In our other annual review over at Cleanroom News, we may have already mentioned the apparent cognitive dissonance of pairing ‘Top 5’ and ‘2020’ in any single sentence. But here we are, doing it again! And, as much as we too feel the relief of closing the door on the back of that most challenging of years, we should also note that a good measure of intrigue and innovation did abound, as long as you knew where to look. And look we did, bringing you everything from bagels and ‘biotics’ to ketchup-flavored ice-cream and psilocybin – the latter two were definitely not connected! But even amongst this wealth of singularly bizarre topics, one emerged as the most well read: unsurprisingly, it was about alcohol. Who didn’t see that coming? Up from a 4th place listing the year before, our enthusiastic embrace of the ‘Quarantini’ was only partially balanced by a somewhat healthier deep dive into a potential new superfood: the lupini bean. OK, the balance was very skewed in favor of the cocktail but if the year taught us anything it was that we all have our limits. And that if we opt for stockpiling liquor instead of beans, well it may just be that we have to forgive ourselves. Because…2020.
When we published this article in early April, we could not have anticipated the explosive rise in at-home alcohol consumption as the year progressed. Perhaps we should have seen the writing on the wall as consumers stockpiled and hoarded wine, beer, and hard liquor in the face of bars and restaurants shuttering. And what was hardship for some was a business boon for others – app-based Saucy, for instance, experienced a 300% increase in orders for alcohol delivery. From San Francisco to Guizhou, China to your local liquor store, we followed a boozy trail that led to interesting insights into our pandemic priorities. Here’s the link to our #1 most popular article of 2020…
Well, we at least started the year with the very best of intentions for our health and well-being. With high hopes for food news in 2020, we were excited to delve deep into the unanticipated rise in popularity of what we termed the ‘Itsy-Bitsy-Teeny-Weenie-Tasty-Snacking-Yellow-Beanie.’ The lupini bean seemingly burst onto the gastronomic scene as a high protein, fiber-rich, prebiotic, and antioxidant packed food source that was also gluten free. As plant-based protein options continue to find their welcome place in the grocery stores, could a modest little yellow bean rival the nutrition powerhouse that is soy? Reflecting on questions of sustainability, population growth, and allergy/contamination issues, we concluded… Well, click here to read it all for yourself in our #2 most popular article of 2020!
Nothing escaped the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, not even Thanksgiving. This year saw discussions move from avoiding turkey-induced somnolence at Thanksgiving Day gatherings to avoiding the traditional family celebration altogether. But one or two themes did echo previous years’ articles, top of which were the dangers of food-borne illness through contamination. For those unlucky enough to be affected, coronavirus was not the only potential uninvited guest – also present at the holiday table were Salmonella, Campylobacter, and Listeria. For a refresher on how we navigated the new dangers of this traditional gathering, look back at our #3 top article of 2020.
We knew 2020 would come to an end at some point but no, this was not a New Years announcement but rather a discussion of innovative new food packaging. Dreaming of magical Pacific islands, we headed out to Maui (in a virtual sense) to check out the ways in which a boutique chocolatier, Maui Ku‘ia Estate Chocolate, had joined the trend for using biodegradable materials in food wrappings. In the context of existing innovations like WikiCells which combine plant-based particles and alginate to form an edible wrapping and Pepceuticals’ creation of a biologically-active meat packaging film, we examined questions of sustainability, recycling/upcycling/downcycling, and asked whether the laudable goal of ‘zero waste’ could realistically be achieved. For our conclusions, take another look at 2020’s #4 top article in Food Contact Surfaces.
Lovers of weird and bizarre facts rejoiced when we published a decidedly fishy exposé of the art of ‘competitive siluriforme noodler.’ Historically popular in the American deep south, we can only assume that this solitary undertaking could be a contender for the 2020’ #1 Socially Distant Activity Award.’ In a venture that involves reaching a bare extremity into the murky underwater lair of a bottom feeder, the noodler waits for a bite and hauls the fish out using his (or her) hand alone. A search on ‘What is the point of noodling?’ did little to demystify the diversion so we set our focus instead on examining USDA’s regulation of the commercial industry. Did you know, for instance, that catfish products are routinely tested for the presence of contaminants such as nitrofurans, fluoroquinolones, malachite green, gentian violet, heavy metals, and pesticides? If this comes as news, perhaps it’s time to review the tail (fish – tail, see what we did there?) in 2020’s #5 top article!