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Dave's Fiery Front Page

Exploring the World of Spice and Smoke
Tags >> controversy

 

Naga Viper, Courtesy of Gerald FowlerWhenever someone tries to lay claim to the biggest, best, or most intense record for pretty much anything, they run the risk of being challenged.

When the subject is the world's hottest pepper, the stakes are high, both monetarily and in terms of publicity. If you've ever dealt with chileheads, they can be every bit as fanatical and obsessed about their chosen passion as the worst lovesick stalker.

That being said, it's not surprising that a storm of controversy currently surrounds several chile growers who are vying for the "world's hottest chile pepper" title. Read this article on Popsci for more about the conflagration, what happens when you ask a beer company to rule about peppers, and an answer to the question, "can eating them kill you?"


 

James BeckJames Beck of EatMoreHeat.com is my first guest on the new weekly feature of the SuperSite, and he discusses eating superhot chiles and finishing an Apocalypse Burger.  Upcoming guests are Dave Hirschkop who invented Insanity Sauce; chemical engineer Marlin Bensinger, who tests the superhot chiles in his own lab; Jim Garcia of El Pinto Salsa, discussing Scorpion Salsa and the purported "chile crisis;" and Chris Fowler, who uses a polytunnel to grow chillis near Cardiff, Wales.  To hear James on the first podcast, go here.

 


Chile Harvesting, Mesilla Valley, New MexicoWhen the media get wind of a typical change in the ever-fluctuating world of economic agriculture, they just have to turn it into a crisis. Take the drop in harvested chile acreage over the last decade or so—down to 8,700 acres from a high of 29,000. Is this a "crisis" or merely a reflection of economic reality? I think the latter. Chiles compete against other crops that are often more profitable to grow: pecans, cotton, and even onions. Also contributing are the loss of agricultural land to development, cheaper imports from Mexico, and the necessity to use human labor to harvest green chile. (Red chile can be mechanically harvested, but not green...yet.)

Kraig Kraft, coauthor of a new book, Chasing Chiles, wrote an op-ed piece the the Albuquerque Journal (5-15-11) in which part of the headline refers to "fake N.M. chiles," a reference to chiles from Mexico that are imported for processing in southern New Mexico because local growers can't keep up with demand due to the competition from other crops. But ignored in this discussion is the fact that these are New Mexico varieties like 'NuMex 6-4 Heritage', developed by Dr. Paul Bosland's chile breeding team, and the seeds provided to Mexican growers. If you really, really want your chile, does it really matter if it is grown in the Mesilla Valley or 100 miles south of there in Chihuahua?  I don't think so.


The real problems lie below the surface of the hype and screaming of "fake chiles."  Here they are:

1.  The real fake chiles are "Hatch chiles."  There is no such thing.  "Hatch chiles" are a complete fabrication.  There is no such variety.  Hatch farmers devote most of their fields to alfalfa, and cannot possibly grow all the chiles labeled with the name of that tiny town.

2. New Mexican varieties are only part of the crop processed in southern New Mexico.  Even more important are the cayennes, paprika (non-pungent red chiles, by definition), and jalapeños.

3.  The New Mexico chiles deserving what Kraft calls "geographic indicators" (similar to Idaho potatoes and Florida oranges) are the endangered heirloom or land race chiles of northern New Mexico, like 'Chimayo'.

The recently-passed New Mexico Chile Advertising Act, which supposedly prohibits the advertising of chiles listed as New Mexican but not grown in the state, is a joke.  It is totally unenforceable, which renders it useless, and is another attempt by politicians to place a "legal fix" upon what is really just an economic fact of life brought on by changing times, NAFTA, and the ability of farmers in other countries to grow New Mexican varieties to meet the demand here.


Fire BreatherLast week, a judge at the Fiery Foods Challenge, a spicy food contest held in conjunction with Texas-based festival, ZestFest 2011, was hospitalized after sampling an entry. The blind entry in the hot sauce category was described as a “nightmare in a bottle” by another of the contest judges. Speculators have suggested the sauce may have contained the extract capsaicin, the chemical that gives chile peppers their heat.

“Our best wishes for a swift recovery go out to the judge injured in the Fiery Foods Challenge this week,” said Dave DeWitt, owner and producer of the Fiery Foods and Barbecue Show in Albuquerque, New Mexico. “Safety is the most important thing when testing fiery foods. Chemical additives such as capsaicin only increase the necessity for proper precautions.”

“At the Fiery Foods Show, exhibitors are required to have warning signage at their booths and to taste only on the end of toothpicks,” said DeWitt.

In addition to producing the Fiery Foods Show—the largest hot foods trade show in the country, DeWitt also hosts the annual Scovie Awards, a contest that judges the best food products in the hot foods industry. Judges who participate in the superhot category of the Scovies (including products containing the capsaicin extract) are required to sign a waiver before the contest and to test products separately, overseen at all times by a designated monitor.

Judges at the Scovies are provided with several different, thick coolants, such as yogurt and ice cream—the same cooling agents that members of the public should use when tasting fiery foods. Dairy and alcohol products are particularly effective in counteracting the heat associated with chile peppers; capsaicin dissolves in the fats contained in dairy. Water is a relatively useless cooling agent. Other methods used to combat the heat from peppers include tasting small samples in order to gauge heat levels, and building a tolerance to heat over time before tackling superhots.

With the proper precautions, the general public can avoid overexposure to the “fire” in fiery foods and enjoy the spice of life.

Extras:

Check out this video from Dave DeWitt on how to avoid chile pepper burnout!


Burglar Blaster
The Burglar Blaster security system

Ever wish you had a more appropriate way than an ADT Home Security system to safeguard your hot sauce collection? Imagine if a burglar snuck into your house, tripped the alarm system, and was sprayed with a fiery blast of pepper spray? Now that’s poetic justice. The Burglar Blaster is a “self contained electronic pepper spray anti-burglary system” that’s easy to install. The unit is housed in a cast aluminum/alloy case and lasts up to four years on a set of batteries. That means that even if the power goes out on your block, your hot sauce collection—along with everything else in your house—is protected. Pretty cool, right?

Just be careful that you don’t trip the Burglar Blaster yourself because the infrared alarm only takes 40 seconds to blast anyone and anything within a 2,000-foot radius with a strong dose of Oleoresin Capsicum, a chemical compound that causes nausea and irritates the eyes to cause tears, pain, and even temporary blindness. Not to mention, you’ll have to clean house pretty well if the Burglar Blaster does go off, as aerosol capsaicin won’t just disperse into thin air.

Using pepper spray to defend your shrine to all things spicy? That’s hot. Blasting yourself and your treasured belongings with a fine mist of capsaicin? That’s not.


 

GMO Salmon from Aqua Bounty
Genetically engineered salmon (top) compared to natural salmon.

A Food and Drug Administration (FDA) panel will decide Monday, September 27 whether the first genetically engineered food animal proposed for public consumption will be safe to eat and safe for the environment. The fish in question is a salmon that can grow at twice the normal rate, making the journey from inland fish farm to the table twice as fast.

The salmon’s maker, Aqua Bounty Technologies, Inc., based out of Massachusetts, has said the gene inserted has not mutated over multiple generations of fish and does not harm to the animals. Based on recent taste test, Aqua Bounty claims the fish is similar in almost every way to natural salmon and tastes the same.

Aqua Bounty Chief Executive Officer Ronald Stotish told the FDA's panel that the fish could provide the "healthy kind of diet that Americans are used to.” Overfishing and increased demand have put a strain on many fish species in recent decades. Industrialization in the Northeast has seriously impacted the Atlantic salmon’s habitat, and most Atlantic salmon now comes from inland fish farms. Aqua Bounty has said it will sell its salmon eggs to fish farms in Canada and Panama, and eventually in the U.S., if the FDA panel grants approval.

How the public will react is not yet clear. Critics have voiced concerns over the amount of time allowed for testing the salmon, as well as concerns over how to label genetically engineered animals in supermarkets. Current FDA rules require special labels for altered food when there is a vast difference between natural and genetically modified food (most genetically engineered crops are not labeled).

Genetically engineered vegetables such as corn, rice, and peppers have been sold in markets since the early 1990’s.

Read more about the controversy surrounding genetically engineered salmon here.


Peppered Seals?

Posted by: Kelli Bergthold

peppered sealPepper spray has a long history of being used for self defense against both humans and wild animals. It’s an effective, non-lethal weapon that can keep people safe without having to resort to brute force. The active ingredient in pepper spray is oleoresin capsicum, which is a wax-like resin extracted from finely ground capsicum converted into an aerosol. The most common uses of pepper spray are against dogs and bears, which are known to attack humans and domestic animals. In Alaska, for instance, it’s common to take a can of pepper spray with on walks and other outdoor excursions just in case. In Coyote Country in the Southwestern United States, residents rely on pepper spray to protect their children and pets from hungry critters.

Now, fishermen along the Tasmanian coast in the South Pacific are trying out pepper spray on aggressive bull seals. Dangerous seal encounters are a recent phenomenon; in the past decade, as competition for food lures the animals closer to shore, aggressive bull seals are becoming a very real risk.

"People have been bowled over, literally, by the seals trying to charge past them. Divers have been nipped, they've had their fins nipped, they've been dragged underwater," says Pheroze Jungalwalla from the Tasmanian Salmonoid Growers Association.

To counter-act the attacks, the state government is encouraging fishermen to carry pepper spray. Fishermen are first trained in the use of pepper spray to prevent accidental injury. There are doubts whether pepper spray will really work against a two-ton bull seal, but it’s a possible alternative to shooting aggressive animals that are being driven into dangerous encounters by a lack of other food sources.

Source:

ABC News: Peppered Seal the New Fish Farm Defense



ThrowdownRippin’ Red Wing Sauce, the newest product from Rizzotti Foods, LLC will be going head to head with the one and only DEFCON Sauces! The gauntlet was thrown in a thread on peppersandmore.com in August, and both Rippin’ Red Wing Sauce and DEFCON have accepted the challenge.

“It is an honor and pleasure to challenge the mighty DEFCON sauces. We have nothing but respect and admiration for John Dilley and his products,” said Rizotti Foods owner John Rizzotti.Rippin Red Hot Wing Sauce

Hosted by Peppers and More, the contest will feature a blind taste test using tasters who have never tried either of the two sauces. The sauces will be judged on a list of four criteria, rating the food with a 1 to 5 number system, 5 being the best:

  1. How well does the sauce cling/stick to wings? 1-2-3-4-5
  2. Aroma? 1-2-3-4-5
  3. Color of sauce 1-2-3-4-5
  4. Overall taste? 1-2-3-4-5Defcon Sauces

To find out more about the Throwdown, visit www.scottrobertsweb.com, or read the original thread on www.peppersandmore.com!

Learn more about the challengers: DEFCON Sauces and Rippin' Red Wing Sauces.


A study in the journal Cancer Research appears to link capsaicin, a component of chili peppers, to skin cancer. This is a misinterpretation of the data, according to SuperSite Publisher Dave DeWitt, international authority on chili peppers and author of more than forty books about peppers, including The Healing Powers of Peppers. The study was focused specifically on the topical application of capsaicin, not on chili peppers as food. To quote the study itself, “capsaicin alone does not act as a carcinogen.”

Toxic Chemicals Caused Tumors, Not Capsaicin

Researchers at The Hormel Institute, University of Minnesota, treated the skin of mice with a mixture of TPA and DMBA, two powerful and highly toxic tumor-producing chemicals. The mice were virtually guaranteed to develop skin cancer. Some were treated with a mixture of the chemicals plus capsaicin, and some were treated with capsaicin only.

While study results indicated that combining capsaicin with the chemicals “might promote cancer cell survival,” the report clearly stated that the control group of mice treated only with capsaicin “…did not induce any skin tumors…” In addition, the study repeatedly cited other research studies in which the anti-cancer properties of capsaicin were solidly demonstrated. A link to the full article can be found here.


Fiery Foods Show 2010There has been misinformation flying around on certain Chilehead blogs about the National Fiery Foods & BBQ Show. Some folks have been trying to compare our show with a competing show in Texas (which was recently purchased by new people who just managed to put up a website, and no longer has the backing of a certain food magazine that can’t seem to publish a magazine any more).

One comment claimed that the National Fiery Foods & BBQ Show was much larger (that part is correct), but the show in Texas was ‘more fun’ because of free alcohol and parties. Question: exactly why do companies exhibit at shows? Is it to have fun and get free booze? Or is it to promote your product to the largest possible audience? That’s the difference between a festival and a trade show.

Exhibiting at any show is costly and time consuming. Sometimes it’s a lot of fun. So if you’re going to spend that money, doesn’t it make sense to direct your energy where you’ll get the most bang for your buck? The Fiery Foods & BBQ Show is the place.

And about that imagined absence of buyers at the Fiery Foods & BBQ Show. We’re in our 23rd year, and every year our buyer list expands—you do the math. It’s a proven fact that many buyers come to our show every year and make their buying decisions based on what they see.

We appreciate everyone who participates in the Fiery Foods & BBQ Show, either as a buyer, exhibitor, or attendee. Trying to decide which show will be the best for your company? That’s your call. But at the end of the day, Albuquerque is still home to the biggest, the longest running, the Hottest Show on Earth!

Lois Manno
Editor, www.fiery-foods.com
Sunbelt Shows

PS:  Chilehead blogger Scott Roberts has a poll up about what show you would attend in 2011 if you only had one show to go to.  If you like our show, please take his poll (3 seconds max) that is here.


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