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The Functional Foods Research Centre focuses on developments based on bioactive and functional food ingredients and their formulation for new product development for targeted nutrition across the lifespan. The impact and contribution of nanotechnology, novel processing and advanced packaging technology are integral to the Centre’s remit. 

A key research theme of the Functional Foods Research Centre is to explore a mechanistic understanding of how food nutrients influence human cellular processes, how they impact on understanding of the human microbiome and how the responses vary through population groups and across the life-course. Within this research theme there is the examination of how the contribution of dietary patterns, individual nutrients, whole and processed foods and food structures promote or maintain health, or indeed have a detrimental effect on health outcomes.  Additionally, the ability to positively manipulate food products to enhance the bioavailability of micro-nutrients and other components of foods is investigated.

Research Centre Aims and Objectives

  • Development of techniques necessary to evaluate new ingredients, functional and bioactive compounds

  • Improve understanding of the relationship between food, health and consumer understanding and acceptance

  • Collaborative bids with industry for research and innovation funding to develop areas of biofunctional and bioactive nutraceuticals.

  • Development of a unique focus for research into EFSA health claim substantiation and regulatory compliance

  •  Evaluation of new food processing technologies

  • Applications of nanotechnology to the food supply chain

  •  Industrial partnerships and collaborations leading to generation of intellectual property and economic growth.

Packaging Initiative

Food safety remains a priority in new developments utilising nanocompounds and new technologies. The main risk associated with nano-sized particles relates to migration into food that may have an adverse effect on human health. Detailed toxicological analysis can be undertaken to mitigate any potential risk to human health. This area of expertise encompasses the crossover areas of smart packaging and nanosensors.

Research Activities

  • Development of a Food NIR database with commercial applications e.g. authenticity and fraud control
  • Development of novel extraction and measurement techniques for bioactive compounds and functional ingredients e.g. emulsifiers
  • Development of bioacessibility techniques and measurements of bioactive compounds using in vitro models
  • Applications of nanotechnology to food products; structuring of food components and biomolecular engineering; applications of new technology to packaging solutions
  • Effects of novel processing technologies on food quality and safety e.g. ohmic heating, RF heating, cold plasmas
  • Development of assays for rapid detection of allergens, contaminants, pathogens and  additives
  • Biomolecular ligands e.g. aptamers for food safety, quality and integrity
  • Development and Publication of Technical Notes