Monday, May 17, 2004

Wired NextFest 2004


Imagine if you could eat anything you wanted without worrying about getting sick. That day may not be so far away. This past Friday I attended the Wired NextFest a three-day mini World's Fair, where exhibits from leading visionary companies and scientists were showcased for the public. Along with the cars of the future and flying machines was an exhibit set up to show a new technology that could protect the food we eat from bacteria like E.Coli, staphyloccoccus, and salmonella.

Most food science can sound pretty scary, but this technology is actually non-chemical, and 100% natural. A food chemist with the University of Alberta, Dr. Hoon H. Sunwoo is developing a powder that he calls a "spice" to add to food that would prevent bacterial growth. Much like the way a flu vaccine is developed, hens are injected with specific foodborne pathogens. The hens then develop antibodies called IgY (immoglobulin Y). The antibodies accumulate in large quantities in the egg yolk, which is then collected, processed and freeze-dried into a powder than can be sprinkled on food. The powder would allow the body to be protected from the germs, with natural antibodies, rather than creating strains of super-resistant bacteria.

With a little sprinkle of this flavorless naturally derived powder, you would be able to eat anything you like from a street vendor and not worry about getting sick. Same thing for picnics and food left out of the refrigerator too long. This technology probably could have prevented all the nastiness affecting cruise ships lately too. It would be especially useful for people at high risk of infection like the elderly and pregnant women.