Humans have transformed raw ingredients into food since prehistoric times. But scientists are still looking for new ways to make food taste better and survive longer. Presenting their findings at a recent European Science Foundation (ESF) and European Cooperation in the field of Scientific and Technical Research (COST) conference, scientists show how new food technologies are changing European diets.
The industrial revolution brought the advent of modern food processing technology. Whether you credit the Frenchman Nicholas Appert in 1809, or British born Peter Durand in 1810, the invention of the tin can has revolutionised the way people eat. The motivation behind its invention was simple make food last long. Two hundred years on, food scientists are still trying to improve the shelf life of food.
For example, by introducing mixtures of oxygen, nitrogen and carbon dioxide into packaging, some fresh vegetables have had their life extended two- or three-fold. A similar approach is used in the packaging of meat, where gas is pumped into packaging, reducing oxygenation of the meats pigments, extending its shelf life.
But todays food scientists have to consider more than just the use-by-date. Europeans want food that is cheap, convenient, high quality, safe and more and more produced in a eco-friendly way, explains Professor Brian McKenna, a food scientist at University College Dublin in Ireland. In addition, McKenna thinks that food plays a variety of roles in European society nowadays. Food is important to peoples health as it is increasingly being linked to diseases such as obesity, coronary heart disease and diabetes, he says. Furthermore, Europeans are now more aware of the cultural role of food in every day life. So food scientists must design technology that helps people get what they want from their food.
While increased interest over food can deliver more choice for consumers, it has also led to some misinformed debates
|Contact: Astrid Lunkes|
European Science Foundation