The focus of the theme is the development of new technologies to ensure the safety of the food chain and the protection of public health through the application of conventional microbiology, molecular investigation of biological hazards, and the use of novel technologies to support pathogen reduction. Risk analysis is an important aspect of the research within this theme.
Sequencing Alliance for Food Environments (SAFE)
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.
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.
SAFE, funded under the Enterprise Ireland Industry Partnership programme and lead by Prof Shea Fanning, 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 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 which leverage 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.
Enterprise Ireland Industry Partnership programme
SAFE is a unique partnership between UCD and 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.
BABY-SAFE Light-based technologies for the decontamination of powdered infant formula
The project will explore the use of Light-Based technologies as an alternative to traditional heat methods to enure the decontamination of infant formula and reduce the risk of illness in babies and infants.
Infant formula is not a sterile prodcut and can be contaminated with harmful bacteria during the manufacturing process and after posing a signifcant threat to the health of babies and infants. The use of traditional methods to reduce contamination in the powedered formula, such as treating with high temperatures, can cause damage to the essential heat-sensitive nutrients within the powder and can affect also affect its sensory properties (i.e. taste, smell and appearance).
This project will use light technologies and other new technologies to reduce the levels of contamination in powdered infant formula during production while ensuring that the powder retains its nutrition profile and remains palatable and acceptable.
EU Framework Programme: FP7
The project has 9 international partners including UCD. Details of the partners are available here.
FoodRisC - Benefit and Risk Communications
Improvements in the delivery of information and advice on food risk and benefits could lead to fewer food-related illnesses, a reduction in economic losses related to food scares, and improved consumer confidence in foods.
The FoodRisc project will characterise key configurations of food/risk benefit relationships and the consequent implications for risk communicators, make recommendations about the unique potential of new social media (e.g. scocial networks and blogging) and provide a systematic understanding of how consumers deal with food risk/benefit information.
The project will identify the barriers to commuicating to consumers across Europe and identify key socio-psychological and socio-demographic characteristics, including gender, that affect food risk/benefit perceptions and processes as well as consumer preferences for communciation channels.
An outcome of the project will be the development of the FoodRisC toolkit together with practical guidance to enable the effective communication of coherent messages across Europe. Use of the toolkit and guides will assist policy makers, food authorities and other stakeholders in developing common approaches to their communication strategies. It is anticipated that the outcomes will assist initiatives aimed at reducing the burder of food-related illness and disease, and the economic impact of food crises, while ensuring consumer confidence in the food chain.
This project is funded under the European Commission FP7 programme
Fourteen partners across Europe including research institutions, consumer orgranisations and SMEs in nine EU Member States.
Extending the shelf-life and exploring new processing technologies applied to fish
Increasing the value of the fish processing sector is an important objective for the industry but the success of this objective depends on developing new export markets into the UK and continental Europe. Such expansion is currently limited by the short shelf life of fish.
The fish processing sector is currently worth €713 million, increasing the value of the sector is an important objective for the industry but is reliant on the development of new export markets in the UK and continental Europe. A major hurdle to achieving this objective is the short shelf-life of processed fish products at 9 days, maximum. This project will investigate the application of clean label ingredients with and without novel processing technologies to achieve the shelf-life extension required, while ensuring no negative impact on the sensory or nutritional quality of the products. It will also deliver a rapid method for assessing fish freshness and shelf-life predictor tool as well as light technologies (UV, HILP, blue light) for the control of microbial contaminants in critical areas within fish processing plants and on food contact equipment surfaces.
Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, FIRM Programme