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USDA Develops Low-Sodium Kosher Dills

November 28, 1995

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Love those kosher dills but not all that sodium?

Agriculture Department researchers may have resolved that dilemma with a new formula that cuts the salt in kosher dill pickles by 40 percent without affecting taste.

The USDA pickle, the result of a year-long study but not yet available commercially, replaces some of the salt with potassium chloride and adds calcium chloride and magnesium chloride as a nutritional balance.

``I got the idea from salt substitutes that contain equal amounts of sodium chloride and potassium chloride. Our goal, however, was to be sure we didn’t sacrifice flavor as we reduced sodium,″ said Roger McFeeters, a USDA food scientist stationed at North Carolina State University in Raleigh.

Regular kosher dills are about 2 percent salt.

``Although we tried cutting the salt by as much as 60 percent, we found we couldn’t go higher than 40 percent without losing flavor,″ McFeeters said.

His work dealt only with kosher dill pickles and he noted that the formula won’t necessarily provide the same results with other kinds of pickles.

``People react differently to food flavor, so it is difficult to predict what will work,″ he said.

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WASHINGTON (AP) _ A new, cold-hardy shrub should be available to landscapers and other gardeners in the next couple of years, courtesy of the Agriculture Department.

Developed by USDA’s Agricultural Research Service, the leatherleaf viburnum, part of the honeysuckle family, is called Cree. Its scientific name is Viburnum rhytidophyllum.

Cree has compact growth and dark-green foliage with small, creamy-white flowers that open in 3-inch to 4-inch diameter clusters. It also bears lots of bright-red berries, which ripen in August and turn black as they mature.

The shrub is hardy and evergreen in areas where the average annual low temperature ranges from minus-10 degrees to 20 degrees Fahrenheit.

In 13 years, densely branched Cree shrubs grew 8 feet tall and 8 feet wide, according to a description of the new plant in the November issue of the ARS publication Agricultural Research. The shrub has been made available to cooperating wholesale nurseries.

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WASHINGTON (AP) _ Government researchers say they have come a little closer to figuring out why a toxin made by fungi that infect corn makes farm animals sick.

The link, according to Agricultural Research Service and Emory University scientists, is between the toxins, called fumonisins, and a class of essential fats called sphingolipids.

In their studies, the researchers found that high fumonisin levels stopped cells from making the sphingolipids. Instead, one of the fat’s building blocks, called sphinganine, accumulated at high levels. Also, cell division accelerated or slowed abnormally, which is usually a sign of disease.

The findings suggest that sphingolipids help plants and animals protect themselves against disease, according to an article in the November issue of the ARS publication Agricultural Research.

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