Teagasc research benefits health of humans and animals

 

Major research at Teagac's Dairy Research Centre at Moorepark, near Fermoy in Co Cork, is producing innovative products which have benefits for human and animal health, as well as adding value to milk components.

New dairy ingredients, new cheeses, chocolate ingredients, food spoilage inhibitors, functional foods and probiotics - which can replace antibiotics - are among products being developed in the public research programme.

Some are at commercial developmental stage.

And other research is being undertaken in conjunction with industry in a £5 million (€6.35 million) joint venture research centre, where smaller companies can do commercial development and testing of new products.

Research on milk has focused on improving the properties of casein and whey proteins, and on separating milk fat into various fractions which have special properties as fat ingredients.

Dr Liam Donnelly, director of the Dairy Products Research Centre, says that the casein yield in milk can be increased by between 10 and 15 per cent with the incorporation of whey proteins.

And it is studying the application of Proteinate, a patented process, in convenience foods, such as processed cheese and as a stabiliser in cream liqueurs.

A new area is the development of ingredients for the chocolate and confectionery industries.

In the cheese programme, there are two main areas of research - cheese ingredients and table cheeses.

Two types of mozarella cheeses are being studied as ingredients, not so much for flavour as for their melting and stretching characteristics, he explains.

On the table cheese front, it is concentrating on new or modified products.

New cultures are being identified which differentiate and enhance flavour on the biggest variety, cheddar, but considerable work is being done on improving the flavour and texture qualities of low-fat cheeses.

In the biotechnology area, milk cultures are being developed as spoilage inhibitors.

For example, a digestible milk protein, lacticin, can control undesirable organisms in food and can suppress and prevent the growth of listeria in soft cheeses.

Dr Donnelly says there is preliminary evidence that it can extend the shelf-life of normal healthy milk.

Enterprise Ireland is funding research on the milk shelf-life project.

Lacticin can also provide a non- antibiotic cure for mastitis in dairy cows.

Teatseal is a newly licensed product developed for the Irish company, Crossvet Pharm.

Dr Donnelly says the Moorepark research centre is exploring with Cork Dental Hospital its properties in the prevention and control of dental caries and gum disease in humans. "In the lab we have been able to show it's very effective in dental caries prevention; it's now for the dental hospital to carry out clinical trials."

The biotechnological research at Moorepark is not just about improving a food product, Dr Donnelly says.

"There are ancillary innovations which are more part of the biotechnology industry than the established food industry.

"But I think it's just as important we exploit these advantages in public research. In this type of study, we would always link up with other institutions with expertise in the clinical area."

Work on the development of a new biocheese, in conjunction with the Irish Dairy Board is at an advanced stage.

Dr Donnelly explains that the cheese contains a high level of beneficial microrganisms that can populate the intestine and prevent the adherence of pathogens which cause disease.