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Fact or Fiction?: Fiery Fumes from a Chili Sauce Factory Could Cause Health Problems

Sriracha


Credit: cookbookman17/flickr

By now, the legal battle over irritating odors wafting from a Sriracha chili sauce factory in Irwindale, Calif., has hit the mainstream media, and the possibility of an impending “#srirachapocalypse” strikes terror into the hearts of zealous Sriracha fans everywhere.
 
Last October townspeople started to complain about a foul odor emanating from the Huy Fong Foods factory in town. The effusion occurred during the chili-grinding phase of its Sriracha chili sauce production. Citizens objected that the fumes caused health problems, including eye and throat irritation, and aggravated asthma. After a series of legal proceedings a judge ordered Huy Fong in November to cease all odor-emitting productions until the factory owner could resolve their miasmic mess.
 
But the judge also admitted there was a “lack of credible evidence” linking chili pepper odors to the asserted health problems. A short while later Huy Fong hung a banner outside its factory that read, “No Tear Gas Made Here.” So what can science say about the Sriracha showdown? Could Huy Fong’s chili grinding have brought alleged tears to the townspeople’s eyes? For those who partake in fiery fare, those who prefer a blander gustatory journey as well as those who remain agnostic on the matter, here is the scientific take on this heated debate.
 
The answer is yes—if you’re talking about people’s exposure to capsaicin, a potent compound that, depending on concentration, gives chili peppers a taste range from tangy to blistering hot. The capsaicin molecule interacts with temperature receptors on the human body—on the mouth, throat, skin—and signals “hot” to the brain. “You could call capsaicin an irritant,” says Paul Bosland (aka Chileman), a professor of horticulture and director of the Chile Pepper Institute at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces, “The brain is being tricked by a chemical signal instead of the real physical temperature signal, and it’s saying, ‘Okay, you’re in danger here, you’re being burned.’”
 
Capsaicin can cause major eye and throat irritation as well as respiratory problems. Pepper spray, for example, is a concentrated, aerosolized form of capsaicin that makes people’s eyes sting and skin burn, and it can also create difficulty breathing. The potency of capsaicin’s effects hinges on the level of exposure, along with an individual’s unique response to the chemical. People have varying numbers of capsaicin receptors on their bodies, and those with a greater number of receptors are more sensitive to the compound. “If you look at people who eat hot foods,” Bosland says, “some people have a greater sensitivity to the capsaicin than others. And those who have more sensitivity usually don’t like their food so hot.”
 
The same goes for the amount of capsaicin in the air—say, emitted by a factory grinding chili peppers for their hot sauce. This could explain why some citizens were not bothered by the aroma released from the Huy Fong factory whereas others couldn’t take the heat.
 
The health problems purportedly caused by Huy Fong’s capsaicin emissions should simmer down for now. Chili-crushing season ended before the judge ruled in favor of Irwindale last year, so the factory won’t produce any more of the irritating chemical until the fall, and there shouldn’t be a feared Sriracha shortage in 2014. The city and Huy Fong are now trying to settle on a filtration system that’s economically feasible for the business but will also stop the spicy pollution. Court will reconvene in November for a judge to decide whether Huy Fong has sufficiently solved the public nuisance—just in time for chili-grinding season in the fall.
 
Sriracha fans, cross your fingers…and hold your breath.

How Your Body Tells You “That’s Enough Hot Sauce”

How Your Body Tells You “That’s Enough Hot Sauce”

We have the answers to your burning chili pepper questions

There is no shortage of people who love spicy food. Often referred to as chili-heads, these gastromasochists seek out the burn that comes from a hot pepper’s capsaicin. Indeed, some hot sauces enjoy a dedicated and zealous fanbase.

But there’s a fine line between pleasure and pain. And that line is called TRPV1. This protein is laced into the nerve fibers on the skin and tongue and responds to both temperature to toxins. When you bite into a cayenne pepper or touch a too-hot teapot, TRPV1 is the thing that tells you “ouch.”

In December, scientists published the first high-resolution image of the molecule’s structure. Some context from science writer Emily Singer:

David Julius began hunting for TRPV1 close to 20 years ago. At the time, scientists had for decades been using capsaicin, the molecule that gives chili peppers their heat, to study pain. But little was known about how it triggered that sensation. Other scientists had already tried and failed to find the molecule that binds to capsaicin, known as its receptor, but that only enticed Julius to take on the challenge. “People had looked for it for many years, and it took on a mythical glow,” said Julius, a biologist at the University of California, San Francisco. “What is this elusive thing?”

A better understanding of this sophisticated mechanism could lead to new painkillers which dampen TRPV1’s sensitivity. The medications could be a welcome alternative to opioides, which are effective but have some unfortunate side-effects.

And there are some upsides to pain; without the “ouch,” we might just keep eating hot peppers higher and higher on the Scoville scale:




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Sarasota man accused of slathering girlfriend’s puppy with hot sauce

Sarasota man accused of slathering girlfriend’s puppy with hot sauce

Sunday, February 23, 2014 4:19pm

A Sarasota man was jailed early Sunday morning after police said he doused his girlfriend’s puppy with hot sauce.

Sarasota police arrested Ephrian Myles, 47, of 1511 31st St., Sarasota, on a charge felony aggravated animal cruelty after he alledgedly drenched the puppy head-to-tail with hot sauce, some of it entering the dog’s eyes and throat.

Police said the dog, a 3-month-old dachshund-chihuahua mix named Gizmo, has a history of seizures and was yelping because of one when Myles became annoyed and doused the animal. The man’s girlfriend said she took the puppy to a nearby fire station for help.

More than a Year ago

The officers also said they noticed a pool of hot sauce on the floor and questioned Myles, who claimed he had nothing to do with the puppy or the hot sauce. The dog was turned over to animal services and is expected to fully recover. Myles was transported to the Sarasota County Jail.

Sarasota man accused of slathering girlfriend’s puppy with hot sauce 02/23/14 [Last modified: Sunday, February 23, 2014 10:22pm]



 

Knowledge Byte: Why is a pepper hot?

BY BRITTANY HANSON / ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER

Carolina Reaper peppers, shown here, are the hottest peppers on Earth - a claim confirmed in November by Guinness Book of World Records. The hybrid pepper was cultivated by Ed Currie, founder and president of PuckerButt Pepper Co.
FILE PHOTO: THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

What makes a pepper hot? And which pepper is the true top scorcher?

Fred Caporaso, a food science professor at Chapman University, talked peppers with us and explained the heat source responsible for sometimes too-hot-to-handle foods.

�• Capsaicin, found in almost all chile peppers, gives them their heat.

�• Capsaicin is the most common chemical found in a family of compounds called capsaicinoids.

�• A Schoville Heat Unit (SHU), which measures the concentration of capsaicin in a dry mass, is used to rate the heat levels of peppers. This measuring of capsaicin in a pepper is used to determine which pepper ranks where.

�• For years, the habanero was thought to be the hottest pepper, but searches for greater heat up produced peppers that are so hot that touching them is said to hurt.

�• The Chile Pepper Institute at New Mexico State University researches, tests and ranks the top hot peppers of the world and is one of the leading organizations in that field.

Here are the Top 10 hottest peppers, according to the Institute:

1. Carolina Reaper (2.2 million SHU)

2. Trinidad Moruga Scorpion (2 Million SHU)

3. Chocolate 7 pot (1.8 Million SHU)

4. Trinidad Scorpion (1.5 Million SHU)

5. Bhut Jolokia (the Ghost Chile) (1 Million SHU)

6. Red 7 Pot (780,000 SHU)

7. Chocolate Habanero(700,000 SHU)

8. RedSavinaHabanero (500,000 SHU)

9. Scotch Bonnet (350,000 SHU)

10. Orange Habanero (250,000 SHU)

Contact the writer: bhanson@ocregister.com


Chilli burger that’s twice as hot as police pepper spray puts FIVE people in hospital http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/chilli-burger-thats-twice-hot-3227322#ixzz2vlu2WxJj Follow us: @DailyMirror on Twitter | DailyMirror on Facebook

Mar 10, 2014 17:27 By Simon Keegan

The XXX Hot Chilli Burger is being sold at Burger Off In Hove, in Sussex, and customers are asked to sign a waiver before ordering it

Getty

Quite a bite: The burger is deadly

A beef burger has been created that’s so spicy you have to sign a waiver before ordering it.

The XXX Hot Chilli Burger is already claimed to have put five people in hospital.

The burger measures 9.2 million on the Scoville scale.

To give some idea of how hot that is:

  • A jalapeno pepper is 2,500
  • A Scotch bonnet is 150,000
  • A Naga (ghost) pepper is 800,000
  • Law enforcement pepper spray is five million

The burger is being sold at Burger Off In Hove, in Sussex.

One diner claims he was taken to A&E with a suspected perforated bowel while four others were admitted for treatment on the same night for suspected anaphylactic shock.

Restaurant owner Nick Gambardella, 55, who has NOT tried one of the burgers himself said: “‘One guy came in and he was just a little bit cocky and when he left he was admitted to hospital because prior to eating the burger he had a stomach ulcer and we believe it perforated his bowel.

"He wasn’t in a good way but he pulled through."

Mr Gambardella said he had checked with environmental health if it was OK to still sell the burger and claimed they found it “hilarious.”

The burger which costs £3.90 has so far only been conquered by 59 of around 3,000 ‘challengers’.



http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/chilli-burger-thats-twice-hot-3227322#ixzz2vlu9TkOc 
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That’s Hot! Genome May Lead to Even Spicier Peppers

"The findings will provide foundation for further developing molecular makers and [incite] research on related pepper agronomy traits, and help breeders accelerate the research of new breeds by molecular biology techniques," said study co-author Cheng Qin, a researcher at Sichuan Agricultural University in China.

Pepper history

Peppers were first domesticated by Native Americans in the tropics of South America as far back as 8,000 years ago, from a wild variant known as Chiltepin annuum (variant glabriusculum). The pepper, which is part of a family that includes the tomato and the potato, soon spread from the New World after Columbus arrived in the Americas.

After hundreds of years of breeding, chili peppers now come in a dizzying array of colors and flavors, from the bland Anaheim pepper to the scorching Scotch bonnet, and more than 34.6 million tons of the peppers were harvested in 2011. [Tip of the Tongue: The 7 (Other) Flavors We Can Taste]

In recent years, hot pepper aficionados have used old-fashioned breeding to amp up the heat-producing compound, called capsaicin, to make ever more insanely hot peppers. Some of the resulting peppers, including the Carolina Reaper and the Trinidad Moruga Scorpion, can be 100,000 times as spicy as the humble pimento pepper, and researchers have calculated that 2.7 pounds of the spice from these peppers would be enough to kill a human. (For comparison, a Trinidad Moruga Scorpion contains about the same amount of capsaicin as a shot-glass of law enforcement-grade pepper spray.)

Genome sequenced

To learn more about the pepper, Qin and his colleagues sequenced the genome of a pepper cultivated at their institution, known as Zunla-1, along with its wild counterpart.

The team found that the pepper diverged from tomatoes and potatoes about 36 million years ago. In addition, about 81 percent of the plant’s genome was made up of transposons, or so-called jumping genes that can move to other places within the genome. These genes were inserted about 300,000 years ago.

In addition, the team scanned the genomes of 18 cultivated peppers to compare differences between wild and cultivated varieties. The team found several genes associated with how long the seeds stay dormant, resistance to pests and longer shelf life.

The team also identified the genetic component behind spiciness. It turns out that a key gene can be duplicated a different number of times to provide more or less capsaicin. Bland varieties, by contrast, have a deletion of the heat-producing gene, the researchers found.

The findings suggest two new ways to breed even spicier peppers, either by identifying peppers with the right spice genes and cross-breeding them, or by genetically engineering the peppers to express more copies of the heat-producing genes, Qin said.

Editor’s Note: This article was corrected to note that new research was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Follow Tia Ghose on Twitter and Google+. Follow Live Science@livescienceFacebook Google+. Original article on Live Science.

Editor’s Note: This article was updated at 3:20 p.m. ET:

Scientists have sequenced the genome of the pepper plant, revealing the genes responsible for pepper’s spiciness.

The new genome, detailed today (March 3) in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, could pave the way for even more mouth-numbingly hot peppers.

"The findings will provide foundation for further developing molecular makers and [incite] research on related pepper agronomy traits, and help breeders accelerate the research of new breeds by molecular biology techniques," said study co-author Cheng Qin, a researcher at Sichuan Agricultural University in China.

Pepper history

Peppers were first domesticated by Native Americans in the tropics of South America as far back as 8,000 years ago, from a wild variant known as Chiltepin annuum (variant glabriusculum). The pepper, which is part of a family that includes the tomato and the potato, soon spread from the New Worldafter Columbus arrived in the Americas.

After hundreds of years of breeding, chili peppers now come in a dizzying array of colors and flavors, from the bland Anaheim pepper to the scorching Scotch bonnet, and more than 34.6 million tons of the peppers were harvested in 2011. [Tip of the Tongue: The 7 (Other) Flavors We Can Taste]

In recent years, hot pepper aficionados have used old-fashioned breeding to amp up the heat-producing compound, called capsaicin, to make ever more insanely hot peppers. Some of the resulting peppers, including the Carolina Reaper and the Trinidad Moruga Scorpion, can be 100,000 times as spicy as the humble pimento pepper, and researchers have calculated that 2.7 pounds of the spice from these peppers would be enough to kill a human. (For comparison, a Trinidad Moruga Scorpion contains about the same amount of capsaicin as a shot-glass of law enforcement-grade pepper spray.)

Genome sequenced

To learn more about the pepper, Qin and his colleagues sequenced the genome of a pepper cultivated at their institution, known as Zunla-1, along with its wild counterpart.

The team found that the pepper diverged from tomatoes and potatoes about 36 million years ago. In addition, about 81 percent of the plant’s genome was made up of transposons, or so-called jumping genes that can move to other places within the genome. These genes were inserted about 300,000 years ago.

In addition, the team scanned the genomes of 18 cultivated peppers to compare differences between wild and cultivated varieties. The team found several genes associated with how long the seeds stay dormant, resistance to pests and longer shelf life.

The team also identified the genetic component behind spiciness. It turns out that a key gene can be duplicated a different number of times to provide more or less capsaicin. Bland varieties, by contrast, have a deletion of the heat-producing gene, the researchers found.

The findings suggest two new ways to breed even spicier peppers, either by identifying peppers with the right spice genes and cross-breeding them, or by genetically engineering the peppers to express more copies of the heat-producing genes, Qin said.

Editor’s Note: This article was corrected to note that new research was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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