Thursday, May 10, 2007

The Washington Post has archived the transcript of an online forum that they held last Tuesday. The Post was represented by staffer David Brown, and the interviewee was veterinary toxicologist Dr. Robert Poppenga of the Univ. of California at Davis. Interesting reading, particularly with some of the issues raised by members of the public who tuned in to the chat. Molly found the discussion raised by Cecil Fox of Little Rock Arkansas to be particularly noteworthy. The protein contents of a food is determined by the Kjeldahl method for total nitrogen content, a method that has been in use since the 19th century. The commentator made the observation that this method will be fooled by any number of additives such as chicken feces, feathers, hair, horns, and nails. The first contains uric acid rather than urea, which is often checked for in developed countries these days. The latter items are indeed "protein" but are utterly indigestible. The Kjeldahl method is the "standard", but it is a poor standard as this transcript so aptly points out.

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