Food Allergy News and Tropical Smoothie Celebrates Milestone

Today’s serving includes a dramatic increase in anaphylactic food reactions, a product for onsite food safety testing and Tropical Smoothie achieves magic 100 milestone. 

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The Growing Concern of Food Allergies

Private insurance claim lines with diagnoses of anaphylactic food reactions rose 377 percent from 2007 to 2016, according to data from FAIR Health, a national, independent, nonprofit organization. Consulting its database of over 23 billion privately billed healthcare procedures, FAIR Health investigated food allergies and anaphylaxis, a severe, life-threatening allergic reaction that certain foods, as well as other substances, can induce in susceptible individuals. FAIR Health released its initial findings in an infographic and plans to issue a more expansive white paper on the subject in the coming months.

Analyzing claim lines (the individual procedures or services listed on an insurance claim) with diagnoses of anaphylactic food reactions in the period 2007-2016, FAIR Health found that peanuts were the most common specifically identified food causing anaphylaxis, accounting for 26 percent of those claim lines. Tree nuts and seeds followed closely at 18 percent. Also common were egg allergies, crustacean allergies (e.g., allergies to shrimp or lobster) and dairy allergies, making up, respectively, seven percent, six percent and five percent of claim lines. The most common category, however, was “other specific foods” (33 percent), which typically means the food causing the anaphylactic reaction is unknown.

FAIR Health data show that claim lines for the “other specific foods” category increased less (71 percent) from 2007 to 2016 than for anaphylactic food reactions associated with specific foods, indicating perhaps that physicians are becoming better educated and more adept at determining the cause of such reactions. By comparison, claim lines with diagnoses of peanut anaphylactic reactions increased 445 percent and those with diagnoses of tree nuts/seeds anaphylactic reactions increased 603 percent.

The increase in claim lines with diagnoses of history of food allergy from 2007 to 2016 was greater in rural (110 percent) than urban (70 percent) areas, FAIR Health data show. This finding is striking, given the common thinking that food allergies are much more of an urban than a rural problem.

Food allergies are commonly thought of as a childhood condition, but FAIR Health data show they are a broader issue. About two-thirds (66 percent) of all claim lines with diagnoses of history of food allergy from 2007 to 2016 were attributable to patients 18 years old and younger, but about a third (34 percent) were attributable to those over 18 years old.

FAIR Health President Robin Gelburd stated: “Food allergies are a growing national public health concern, and therefore it is fitting for FAIR Health to use its vast data repository to contribute to the body of knowledge on the subject. We intend to continue to study food allergies and to release findings that can inform research and policy.”

Click here to read the study.

Onsite Food Safety Testing

CibusDx, Inc. acquired Pronucleotein Biotechnologies, San Antonio, TX and licensed ApolloDx’s revolutionary diagnostic platform for development and commercialization of a new food safety testing system that can be used at any point in the global food supply chain, and provide results onsite within 30 minutes.

“The new testing system combines ApolloDx’s mobile, hand-held medical diagnostic system with Pronucleotein’s DNA aptamer assay technology for detecting pathogens in food onsite anywhere in the supply chain, from the farm to production facilities to seaports to the grocery store,” said CibusDx CEO Jared Bauer. “Unlike standard lab-based testing the CibusDx system reduces the time it takes to get results to 30 minutes or less from the current system requiring as long as four days. For consumers, food producers and distributors alike, this preserves the shelf life of food, while maintaining the safety,” Bauer added.

The CibusDx food safety testing system aims to provide food producers and government regulators with a reliable, affordable and convenient, point-of-need test system alternative to laboratory-based testing, as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration implements the 2011 Food Safety Modernization Act’s strategy of moving from responding to outbreaks of food contamination to preventing them.

The World Health Organization, in 2015, reported that one in ten people worldwide, or 600 million, fall ill every year from eating contaminated food and 420,000 die. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says an estimated 48 million people get sick within the U.S., 125,000 are hospitalized and 3,000 die each year from foodborne pathogens.

A key advantage of CibusDx’s approach is capturing the pathogen of choice with patented biological molecules, calledAPOLLOMER™ probes, that can bind to specific targets such as foodborne and waterborne pathogens, biological and chemical toxins as well as bacterial cell walls, cell capsules, parasites and viruses. Aptamer based APOLLOMER probes are similar to protein antibodies and rival their binding capability but are simpler and less expensive to produce.

“The CibusDx test strips do not require refrigeration and have an extended shelf life,” Bauer said. “They are small and lightweight, allowing them to be quickly shipped to any point in the food supply chain. In addition, our backend analytics are built into the platform to track test results, store data and push real-time information into software-based quality management systems.”

Bauer, who anticipates commercialization of the CibusDx system by late spring 2018, observed that the company’s portable, simple, inexpensive technology platform is capable of testing virtually anything relating to food safety.

AQA Secures Investment

Actionable Quality Assurance (AQA) received a $270,000 investment from RURO, Inc., which provided their expertise to AQA in the development of AQA’s SaaS. 

“We sought input from RURO due to their impactful work in high-tech science and safety industries,” said Eric Graves, CEO and company founder. “Our SaaS is the only solution to digitize food safety and quality data specifically for restaurant companies.”

AQA turns data into actionable items. AQA’s cloud-based software automates repetitious tasks performed by quality assurance teams, and turns physical, chemical and microbiological test results into clean, interpretable, real-time data and analytic graphics.

US restaurant companies are projected to grow to $116 billion in five years, and yet only one percent of food quality assurance data is currently stored in the cloud. The digitization of production data is accelerating rapidly across all industries, and the food industry is rapidly following this trend, according to Graves. 

Donato & Co. Coming to Berkeley

Donato Scotti, chef and proprietor of Donato Enoteca and CRU in Redwood City, and DESCO in Oakland, has partnered with fellow Italian chef and friend Gianluca Guglielmi on his fourth restaurant concept: Donato & Co., top photo.

Chef Donato Scotti
Photos by Nadia Andreini

Opening in Berkeley’s Elmwood retail district in late September, Donato & Co. will showcase rustic Italian cuisine with a contemporary twist, featuring house made pastas and locally sourced seafood and meats cooked over a live fire. The menu will reflect the chefs’ culinary philosophies of using fresh, simple ingredients in inventive ways, and draw upon each region of Italy with a sensibility only natives can bring. Wine, cocktails and beer will play a central role in the restaurant, with a menu that encourages exploration by including many small-production wines. 
“Gianluca and I have been talking about doing something special together for many years. Berkeley is such a unique location, and one of the biggest focal points for the food world. When the opportunity to open a restaurant here arose, we jumped on it. We have a shared focus that goes beyond the kitchen—we enjoy the planning, the innovation and the details behind bringing Italian cuisine to the table with simple, local ingredients.” 

Branzino, black Venere rice and asparagus puree
Photos by Nadia Andreini

The menu at Donato & Co. will be organized into distinct sections: Iron & Fire, featuring meats roasted on the rotisserie and over the grill; From the Fields, with a selection of salads, vegetarian and vegan dishes; Pasta & Co., with an array of house made pasta, risotto and other grains; and By the Sea, featuring seafood and shellfish. Each section will be inspired by the season and include dishes of all sizes that can be shared.

Donato & Co.’s interiors are designed by Chef Scotti and his longtime restaurant designer, Anna Klint of Iron Skirt. The warm, welcoming space features a 20-foot bar along the left wall with seating for 120 guests in the main dining room. Red, green, copper and wood tones fill the space, and stunning photographs of Italy, under the art direction of Bay Area photographer Deborah O’Grady, grace the right wall. A vintage Vespa in the center of the room will be no doubt be a playful conversation starter.
At Donato & Co., guests will never strain to hear their dining companions, thanks to a state-of-the-art Constellation and Libra acoustic system from Berkeley’s  Meyer Sound. Along with the base acoustic design, Constellation allows restaurants to control their sonic ambiance with a suite of innovative technologies, including room microphones, advanced signal processing, and self-powered loudspeakers.  Each Libra panel, featuring O’Grady’s photography, adds an visual element while also playing a crucial role in creating an ideal aural environment.

Tropical Smoothie Cafe’s Magic Milestone

Tropical Smoothie Cafe signed its 100th franchise agreement of the year, which will expand its footprint in the greater Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania area. 

“Year after year, Tropical Smoothie Cafe has experienced compounding success and consistent growth and we continue to leverage this momentum to expand our presence nationwide. We kicked off our 20th anniversary with a goal to open 100 new units by the end of 2017 and given the accelerated growth we’ve already experienced this year, we’re on track to outpace that goal,” said Mike Rotondo, CEO of Tropical Smoothie Cafe. “Over the past several years, entrepreneurs from across the country have joined the Tropical Smoothie Cafe team, recognizing that our business model and franchisee support structure have unlimited potential for success. Combine those strengths with our dedication to product innovation, showcased through creations such as the brand new Green Apple Matcha and PB Apple Power Up smoothies, and the opportunities for advancement are limitless.”

First-time Tropical Smoothie Cafe franchisee Lori Gast will help drive the brand’s growth in Pennsylvania, with her first location slated to open next spring just outside downtown Pittsburgh. Following her first opening, Gast plans to develop additional locations throughout the area over the next several years. 

“Two years ago, my husband and I first experienced Tropical Smoothie Cafe during a trip to North Dakota and simply fell in love with the product. The fresh and better-for-you food options coupled with incredible product innovation made the concept completely stand out in the crowded fast casual segment,” said Gast. “I am excited to begin my career in franchising by partnering with a brand dedicated to delivering a consumer experience that is second to none, a priority that has helped establish it as an industry leader and fueled its rapid nationwide growth and success.”

By 2020, Tropical Smoothie Cafe plans to have 1,000 stores open across the U.S.