Conference: Science is the key to plant protein success

An upcoming food technology conference in Auckland on alternative proteins for food production will debate whether it’s a market challenge or a massive new opportunity for local producers. Science leaders say the changing global consumer trends bring a huge commercial opportunity for New Zealand agriculture.

New Zealand has strength in protein isolation and manufacturing technologies developed through our dairy industry, says Jocelyn Eason, General Manager Science, Food Innovation at Plant & Food Research*.

These technologies provide a solid base for further process developments of plant proteins,” says Eason, one of the key science speakers at the Innovatek “ProteinTECH” in Auckland on 24 July.

Highlights* from the Plant & Food Research “plant based foods” report include:

• Plant variety rights offer intellectual property rights opportunities for New Zealand developers;
• New production methods and locally developed innovations can ensure sustainability;
• Local technical and science skills are key to scaling up plant protein extraction;
• Local plant crops have significant potential as sources of high quality plant protein;
• Combined industry and research expertise can develop premium food offerings.

The mainstream media has focused on popular food products like Sunfed Food’s chicken-less chicken and ‘Impossible’ plant-based burgers, where a meat-like meal is provided with plant-based products.  But there is much more to the global market for food based on plant proteins.

The back story, says ProteinTECH director John Stulen, is there are some very experienced teams with research and science experience, developing commercial processes. They are set to capitalise on the new-found popularity and growing market acceptance for sustainable plant-based foods and food ingredients.

“Our conference includes a wide range of people with technical, market and research experience. We are pleased with the quality of our delegates to date; it’s a very senior level group of people from across agriculture including senior management, technical, science and research. It’s proving very popular,” Stulen says.

Innovatek’s ProteinTECH Conference brings together leaders in primary industries from the development and research fields alongside industry analysts, financiers and key accounting/consulting firms.

To register go HERE. 

The conference will be held at the Novotel Auckland Airport Hotel on July 24.

* Plant & Food Research Report: Opportunities in plant based foods – PROTEIN (May 2018)

Source: Innovatek 


Pink milk and sandcastles: Could milk proteins help create bioadhesives?

The Royal Society Te Apārangi website has highlighted (HERE) an article by Dr Skelte Anema, FRSNZ, which reviews research on spontaneous interactions in milk proteins.

In the article ‘Spontaneous interaction of lactoferrin with casein micelles or individual caseins published in Ngā Kete: The 2018 Annual Collection of Reviews, Dr Anema, from the Fonterra Research and Development Centre, summarises research carried out by his group on spontaneous interactions between the large milk-derived basic protein lactoferrin with casein micelles in milk, and with individual isolated casein proteins.

The spontaneous self-assembly of biological macromolecules holds the potential to offer unique functionalities in food and technical applications.

About 3.5% of cow milk is protein, which can be divided into two broad groups. These groups are whey proteins (which are around 20% of the total protein) and casein proteins (around 80% of the total protein). The function of casein micelles in milk is to transport high levels of insoluble calcium phosphate and protein to newborns in an easily digestible format. The casein micelles clot in the stomach which slows the digestion of milk, allowing greater absorption of nutrients.

Lactoferrin is a glycoprotein and is found in the whey of mammalian milk. It is an important immune-regulatory and anti-microbial protein, which has iron-binding abilities and can remove iron from its environment. Natural freeze-dried lactoferrin and its solutions are light pink in colour, whereas iron-depleted lactoferrin is translucent and iron-saturated lactoferrin is blood red in appearance.

In his Ngā Kete review article, Dr Anema discusses that when high levels of iron-saturated lactoferrin were added to the milk, the casein micelles took on a significant pink colouration. Another observation was that when the pink milk with extra lactoferrin was stored for prolonged periods of time, it slowly became translucent.

The spontaneous interactions and formed complexes discussed in the review article pose interesting questions about potential practical and commercial applications for the research. Caseins have technical applications including adhesives and paper coatings, and there may be a possibility that certain solutions (coacervates) could be applied for new technical functions.

The sandcastle worm Phragmatopoma californica secretes an adhesive that allows it to build shelters for itself in the ocean, by gluing together grains of sand. The sandcastle worm secretion is mostly made up of oppositely charged proteins. Further investigation into spontaneous interactions of oppositely charged milk proteins such as those between lactoferrin and caseins, could potentially inspire future developments of new bio-adhesives.

Dr Skelte Anema, made a Fellow of the Royal Society Te Apārangi in 2016, has been working in the New Zealand dairy industry since 1990. His primary research interests are milk proteins, including whey protein denaturation kinetics, interactions between milk proteins, effects of novel processing technologies on milk protein interactions, and spontaneous protein self-assembly.

The review article ‘Spontaneous interaction of lactoferrin with casein micelles or individual caseins has been published in Ngā Kete and is available free-to-access for a limited time at Taylor and Francis Online.

Source:  Royal Society Te Apārangi

$13 million for leading-edge biotech research in the Bay of Plenty

Dr Marie Magnuson

Dr Marie Magnuson … turning algae into tucker and tonics.

The Government and the University of Waikato are investing $13 million in a new research programme in Tauranga aimed at helping tackle some of the biggest issues facing New Zealand’s primary sector, Education Minister Chris Hipkins announced today.

The project, part of the Entrepreneurial Universities programme administered by the Tertiary Education Commission, will be set up in Tauranga by a prominent Australian-based expert, Dr Marie Magnusson.

The Government is committing approximately $4 million over five years to the programme, while the University of Waikato has pledged $9 million.

The work will focus on algal biotechnology, using science to grow a new and valuable industry.

Mr Hipkins said this type of research and technology

” … will be critical as we look for solutions for things like reducing cattle methane emissions, limiting nutrient run-off from pasture, and fighting agricultural and horticultural diseases in an environmentally sustainable way.”

The first stage of the project will examine options for growing macroalgal species like kelp and sea lettuce alongside existing mussel farms. Later stages will extract valuable bioproducts for use in fertilisers, animal feed supplements, cosmetics, human foods and other initiatives.

Other goals include addressing some of the country’s pressing primary sector issues by reducing methane emissions from cattle through improving feed, and creating environmentally benign solutions to agriculture and horticulture pathogens like PSA.

Dr Magnusson, who will move to Tauranga from Queensland, will lead a team of new researchers and technical staff, guided by University of Waikato staff including Chair of Coastal Science Professor Chris Battershill.

They will be based at the Coastal Marine Field Station at Sulphur Point in Tauranga, with work due to start in September.

Relying on strong science, the products the researchers develop will be targeted for markets where there is demand, with an eye to industry development, and future job creation in the Bay of Plenty and the rest of the country.

New Zealand’s aquaculture industry was worth nearly $500 million in 2015, and is estimated to grow to $1 billion by 2025, with the project aiming to contribute significantly to that growth.

The initiative will work with organisations locally, nationally and internationally, and partner with private companies where appropriate. Staff will work with local iwi and Māori businesses in the region as a priority.

The University of Waikato will be backing the research and entrepreneurial work with an increase in undergraduate and graduate teaching, including offering an Aquaculture major.

Over the next three years, the initiative is expected to bring from 15 to 20 world-leading researchers and their teams to New Zealand.

Biography of Dr Marie Magnusson

Dr Marie Magnusson is a Senior Research Fellow in the James Cook University College of Science and Engineering with over 10 years of experience in the fields of algal biology, biochemistry, and product development.

She completed her B.Sc. in 2003 at Göteborg University in Sweden followed by an M.Sc. in 2004. Her Ph.D. (2005-2009) was at James Cook University in phycology and marine pollution.

Following her graduate studies, Dr Magnusson undertook two post-doctoral fellowships at James Cook University in microalgal biomass evaluation and macroalgae end product research and development.

Dr Magnusson is currently Program Leader and Senior Research Fellow at the Centre for Macroalgal Resources and Biotechnology (MACRO) at James Cook University.

Her research is focused on ways to utilise algae (macro and micro) and algal extracts to develop human food and nutraceutical and pharmaceutical products for improved health outcomes, and to develop biotechnology products based on algal polysaccharides with unique gelling and functional properties.

Sources: Minister of Education; University of Waikato


Mānuka honey definition research is published in international science journal

Research undertaken and led by the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) to develop a scientifically robust definition for mānuka honey has just been published in a leading international scientific journal.

The paper, Using chemical and DNA marker analysis to authenticate a high-value food, mānuka honey, has been peer-reviewed and published in npj Science of Food.

Npj Science of Food is an online open access journal that publishes high-quality papers on food safety, security, production and packaging, and the influence of food on health and wellness. It is part of the Nature group, one of the world’s most prestigious scientific publishing groups.

“The work carried out by MPI to develop a scientific definition for mānuka honey is a worldwide first and very important for New Zealand’s reputation as a producer of high-quality food,” says Bryan Wilson, head of New Zealand Food Safety at MPI.

“This reputation is based on a track record of producing food that stands up to the expectations of local and overseas markets.  All mānuka honey for export has to be tested against and meet MPI’s definition.

“Publication of this research in npj Science of Food is further endorsement of the 3 years of scientific work that went into developing the definition.

New Zealand’s export markets, including consumers, could be confident the New Zealand mānuka honey they buy is authentic, Mr Wilson says.

Find out more

Study aims to to find if drinking a2 Milk™ helps lactose-intolerant people

The Liggins Institute needs lactose-intolerant Aucklanders for a study that researchers hope will make them better able to tolerate dairy.

The study participants will consume conventional cheese and milk for two weeks and a2 Milk cheese and milk for two weeks (with a recovery break between), to see if benefits of a2 Milk identified in an earlier study by the same researchers persist over a longer period.

That 2017 study, a collaboration between the Liggins Institute and AgResearch, found that a2 Milk prevents some symptoms of lactose intolerance and eases others, even though it contains the same amount of lactose as conventional milk.

Researchers showed a2 Milk was at least as effective as lactose-free milk at preventing or reducing some symptoms including nausea, stomach pain and bloating, but didn’t improve ratings of “overall digestive comfort”. It also produced the same levels of flatulence and gastric reflux as regular milk.

Globally, about 70 per cent of adults consider themselves lactose-intolerant and experience bloating, nausea or other unpleasant symptoms after consuming dairy products.

The study lead, Dr Amber Milan, a research fellow at the Liggins Institute, says:

“We already know that lactose-intolerant people can sometimes build up their tolerance to lactose over time by including lactose or milk in their diet.

“If we can help that process along, hopefully we can improve digestion of lactose after just a few weeks. We’re hopeful that consuming dairy with only the A2 protein will reduce symptoms by avoiding inflammation that might make intolerance worse.”

Regular milk contains both the A1 and A2 types of beta-casein protein, a major milk protein, while a2 Milkcomes from cows that naturally produce only the A2 type.

AgResearch scientist Matthew Barnett explains:

“There is evidence from animal studies that a breakdown product of the A1 protein causes inflammation in the small intestine, which could make lactose intolerance symptoms worse.”

The new study, dubbed Los aMiGoS, has been designed to minimise uncomfortable symptoms by limiting daily lactose to the equivalent of two glasses of milk – an amount that is usually tolerable for people with lactose intolerance.

To spare participants unnecessary discomfort, researchers will top up their protein consumption with daily servings of cheese, which is nearly lactose-free. Cheese from a2 Milk has been especially created for the study. Neither the participants nor researchers will know which kind of dairy they’re consuming for each fortnight stretch.

Participants need to be aged 20-40, believe they are lactose-intolerant, and be willing to give this study a go. People interested in joining the study can find out more here.

The study is funded through High Value Nutrition to AgResearch and in partnership with the a2 Milk™ Company.

Source: Liggins Institute


Doctors are reminded of health threat from toxic tutu’s potential to taint honey

Toxins from native tutu plants can contaminate honey, causing vomiting and neurological symptoms (such as seizures) for those who eat it.

Reflecting on a case in 2008, when three family members were poisoned after eating local honey, medical researchers emphasise there is still a significant risk of toxic honey production in the warmer parts of New Zealand.

But because the toxin isn’t present in tutu pollen, researchers are unsure about how it gets into the honey, though passion vine hoppers feeding on the plants might be to blame.

The incident in 2008 led to the development of new food safety standards for New Zealand honey in 2016.

While it raised public and medical awareness of honey poisoning at that time, the authors of a new study think it has slipped from public memory. They say doctors need to be informed of this risk and know how best to manage it. The incident in question led to the development of new food safety standards for New Zealand honey in 2016.

A media release from the New Zealand Medical Association provides an abstract of the paper, which has been published by the New Zealand Medical Journal.

AIM: In autumn 2008, an outbreak of toxic honey poisoning was identified. The outbreak was not recognised initially until three cases from one family group presented to hospital, with a common factor of recent consumption of locally produced honey. The aim of this study was to investigate potential cases of this honey poisoning and determine which toxin was involved.

METHOD: The incident was investigated retrospectively by Waikato District Health Board’s Population Health unit and the New Zealand Food Safety Authority (NZFSA). Identified patients were followed up by questionnaire to gather case information. HortResearch (now Plant and Food Research) tested honey samples for toxins.

RESULTS: The causative agent was identified as tutin, which comes from the New Zealand native plant tutu (Coriariaarborea) which has long been known as a potential source of contamination of honey produced in the warmer parts of New Zealand. Retrospective case investigation identified a total of 22 possible or probable cases, based on a clinical case definition. The spectrum of toxic effects reported were broadly similar to those previously described for tutin, derived either directly from the plant itself or indirectly from honey. There were 13 samples of honey, linked to symptomatic individuals, which were available for testing. Of these, 10 were positive for tutin and its hydroxy metabolite hyenanchin (hydroxytutin) and one was positive for hyenanchin alone.

CONCLUSION: Toxic honey production is a significant risk in parts of New Zealand. Beekeepers and health professionals need to be informed of this risk and know how best to manage it. Due to this poisoning incident, public and professional awareness of honey poisoning has been substantially enhanced. This incident led to development of new food safety standards for New Zealand honey.

The research involved the University of Otago, the Ministry for Primary Industries and the National Poisons Centre.

Source: Scimex

More dairy associated with higher bone density and greater spine strength in men over 50

Researchers from Hebrew SeniorLife’s Institute for Aging Research (IFAR), Wageningen University, Tilburg University, University of Reading, and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) have discovered that higher intake of dairy foods, such as milk, yogurt, and cheese, is associated with higher volumetric bone mineral density and vertebral strength at the spine in men.

Dairy intake seems to be most beneficial for men over age 50, and continued to have positive associations irrespective of serum vitamin D status.

In women, researchers found no significant results except for a positive association of cream intake in the cross sectional area of the bone.

Study participants included 1,522 men and 1,104 women from the Framingham Study, aged 32-81 years. Researchers examined quantitative computed tomography (QCT) measures of bone to determine associations with dairy intake.

Shivani Sahni, Ph.D., Director Nutrition Program and Associate Scientist at IFAR and senior author of the study said the study related dairy intake with QCT- derived bone measures, which are unique because they provide information on bone geometry and compartment-specific bone density that are key determinants of bone strength.

The results of the study highlight the beneficial role of a combination of dairy foods upon bone health and these beneficial associations remain irrespective of serum vitamin D status in a person, he said.

The results hapublished recently in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Density.

Researchers from Hebrew SeniorLife’s Institute for Aging Research (IFAR), Wageningen University, Tilburg University, University of Reading, and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) have discovered that higher intake of dairy foods, such as milk, yogurt, and cheese, is associated with higher volumetric bone mineral density and vertebral strength at the spine in men.

Dairy intake seems to be most beneficial for men over age 50 and continued to have positive associations irrespective of serum vitamin D status.

Journal Reference:

  1. Laura H van Dongen, Douglas P Kiel, Sabita S Soedamah-Muthu, Mary L Bouxsein, Marian T Hannan, Shivani Sahni. Higher Dairy Food Intake Is Associated With Higher Spine Quantitative Computed Tomography (QCT) Bone Measures in the Framingham Study for Men But Not WomenJournal of Bone and Mineral Research, 2018; DOI: 10.1002/jbmr.3414
  2. Source: ScienceDaily