Featured this week
Maleic anhydride (butenedioic anhydride, toxilic anhydride, 2,5-dioxofuran) is an organic compound with the formula C2H2(CO)2O.  Under normal conditions, maleic anhydride is found as colourless crystals or a white solid, with a choking, acrid smell. It melts at 58 degrees Celsius. Maleic anhydride is corrosive. It dissolves in water to give maleic acid. It also dissolves in most organic (carbon-containing) solvents. 
Some 20 French mayors have banned glyphosate from their municipalities, defying the government, which is now taking legal action to impose national legislation which allows the controversial weedkiller’s continued use for now. In 2017, President Emmanuel Macron had pledged to ban glyphosate in France within three years, rejecting a European Union decision to extend its use for five years after heated debate over whether glyphosate, developed by Bayer-owned Monsanto, can cause cancer. But Macron has since said that a blanket ban is not possible within that time frame. Bayer says regulators and extensive research have found glyphosate to be safe. Recently, the administrative tribunal of Rennes, western France, heard the mayor of Langouet, Brittany, who has banned the use of pesticides in his town within 150 meters of people’s homes and workplaces. Mayor Daniel Cueff told the court – which is set to rule next week – the ban was aimed at protecting residents from molecules considered a health risk. About 300 people attended the hearing and nearly 100,000 have signed a petition to support Cueff’s ban. A lawyer for the French state argued that is not in a mayor’s powers to ban phytosanitary products, which are regulated by the agriculture ministry. The ministry declined to comment, but Agriculture Minister Didier Guillaume said in January France will phase out 80% of its glyphosate usage by 2021. Farmers’ unions opposed the ban, saying there are no viable alternatives for the chemical and that a transition to organic farming is too costly. Allowing the mayor to override the state over glyphosate “would be the return of the local barons and the reign of the lords over their serfs,” Cedric Henry, head of Brittany farmers union FDSEA-35 said in a statement. Under current legislation, glyphosate application needs to stay five to 10 meters away from housing. Wheat growers’ union AGPB said in a statement that extending the non-treatment zone would withdraw thousands of hectares of land from production. Environment Minister Elisabeth Borne said that the government would review pesticides regulation soon. The government is also disputing local glyphosate bans in several other rural communes around France. Glyphosate is widely used in France, the European Union’s largest grain producer, mainly by farmers, gardeners and railway operators who want to get rid of unwanted grasses at low cost. Developed by Monsanto under the brand Roundup, Glyphosate is now off-patent and marketed worldwide by dozens of other firms including Dow Agrosciences and BASF.
Munching on low-fat potato chips might reduce the guilt compared with full-fat versions, but many people don’t find the texture as appealing. Now, researchers have developed a technique to analyse potato chips’ physical characteristics from simulated first bite to swallow, which they say could be used to help formulate a tastier low-fat snack. They report their results in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. Cutting fat in potato chips usually involves reducing the vegetable oil content. However, the oil helps give the product its characteristic crunch, taste and mouthfeel. When food scientists formulate a new low-fat chip, they often rely on trained sensory panellists to tell them how well the new snack simulates the full-fat version. This process can be expensive, time-consuming and often subjective, since perceptions can vary based on factors like a person’s saliva flow rate and composition. While at PepsiCo, Stefan Baier — now at Motif Ingredients—and Jason Stokes’ team at the University of Queensland wanted to develop a more objective method to analyse the physical characteristics of a potato chip at four stages of simulated eating: the first bite, when the chip is taken from the package and broken by the teeth; comminution, when the chip particles are broken down further and wet by saliva; bolus formation, when the small, softened particles begin to clump as enzymes in saliva digest the starches; and swallow, when the clumped mass moves to the rear of the mouth and is finally swallowed. To develop their method, called in vitro oral processing, the researchers used different instruments to measure the physical characteristics of chips with various oil contents at each of the four stages. For example, for the “first bite” stage, they conducted mechanical testing to measure the force required to break the chips, and for bolus formation, they measured the hydration rate of particles in buffer as the fragments became a soft solid. The researchers used the results to design a lower-fat chip coated in a thin layer of seasoning oil, which contained a small amount of a food emulsifier. The seasoning oil made the low-fat chip more closely resemble the greasiness of a full-fat one in tests with sensory panellists, but it only added 0.5% more oil to the product. Food scientists could use the new technique to link physical measurements with sensory perceptions, the researchers say.