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Volume 84 Issue 22 | p. 48 | Newscripts
Issue Date: May 29, 2006

First steps on the career path?, Too much of a good thing, High-tech beans and toast

Department: Newscripts

First steps on the career path?

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In line with the old-school operation and Mousetrap games, tucked between the coveted Hershey Bar pillow and the Betty Spaghetti "Makin' the Scene" figures we find ... chemistry. Candy Lab, a candy-making kit sold by National Geographic, was a popular item at the Jefferson Elementary School auction this month in Caldwell, N.J.

The box front, with its "Science & Space" logo, extols the youth of America to "Make your own root beer, gummy candies, bubble gum, and marshmallows!" It has a photo of a precocious young chemist mixing a red liquid in a graduated plastic cup and blowing a pink bubble.

On the back of the box, National Geographic, across-the-street neighbor to the American Chemical Society on 16th Street N.W. in Washington, D.C., explains that "the chemistry of candy" is the simple act of dissolving sugar in water and adjusting heat levels.

With the big push on 16th Street to get youngsters interested in chemistry through hands-on experience, National Geographic reminds us that, in the end, you attract more bees with honey than with vinegar. But do the oversized glasses worn by the young chemist on the box send the right message? And are her glasses approved safety eyewear?

Too much of a good thing

A new report by the National Institutes of Health finds that some Americans are receiving too many nutrients as a result of taking multivitamin and mineral supplements (MVMs).

"Half of American adults are taking MVMs, and the bottom line is that we don't know for sure that they're benefiting from them," said J. Michael McGinnis, senior scholar at the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, who chaired the 13-member panel that studied MVMs. "In fact, we're concerned that some people may be getting too much of certain nutrients."

The panel recommended the combined use of calcium and vitamin D supplementation for postmenopausal women to protect bone health, and it advocated that antioxidants and zinc be considered for use by nonsmoking adults with early-stage, age-related macular degeneration, an eye condition that can cause blindness.

Conversely, the panel found no evidence to recommend β-carotene supplements, a form of vitamin A, for the general population and strong evidence to caution smokers against taking them, as β-carotene was linked to an increase in lung cancer among smokers who took the vitamin regularly.

The panel, among other things, recommends that Congress expand the Food & Drug Administration's authority and resources to require MVM manufacturers to disclose adverse events, to ensure quality production, and to facilitate consumer reporting of adverse events by including reporting information on dietary supplement labels.

High-tech beans and toast

Heinz, the baked beans giant, has formulated what it hopes is a killer application in its kitchen development laboratories in New Zealand—a frozen sandwich that cooks baked beans inside bread in a toaster.

The company, which hopes to launch the product, Heinz Baked Bean Toasties, in New Zealand next year, has highest hopes for the U.K. market, according to Nigel Dickie, director of U.K. corporate and government affairs.

"We are the baked bean capital of the world," Dickie says. "We eat baked beans with breakfast, lunch, tea, and dinner. We eat them hot, cold, right of out of the can."

Dickie says that the company is hoping to penetrate a more global demographic with the Pop-Tart-like sandwiches—college students.

He says that success will come down to a battle of efficiency between the toaster and the microwave. "We think the real advantage will be speed and convenience." He admits, however, that baked beans on toast isn't that complicated a snack to prepare with beans straight out of the can.

 
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