Food Commodities and Ingredients Newsletter - December 2010

24 Dec 2010

The Food Commodities and Ingredients committee has got together yet again to bring you another newsletter, filled with details of recent events and upcoming activities for you to enjoy - including genetic modification and the future of bio fortified and functional foods. We will introduce you to more of the committee, and fill you in on some recent industry news. Please just read on......

GM Foods

On the evening of 2nd December, SCI hosted a MAC Public Lecture organised by the Food Commodities & Ingredients Group on the subject 'GM Foods: Genetic Manipulation or Global Malnutrition?'.

Around 45 attendees from industry, retailers, academia and the general public braved the snow and freezing temperatures to hear firstly Professor Jonathan Jones from the Sainsbury Laboratory put the case for food from GM plants being part of the solution to the issue of feeding a growing global population. Jonathan has been in the news this year through the work the laboratory in Norfolk is doing on late blight disease resistant potatoes. Colin Tudge, biologist, and writer of 'Feeding the World is Easy', put the opposing view that GM is not necessary.

There then followed a lively Q+A session chaired by Guy Moreton of Morepeople.

Meet More Committee Members

Professor Tony TaylorProfessor Tony Taylor is Professor of Food Science at Lincoln University. Since retiring from full-time employment with the University in 2006, he has continued to work part-time and is now based at the Holbeach campus. His main area of research was related to fish, including post mortem quality changes and indicators, blackspot development in crustaceans, improved utilisation of fish waste and postharvest losses and nutritional aspects of traditional processing. He worked extensively in South East Asia particularly in Indonesia and Malaysia. He has been a member of the Food Commodities and Ingredients Group committee since 1994, was Vice-Chairman 1996-99 and Chairman 1999-2002. He organised 5 conferences on Fish Processing for SCI.

Dr Joanna ToppingDr Joanna Topping is a Senior Research Scientist within the Research Partnerships Team at Leatherhead Food Research, an independent organisation providing scientific research, consultancy and regulatory advice to the food industry. Joanna graduated from Kings College London with a degree in medical biochemistry and obtained her PhD from Imperial College School of Medicine working within a group studying the mechanisms of asthma and allergic disease. Seven years ago she joined Leatherhead and since then has applied her research background in immunochemistry and biochemistry to the development of new and improved methodologies for the analysis of nutrients, contaminants and allergens in food.

Agri Food Update - A date for your diary

19 May 2011, the first event put together by the Agri-Food Hub - "Healthy Options - The Future For Bio-Fortified and Functional Foods" at Belgrave Square.  The programme is still in draft, but will cover the following topics:

  • How does optimising micronutrient and functional phytochemical content of food affect health and well-being?
  • What agronomic and genetic interventions have been used to biofortify food with minerals?
  • What agronomic and genetic interventions have been used to develop functional foods?
  • What are the recent progress and issues in the R & D and commercial launch of biofortified and functional foods?
  • Regulatory & consumer aspects

The Agri-Food Hub is an umbrella of SCI Technical Interest Groups involved from farm to fork - BioResources, Horticulture, Food Commodities & Ingredients, Food Engineering, & Environment. More details can be found on the Agri Food Hub and further details of the event mentioned above will be posted on the SCI website as they become available early in the New Year.

The aim is to stage one event per year on matters of broad spectrum interest to those within the Agri-Food Hub. If you have any ideas which you believe would fit the bill, please let us know

Travel Bursaries

SCI contributes towards the development of young PhD students and postdoctoral researchers' careers by helping them broaden their vision and share cutting-edge knowledge at international conferences. In this way, SCI helps young scientists learn from, and network with, top scientists from around the world.

Applications are open from 1 January - 31 March each year, and from 1 August -15 October. Bursary recipients are selected shortly after the closing dates, and applicants notified of the results within a month of the closing date. We offer several bursaries for students, and the ones likely to be of most interest for our members are:

  • Food science (A J Banks). The AJ Banks Award provides bursaries to support attendance at meetings for activities related to food science, engineering and technology. Preference is normally given to SCI members.
  • Liverpool and Northwest (Leverhulme). Leverhulme Travel Bursaries provide grants to persons studying or residing in the geographic area covered by SCI's Liverpool and Northwest Group to support their attendance at chemical meetings. The Leverhulme Bursaries are intended for those who want to attend a science meeting, but need additional funds to make it possible. To qualify, students must be carrying out postgraduate research at an institution within the Liverpool and Northwest Group’s area. Preference is normally given to SCI members.
  • Chemical science (Messel). Messel Bursaries are funded by the Messel Trust Fund for postgraduate students to support their attendance at meetings for activities related to chemical science, engineering and technology. Preference is normally given to SCI members. The bursaries are named after Rudolph Messel

To apply for a Travel Bursary, click here.

Industry News

Peanut, milk, egg allergen thresholds expected in 2012
Significant progress on defining action levels/thresholds for the unintentional presence of allergens such as peanuts, milk and eggs is expected in 2012.

Having clearly defined action levels for 'may contain' and 'free from' labelling would bring significant benefits for food manufacturers and retailers, enforcement agencies and consumers, said Food Standards Agency allergy chief Sue Hattersley in an interview recently: 'There has been a lot of research investigating the prevalence of food allergy in the last few years and the International Life Sciences Institute's (ILSI's) food allergy task force is now looking at how we can move from clinical thresholds in patients to action levels that industry can work to. And they are expected to report back by mid-2012.'

While it could take some time before action levels suggested by ILSI could be translated into legal limits, she admitted, a voluntary approach could work in the meantime.

'The action levels set by the ILSI expert group in mid-2012 would be submitted to the European Commission before going to the European Food Safety Authority for assessment and this could take some time. But in the meantime they could form the basis of an industry code of practice and this could in turn enable us to re-launch 'may contains' labelling underpinned by clear action levels.'

She added: 'It may be that if we agree action levels and best practice that we could also think about the wording of 'may contains' statements at the same time so that everyone is using the same language.'

The area of allergens and thresholds is of great interest to allergy sufferers as well as food manufacturers and retailers. The Food Commodities and Ingredients Group is exploring whether we can put together a meeting for Autumn 2011 to explore progress and debate some of the practical and ethical issues that arise.

Alaska Pollock
Initial findings of year's Alaska Pollock surveys indicate that there has been a 60% decline in Pollock biomass between 2004 and 2009. This has led to concern about the sustainable supply of Pollock. In order to be able to continue providing sustainable Alaska Pollock to consumers in the years to come, it is recommended that a more precautionary, eco-system based approach be used to calculate Allowable Biological Catch recommendations, at least until the stock is rebuilt.

Group Events

  • Agri-Food Event "Healthy Options - The Future For Bio-Fortified and Functional Foods" at Belgrave Sq, 19 May 2011
  • Young Scientist 2011 will be held in Liverpool, March 2011
  • Ask A Food Scientist - which will run during Food Safety week - 6-12 June 2011

SCI Food Commodities and Ingredients Group events are listed here.

Other Points

The IFST Western Branch are putting on an evening symposium at the University of Wales in Cardiff on 11th January 2011, 'Advancing Your Food Career' Three diverse aspects are covered in the presentations.

  • Continuing Professional Development
  • IFST Register of Food Safety Professionals
  • Technical Help for Food Business

More details on the event and how to book are available on the website:

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