University College Dublin and Enterprise Ireland Launch New Innovation Partnership to Enhance Food Quality and Safety

-       Positions Ireland at the forefront in food safety innovation and regulatory environment 

A new 3-year Innovation Partnership programme in food quality and safety was launched today at University College Dublin (UCD).

The €1.7 million Enterprise Ireland and industry funded programme, Sequencing Alliance for Food Environments (SAFE), aims to develop a new predictive software toolbox to enhance food quality and safety approaches, nationally and with global reach, using environmental intelligence data.

SAFE is a unique partnership between the UCD Centre for Food Safety; six leading food and nutrition companies; Dairygold, Dawn Farm Foods, Glanbia, Kerry, Mead Johnson Nutrition and Nutrition Supplies, along with Creme Global, experts in predictive intake modelling software.

SAFE_LAUNCH_2
Pictured (l-r) at the UCD Centre for Food Safety are Cian O’Mahony, Chief Science Officer, Creme Global; Dr Eimear Downey, Technical Advisor, Nutrition Supplies; Gearóid Mooney, Director of Research and Innovation, Enterprise Ireland; Professor Séamus Fanning, UCD Professor of Food Safety and UCD PhD student Joao Anes.

Food manufacturing and processing facilities contain millions of different bacteria, most of which are neither harmful to food nor to human health. However, a food quality and food safety risk is triggered when harmful bacteria, which can spoil food or pose a threat to human health, enter food production facilities.

Current methods used to control such bacteria are neither sufficiently rapid nor specific. They also use large amounts of energy, water and chemicals none of which are sustainable or kind to our environment.

The SAFE programme aims to develop a new state-of-the-art food safety and quality decision making software toolbox to mitigate against the risk of bacterial contamination in the food supply chain in a smarter, faster and in a more specific and sustainable way.

During a 2-year period researchers at UCD will track the environments in a number of food manufacturing plants in Ireland belonging to the industry partners. These plants include infant formula grade ingredient plants, a cooked and fermented meat processing plant and a precision vitamin and mineral pre-mix manufacturing facility.

Seasonal and climate changes will be taken into consideration during this period as such changes can cause shifts in the microbial communities or “microbiome” of the facilities. These changes affect food quality, safety and the nutritional profile of the final product. 

By mapping these microbiomes across the seasons the consortium will develop databases whichleverage gene sequencing technology and statistical analysis to define bacterial characteristics at the DNA level.

These databases will then be used to develop a predictive software toolbox. This toolbox will enable quicker and more accurate quality control analysis of the bacteria present in food facilities. This will prevent bacteria which can spoil food or pose a human health risk entering the food supply chain in a faster and a more sustainable way.

Professor Séamus Fanning, UCD Professor of Food Safety said, “I am excited about the possibilities of what this research can deliver. This programme positions UCD researchers and our Irish food industry and software research collaborators at the forefront of surveillance with the potential to use this data to control their production environments and protect their consumers. It is a proactive move, rather than a reactive one and our collaborators and Enterprise Ireland are to be acknowledged for taking this step. In harnessing this technology, this project will place Ireland’s food industry at the leading-edge of regulatory science.”

Director of Research and Innovation at Enterprise Ireland, Gearóid Mooney, said, “Ireland needs to take a global lead on the deployment of quality management and traceability technologies within our food manufacturing facilities. By developing a state of the art safety and quality decision making toolset to mitigate the risk of contamination in the food supply chain, this project demonstrates a new level of partnership, collaboration and joined up thinking between our client companies and our research institutes. The collaborators are to be commended for their support and participation in this exciting project.”

“A key role of Enterprise Ireland is to support the development of innovation and Enterprise Ireland’s commitment of over €1 million to this Innovation Partnership project, builds on our investment in the Food for Health Ireland Technology Centre at UCD, and will enhance Ireland’s reputation of strong innovation and regulation in food safety.”

Facilitated by Food for Health Ireland (FHI), Enterprise Ireland’s largest Food Technology Centre, this innovation partnership programme demonstrates a new level of international partnership, open innovation and pre-competitive research between industries and academia across multiple sectors.

ENDS
26 April 2016

For further information contact Micéal Whelan, University College Dublin, Communications Manager (Innovation), t: + 353 1 716 3712, e: miceal.whelan@ucd.ie or Sinéad Proos, Commercialisation Development Manager, Food for Health Ireland, e: sinead.proos@ucd.ie; t: + 353 1 716 2396.

Editor’s Notes

The Smart and Green approach to food quality and safety control that will be used in the SAFE programme has been made possible due to developments in so-called Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) technologies. These technologies are based on the latest advances in genomics research.  

Costs associated with these technologies have reduced significantly and are now similar in magnitude to those routinely used within the food industry.  This development has catalysed a move led by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to implement NGS as a routine surveillance tool to support enforcement of food regulatory controls.

Further information about the UCD Centre for Food Safety visit www.ucd.ie/cfs/

Further information about Enterprise Ireland’s Innovation Partnership Programme visit www.enterprise-ireland.com/ipp  

Further information about Creme Global visit www.cremeglobal.com/

Further information about Dairygold visit www.dairygold.ie/

Further information about Dawn Farm Foods visit www.dawnfarms.ie/

Further information about Glanbia visit www.glanbia.com/

Further information about Kerry visit www.kerrygroup.com/

Further information about Mead Johnson Nutrition visit www.meadjohnson.com/

Further information about Nutrition Supplies visit www.nutritionsupplies.ie/

Further information about Food for Health Ireland visit www.fhi.ie

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