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Fake French Fries: Rice on the Money?

February 9, 1996

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Cutting the fat in french fries by half would be a nice touch for millions of junk-food fans. Make that a rice touch.

Food technologists have developed a french fry that looks like the real thing, delivers 25 percent to 50 percent less fat and consists mainly of rice.

The bad news is that it tastes like rice _ not like a french-fried potato.

But that can be fixed, insists Ranjit Kadan, a food technologist with the Agricultural Research Service at the Southern Regional Research Center in New Orleans.

``The thing to remember is rice has a very mild taste, and you can flavor it with onions, spices or anything,″ Kadan says. Too, ``Since we are starting with rice flour, we can fortify it with protein, vitamins and minerals to make an even more nutritious, wholesome food.″

Rice is part of the bread and cereal food group that federal guidelines recommend as the main staple of any diet. The guidelines encourage consumers to get less than 30 percent of their daily calories from fat.

The Agriculture Department outlines how rice fries could be made:

After water is added to fine rice flour, the mixture is extruded through a screw-type machine and molded into conventional french-fry shape much as commercial breakfast cereals are formed. The fries would probably be cooked like regular french fries _ fried in oil at the factory and shipped frozen to consumers for reheating in a microwave or conventional oven.

When fried, the snack is crispy on the outside and fluffy white on the inside.

Kadan is uncertain why rice fries are lower in fat, but suggests it could be due to subtle differences in the chemistry of rice and potatoes.

No commercial production process has been developed. But food processor Rishellco Inc., of Crowley, La., is looking into manufacturing the new product.

Agriculture sees a bonus for farmers if rice fries catch on.

Rice growers have to sell broken kernels at a lower price _ about seven cents a pound compared with up to 24 cents for whole rice. Converting broken kernels into a new snack food would open new markets for grain growers.

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SPEARFISH, S.D. (AP) _ Don’t overlook the role of women in the nation’s agriculture business.

Women have taken a primary role on family ranches and farms and are the driving force in many commodity groups, says Darrell Cruea of the South Dakota governor’s Office of Economic Development.

``Right now the executive directors of almost any commodity group, or the presidents ... are women,″ Cruea said. ``I just believe these women have the resources and knowledge to do some pretty exciting things.″

Other experts agree.

A 1990 survey found that more than 68 percent of women responding said they were joint operators of the ranch or farm and 4 percent were the main operators, according to farm financial management specialist Burton Pflueger. Bookkeeping was among the chores of 87 percent, 97 percent ran farm errands, 68 percent were responsible for animal health and 63 percent for animal feeding.

``Many operations won’t make it without that contribution of family labor,″ said Pflueger, of the South Dakota State University Extension Service.

Pflueger cited a recent estimate that women put in 68 hours per week in unpaid domestic work, another 22 hours at farm work and five hours of volunteer work.

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