Major research results – University of Copenhagen

Research > Strengths > Interdisciplinary strengths > Food > Major research results

Major research results

Microorganisms help feed Africa

Food produced with the help of microorganisms is widespread globally, particularly in Africa. The fermentation process is important because it allows raw materials to be used that are otherwise unfit for human consumption. Fermented foods have a long shelf life outside the cold counter, and require less energy and water during the processing stage. Researchers from the University of Copenhagen are working alongside colleagues from Ghana, Burkina Faso and Mali to study how, for example, microorganisms can be used to convert seeds from wild trees into a nutritious products containing amino acids that can be used instead of animal protein.

Ost er en af de fødevarer, der kan undersøges med den nye metodeQuick and better food analyses that exploit the ability of foodstuffs to fluoresce when illuminated

By combining advanced mathematical modelling methodology with the ability of most foods to fluoresce when light is shone on them (spectrophotometric methods), scientists have developed new ways of conducting lightning fast analyses of food. This method can be used to analyse food content – such as proteins, fat, starch and other ingredients – as well as the quality of the food. It can also be used to ascertain whether the composition of the various substances in the food is as it should be, or whether the food contains substances that should not be there. The method is of major financial significance to companies, which save money on time-consuming analyses and are able to change production quickly if anything untoward is detected.

ØkologimærkeChemical method of detecting fraudulent claims about food production and geographical origin

Consumers increasingly demand authentic food – i.e. food that genuinely reflects its stated production method and provenance. The demand for authenticity is great and could lead to significantly higher prices than the average. The development of new, sophisticated analytical methods has made it possible to monitor food authenticity and protect consumers from fraud. The analyses read the traces that the production method and provenance leave in the composition of the foods.

GriseNew uses for databases provide animal welfare documentation

Official agencies conduct random annual inspections of animal welfare in production herds. These inspections are risk-based, i.e. the agencies check up on the most vulnerable animals. The targets for inspection are chosen by examining existing databases for specific risk parameters, e.g. herd size or undesirable conditions detected at slaughter. New data compilation methods provide an opportunity to use selected variables, e.g. treatments for disease, to determine what an animal has been exposed to throughout its lifetime. This makes it possible to identify herds with poor animal welfare as well as individual animals that have suffered from poor standards of welfare. Official agencies are then able to focus their monitoring on these herds.

KartoflerMethod of exploiting potato waste for the production of bioactive carbohydrates with prebiotic effects

Researchers from the University, Novozymes and CPKelco have developed a method of exploiting potato waste to extract large quantities of a bioactive polysaccharide (carbohydrate) from potato cell walls. Rhamnogalacturonan I (RG-I), as the carbohydrate is called, has potential as an active food ingredient with prebiotic effects, e.g. inhibiting cancer and coating medical equipment such as dental implants.

Bakterier i petriskålUnderstanding pathogenic bacteria in food

The key to food safety is understanding how different pathogenic bacteria end up in foodstuffs. Scientists are studying how bacteria behave and evolve, how they survive during storage and preparation and how they make people who eat the food ill. For example, it now appears that even permitted residues of antibiotics in meat can inhibit desired microflora in sausages and leave the way open for pathogenic bacteria. 

Sortbroget malkekvægImprovement of livestock breeding by identifying disease-prone genes

Hidden genetic defects can cause disease in herds of cattle with a record of poor animal welfare, leading to financial losses. Researchers at the University have helped identify a number of disease-prone genes. Breeders can use the method to prevent a number of hereditary diseases.

YoghurtSelecting the right bacteria makes creamy low-fat yoghurt

Fermented milk products such as yogurt, curdled milk and sour milk are produced by adding bacteria that acidify the milk by converting the sugar content into lactic acid. When the milk acidifies, the proteins huddle together to form a network. Combined with the fat in the milk, this network gives the fermented milk products their thick consistency. Some of the bacteria used produce a natural stabiliser that binds large amounts of water and provides the optimal consistency – without fat. If the right bacteria are selected for the acidification, it is possible to make creamy and thick products that contain little or no fat.

Sandwich med skinke og agurkDevelopment of a new generation of processed meat products 

Bacon, salami and ham are produced by nitrite salting, which makes meat products long lasting and safe. However, Parma ham is an example of salting without nitrite or nitrate. In Parma ham, zinc is used in the muscle-dye myoglobin instead of iron. The two metals are swapped using one of the muscle's enzymes. This exchange does not take place in traditional cured meat products. In collaboration with research institutions in Brazil, scientists from the University of Copenhagen are now studying whether this knowledge can be applied to the production of new types of cured meats.