THE ROBERT Gordon University in Aberdeen is heading a Pounds 1 million European Union project to build a database that will help improve food quality and food safety.
Biophysicist Paul Nesvadba of the university's new food science and technology centre is coordinating research by food industrialists, scientists and technologists from 23 laboratories in 14 countries.
The three-year project will draw together data on the physical properties of food, giving the food industry information, for example, on how different types of food heat up, how much water they absorb at different humidity levels, and the viscosity of different liquids.
The project will also investigate the permeability of packaging to gases.
Dr Nesvadba said the data would allow the food industry to create mathematical and computer models for designing and controlling food processing.
The food industry had lagged behind the chemical industry in technology transfer, he said.
The Technology Foresight review had warned that food companies' lack of information was a barrier to creating computer models.
"The database will provide information on how quickly foods heat up, and storage stability, enabling the industry to predict the exact lethal doses to deliver to bacteria in foods," Dr Nesvadba said. "With consumers becoming progressively more choosy in wanting to buy foods which are low in salt and sugar, this information will be very useful to the industry in controlling bacteria."
The project will collate existing data, checking its accuracy, and carrying out research to fill the gaps.
Dr Nesvadba is one of four senior staff from the former Torry central science laboratory in Aberdeen who set up the food and science technology centre jointly with the university's school of applied sciences. The move came after the laboratory was axed and staff scheduled for transfer to the central science laboratory in York.