Kent University's nanobiotechnology research group has won more than €800,000 (£540,000) to help a European consortium improve the safety and quality assurance of chilled and frozen food.
Ian Bruce, Kent's professor of nanobiotechnology, who is leading the group that won the European Commission grant, aims to improve the efficiency of food testing for quality, which he hopes will increase consumer confidence and choice.
"Our job is to produce materials that can be used principally to better monitor the processing of food produce and its quality at all stages of production and sale - from 'farm gate to plate'," he said.
"We are making materials capable of sensing different things: for example, pathogenic organisms or organisms responsible for food spoilage, or when a food has started to degrade because it has become too warm or has been physically damaged."
There are severe limitations on how producers can guarantee the quality of food, particularly for chilled and frozen products, Professor Bruce said.
"The methods used at the moment are frequently subjective and cannot be applied to all examples of a particular product, especially when it is processed in large numbers," he said.
"For example, the most common way to test whether fish is bad is to smell it, but every fish has a smell, so you need to be a real expert to know when it matters."
Professor Bruce joined Kent in 2004 from the University of Urbino in Italy where he held a nanobiotechnology chair. Since then, the European Commission has awarded him €3.25 million for his work on nanoparticles and their surfaces.
Letitia Hughes and Olga Wojtas