Wednesday, August 20, 2008

So sweet: MSU team takes No. 1 in U.S. for cookie

Team members: From left to right bottom row: Megan Schwannecke, Aileen Tanojo, Nicole Goldman, Ashley Walters. From left to right top row: Shantanu Kelkar, Eric Birmingham, Raghav Sundar. (Not shown Charles Pountney).

EAST LANSING - Students in a food science course at Michigan State University wanted to create a great-tasting gluten-free cookie.

Winning first place in a national food competition made it more sweet.

Shantanu Kelkar was part of the team of eight students from the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources that created the cookie for people who can't digest gluten, the primary component in wheat flour.

"It all started because we wanted to do well in the competition," said Kelkar, 26. "But then, we really wanted to do something that was a solution to a social problem."

Kelker said the team was inspired after attending a conference for people with celiac disease, a digestive disease in which sufferers are not able to digest gluten. Symptoms include abdominal pains and bloating, diarrhea and flatulence.

"We found out that many times gluten- and allergy-free products are expensive and taste bad. Why should these people have to suffer?" said Eric Birmingham, a recent MSU graduate and a member of the team. "Just because they have allergies doesn't mean they have to eat food that doesn't taste good."

Their creation, Ready-to-Dough, is a refrigerated cookie dough free of the eight allergens most commonly listed by the Food and Drug Administration.

The cookie dough is gluten-free and has no eggs, dairy or nuts in it.

The cookies earned the MSU team first place at the Institute of Food Technologists food product development competition in New Orleans in June.

Team member Aileen Tanojo said food product development teams from 25 universities participated in the competition.

This is the second year MSU has taken first place in the competition.

The concept first began in Janice Harte's capstone class for food science majors as a gluten-free peanut butter cookie dry mix.

The product evolved into a refrigerated chocolate chip cookie dough after the team decided to take out all allergens, Birmingham said.

"There was a need to provide something that is good tasting," said Harte, an assistant professor of food science and human nutrition.

"The allergen-free products (currently) out there don't help."

Not yet on market
The team consisted of: Kelkar, Birmingham, Tanojo and Megan Schwannecke, Nicole Goldman, Charles Pountney, Raghav Sundar and Ashley Walters.

Last year a team created Souper Snackers, whole grain pasta shells stuffed with ground chicken and broth.

Ready-to-Dough is not yet on the market.

Birmingham said the team has applied for a patent for the process and recipe in hopes a food company will purchase and market the product.

The Lansing State Journal (Mich.)

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