University of Illinois food scientists Keith Cadwallader and Barbara Klein believe their formulation for an emergency relief bar, which contains 100 percent soy as its protein source, fills the bill very nicely.

"Soy is ideal for this product because it's essentially a perfect protein," said Cadwallader, who is co-director of the Illinois Center for Soy Foods.

"You can get a high concentration of soy protein into a small amount of food, and that's important in an emergency situation," added Sharon Covert, a Taskilwa, Illinois farmer who chairs the Illinois Soybean Checkoff Board.

Until now, U.S. relief agencies have imported emergency food bars from Great Britain, and those bars contained other protein sources.

The Illinois scientists formulated their bar to meet the specifications of the National Academy of Science's Institute of Medicine. Klein was familiar with those specifications because she served on the committee that developed them.

The bars had to be a complete nutrition source for people of any age and size for up to two weeks, be able to weather adverse conditions, and score slightly above average in taste tests. They can be crumbled and mixed in porridge for children.

They also had to be culturally neutral in flavor, composition, and even color. "We couldn't use ingredients that would offend certain religious sects, no milk or animal products of any sort. And we aimed for an almond-like color that we believed would be accepted everywhere," Cadwallader said.

Klein and Cadwallader benefited from the experience of graduate student Laura Brisske, who successfully procured donations of almost all the ingredients, including a custom-blended vitamin and mineral mix. She also researched the production of nutrition bars, asking for advice from a company that makes them.

The result was an emergency relief product that performed at least as well in taste tests as the best-liked commercially available power bar, Cadwallader said.

Cadwallader hopes the bar they developed will influence food companies to use more soy in their power bars. Soy proteins now compete with milk proteins as a power-bar ingredient. "Soy is a good alternative to dairy proteins because many people are allergic to milk products," he said.

"The relief bar is essentially a power bar. Hopefully, some food companies will start looking at using soy in a somewhat different way to make some good-tasting protein bars," Klein said.

The two scientists also expect other developers of prototypes, including the U.S. Army's ration development center, to review their study and be impressed by soy's functionality.

Funding for the bar's development was provided by the State of Illinois through the Illinois Council on Food and Agricultural Research (C-FAR) and by the Illinois Soybean Checkoff Board.