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Food profiling research project at Hamburg University

Does food contain what the package says? Multidisciplinary research project at Hamburg University begins in October with funds of EUR 3.4 million

A research team at Hamburg University is to receive EUR 1.4 million in funding from the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL) beginning in October 2016 as part of the FOOD PROFILING project, Hamburg University announced on September 28th. The project aims to determine the authenticity of foodstuffs. Some EUR 280,000 are to go to the University Medical Centre Hamburg-Eppendorf (UKE).

High-tech initiative

Food profiling is a multidisciplinary initiative by the Hamburg School of Food Science at Hamburg University in association with several research institutions and companies lasting over 36 months. It is receiving EUR 3.4. million in funds. The scientists will use ultra-high resolution technology genes, proteins, metabolic products and other elements in food to verify biochemical processes therein with a view to interaction with the environment.

Prof. Dr. Markus Fischer, co-ordinator of the research project, said: “We basically compare molecular, nano scaled fingerprints of the substances and processes in food with known reference points. The smallest difference suffices to deduce the type, origin and processing.”

Many falsifications on supermarket shelves

Over a century ago, sugar was stretched with flour and milk was skimmed or diluted with water. Today, the public is more interested in horsemeat scandals. The raw materials in some products are falsified or not named correctly and the regional origin is not always known. The most frequently falsified foods include olive oil, fish, organic foods or raw materials bough outside of the EU such as spices, tea, cocoa, coffee or nuts. This indicates the importance of scientific food analyses.

Product falsification becoming more sophisticated

Fischer added: “We should not forget that the ‘modern falsifier’ is often scientifically educated and able to understand corporate methods of quality control or supervision by authorities and able to match the product falsification and make it so sophisticated that it is difficult for him to be convicted.” The close co-operation with research institutes and firms will guarantee the direct transfer to commerce.

The associates include the Hamburg School of Food Science and the Work Group “Mass spectrometric proteome analysis” at UKE, the Universities of Tubingen and Hohenheim, the German Research Centre for Food Chemistry (DFA) (Freising-Weihenstephan) Agrolab Labor GmbH (Eching a.A.), LUFA-IT GmbH (Kiel), Trüffelkontor GmbH (Waldmünchen), Institut Philipp Contrade (Winsen (Luhe)) as well as SGS Germany (Hamburg). The Starter GmbH (Lübeck) is helping organise the projects.

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