Valencia (Spain). The new technique allows for three types of saffron to be defined: one which is certified with the Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) from La Mancha or Aragon, another which is grown and packaged in Spain (although it does not have the PDO certificate) and a third category which is packaged as 'Spanish saffron' but, despite its name, is of unknown origin (although most likely packaged in Spain). With these possibilities, scientists from the UCT Prague leaded by Prof. Jana Hajslova—and where Rubert is also carrying out postdoctoral research including this study —, collected 44 commercial saffron samples in order to test the authenticity of what's stated in the product labels. The findings, published this month by the journal Food Chemistry, revealed that more than 50% of the samples were fraudulent, as 26 ones labelled as 'Spanish saffron' were neither grown nor processed in Spain. "It is highly likely that lower quality saffron is purchased in other countries (such as Morocoo, Iran and India according to our data) at a much lower price than in Spain -indicates the researcher —, to later be packaged and sold as Spanish saffron despite being of unknown origin a fraudulent activity that gambles with consumers' trust". The technique developed by scientists from the Czech Republic and Spain has confirmed that the saffron labelled with the PDO Certificate from La Mancha (and Aragon) were indeed grown and processed in Spain. "Here there was no fraudulent activity the saffron perfectly matched up with our models," emphasises Rubert, "unlike the samples of 'Spanish saffron' that had either a completely different chemical fingerprint or a different collection of small molecules". Chemistry and statistics to expose the fraud The authors of this study combined chemistry with statistics in order to develop their methodology. The first phase of the study consisted in identifying the metabolites or small molecules characteristic of saffron. After, a method was created to detect these small molecules using liquid chromatography coupled with high-resolution mass spectrometry. On one hand, the statistical analyses have served to detect the clear differences between the three types of saffron in addition to validating the technique. According to the authors, the result "is a top-quality model that correctly classified 100% of these samples in addition to having the capacity to correctly categorise others (even if they are unknown and do not have a label) more than 85% of the time". The authors suggest that glycerophospholipids and their oxidised lipids are the best molecular markers for determining the origin of saffron. They have also observed that the saffron technology and processing play a crucial role, "specifically during the drying process, wherein transformation of the product is determined by the temperature at which the process is carried out. The place where the saffron originates also has an influence on the end product". For saffron originating from La Mancha, for example, the drying process involves laying out the fresh stigmas over sieves that are placed next to a heat source such as a fire, hot coal, a stove or a brazier. Saffron dehydration happens quickly -in half an hour- and is carried out at a temperature of 70 ºC which accelerates lipid oxidation. Over recent decades, saffron originating from Castile-La Mancha has represented over 97% of Spain's domestic production a statistic that presents an enormous gap with regard to exportations. Between 1997 and 2013, an average of 2,813 kg of saffron was produced annually in Spain. However, Spain exported 35,978 kg of this product on average each year. Where did those remaining 33,165 kg come from? "They came from other countries, such as Iran or Morocco," mentions Pedro M. Pérez again, manager of the Protected Designation of Origin Regulatory Body in La Mancha. He insists that: "That foreign saffron is brought to Spain and labelled as 'produced and packaged in Spain', which is true, but the label fails to indicate the saffron's true origin, meaning that the consumer does not have enough information to assess the product". The manager of the regulatory body reiterates that there is a Spanish national law dated 1999 in addition to a European law from 2011 regarding the proper labelling of foodstuffs, "but the competent authorities of Spain's Autonomous Communities are not successfully fulfilling their responsibilities with regard to saffron". Explore further: Smartphone maker HTC invests in UK, US firms More information: Josep Rubert et al. Saffron authentication based on liquid chromatography high resolution tandem mass spectrometry and multivariate data analysis, Food Chemistry (2016). DOI: 10.1016/j.foodchem.2016.01.003
It's the phenomenon called El Nino, which is happening now as ocean water temperatures rise above normal across the central and eastern Pacific, near the equator. Its effects will leave the U.S. Northeast warmer than usual, the Midwest drier, and the West and the South wetter. And scientists have a message for everyone bracing for one of the strongest El Nino events on record: get used to it. While El Nino oscillates on a more or less yearly cycle, another dynamic in Pacific Ocean water temperatures, known as the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO), has the potential to accelerate global warming and increase the severity of El Nino episodes, scientists said. The last time the PDO was, as it may be now, in a prolonged positive, or "warm" phase, it corresponded with two of the strongest El Ninos on record. "When you really have a monster El Nino, it could be enough to flip the PDO into a new phase for a decade or so," said William Patzert, a climatologist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California. "Keep your eyeballs peeled because maybe we're in for a decadal shift." Previous warm phases have also coincided with increased precipitation on the U.S. West Coast, signaling potential relief for California from a severe drought. Before January of 2014, the world experienced a 15-year period of mostly negative values for the Pacific oscillation, according to data maintained by Nathan Mantua, an atmospheric scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Joint Institute for the Study of the Atmosphere and Oceans. That period saw only weak or moderate El Nino events. During the 21 years before that, the Pacific oscillation values trended mostly positive, a period that coincided with the 1982-83 and 1997-98 El Nino events, two of the strongest on record. Now, scientists are beginning to wonder if the 15-year period of relative El Nino calm is coming to a close, marking the start of a warmer, stormier era akin to the 1980s and 90s. The PDO index has been positive for 22 months through October, the longest such streak since a 26-month positive period between 2002 and 2004. Scientists are not sure if the current streak marks a longer-term turnaround or just a temporary blip like the 2002-2004 streak. "It's more likely that we'll have a change in phase and we'll remain in positive territory," said Kevin Trenberth of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado, noting that while a decadal shift was far from a guarantee, the odds in favor are approximately 2-to-1. In many ways, the weather of the 15 years before 2014 has resembled that of the mid-1940s to mid-1970s, the last prolonged period of a negative Pacific oscillation cycle, with drought in the American West and very few El Ninos, Patzert said. The recent period saw several moderate La Nina events, a counterpart to El Nino defined as cooler than normal sea surface temperatures in the eastern and central tropical Pacific that dumps rain on Australia and Indonesia but leaves the Southwest United States dry, including episodes in 1998-99, 1999-2000, 2007-08 and 2010-11. The warmer sea surface temperatures in the northern Pacific during the positive PDO phase tend to amplify El Nino's effects, Trenbirth said. Several scientists said the current El Nino could contribute to more positive PDO conditions at the moment and in the future. "The key ingredient is the strong El Nino," said NASA's Veronica Nieves, noting that strong episodes have historically triggered decadal shifts. She has submitted a paper to an academic journal noting arguing that the Pacific may be in store for another 20 years or more of warmer sea surface temperatures. To be sure, the two-year period of positive Pacific oscillation values that happened from 2002 to 2004, which saw weak and moderate El Ninos, is still fresh in scientists' minds, preventing them from being certain that the world is truly on the cusp of a decadal shift. But so far in these past two years, the values have been more sharply positive than the 2002-04 streak. This has implications beyond El Nino: the recent decade has been referred to as a 'hiatus' in global warming, with the negative PDO value seen as limiting global temperature gains. "If [PDO] transitions back into positive, we'd see a resumption in these more rapid rates of global warming," said Gerald Meehl, a climate scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado. "Having that shift in the background base state means that the peaks of the El Nino are going to be higher."