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Study: Local man's invention removes mercury from fish

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STANLEY B. MILAM
May 8, 2012
— Dawn Schattschneider credits the Marinade Express for the health of her family, including her husband, Mark, and their 3-year-old son, Owen.

"We received it as a wedding present," she said. "When Owen was born, we used it for all his baby food. He never ate processed baby food, and he has been remarkably healthy without all the colds and ear infections many kids get."


The Marinade Express is a countertop vacuum tumbler developed by Ned Thornton of Janesville. The machine is used to remove contaminants from and add flavoring to food.


Thornton's idea of removing contaminants began with industrial applications.


"The first units were much larger and were used by food processors and some larger restaurants," Thornton said. "We expanded that idea to an affordable home model that can be used by families on a daily basis."


Thornton and his wife, Maureen, own Lyco Sales, the Janesville company responsible for developing the Marinade Express. They have arranged for its manufacture on a limited basis.


A recent breakthrough for the company was working with John Ejnik, an assistant professor of chemistry at UW-Whitewater, Thornton said. Ejnik researched removing mercury from fish using the Marinade Express.


When he considered warnings posted along some state lakeshores limiting the amount of fish people should eat, Thornton saw an opportunity for a smaller, home model.


Most affected bodies of water are in northern Wisconsin. For example, the WDNR advises that consumption of walleye larger than 19 inches and yellow perch caught from Snipe Lake in Vilas County be limited to one meal per month because of high levels of mercury.


The DNR lists 153 inland bodies of water as so contaminated with mercury that they receive special guidelines. Chronic exposure to mercury results in memory loss, speech difficulties, troubles with vision, and cardiovascular problems in adults. Children and the unborn exposed to mercury can face neurological damage that impairs development, leads to low intelligence and inhibits school performance.


A DNR publication cautions:


"Mercury is distributed throughout a fish's muscle tissue. The only way to reduce mercury intake is to reduce the amount of contaminated fish you eat."


Thornton and Ejnik believe they have found another way to reduce mercury intake.


"Our research is showing that Ned's Marinade Express does, indeed, reduce the amount of mercury in fish," Ejnik said. "Our first year of research has resulted in positive findings that both remove mercury and make the fish more palatable."


Funding search

If Thornton and Ejnik are successful, they will add jobs in Wisconsin.


The jobs are linked to funding from the Wisconsin Small Company Advancement Program, which is affiliated with the UW System through the WiSys Technology Foundation and the University Research Park.


A small company grant of nearly $206,000 allowed Ejnik to conduct his initial research in his UW-Whitewater lab with the help of a few of his chemistry students.


The grant application estimated sales of 100,000 Marinade Express tumblers in the first five years.


The grant funding came with a string attached: The Wisconsin Small Company Advancement Program retains a portion of the revenue from the project.


"We assist in obtaining a patent and retain a small percentage of revenue," said Maliyakal E. John, the WiSys managing director. "That way, the initial $2 million authorized by the Legislature will be built upon over time. The patents run for 20 years, and that will remain a source of revenue for our program."


Expansion planned

Sales of the Marinade Express tumbler are expected to be $25 million for the first five years.


Marinade Express units have been manufactured in China, a concession to high manufacturing costs at home and the 2008 recession. The goal is to bring manufacturing back to the United States.


"Our plan is to begin manufacturing in the Midwest, hopefully in Wisconsin, by 2013 with annual production of as many as 25,000 units," said Dan Neumann of Creative Culinary Solutions, a Hartland company he formed with Thornton to market the home tumblers. "We are looking at as many as 30 full-time jobs directly tied to manufacturing and marketing in addition to the effect the product will have on Wisconsin's fishing and tourism industry."


Additional research is necessary to expand the versatility of the tumbler.


"We already know the process stops the formation of free radicals prior to cooking and removes other toxins, but we would like UW-Whitewater to do a complete research analysis of the most efficient ways to achieve this using the Marinade Express," Thornton said. "Preliminary research shows that our process removes many contaminants from food, including those that could cause cancer."


Free radicals attack normal cells, causing damage that increases with age. Heart disease and cancer are associated with damage caused by free radicals.


While the research, grant applications and marketing of the Marinade Express moves forward, the healthy lifestyles continue at the Schattschneider home.


"It's become a part of our normal daily routine," Dawn said. "We tumble all our meats and most of our vegetables."


"We are all healthier, but I see it especially with Owen," she said.


"He's just a healthier kid, and I credit a lot of that to the Marinade Express vacuum tumbler."


To learn more


The Marinade Express is powered by standard 110-volt home power. For more information, including how to purchase the tumblers, go online to marinadeexpress.com. The tumblers sell for $300.



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