U of Minnesota Food Science News Fall 2011


Gary Reineccsius, Food Science and Nutrition department head, U of Minnesota

In a newsletter, the University of Minnesota’s head of the Food Science and Nutrition Department, Gary Reineccius, PhD, covered topics from a new natural peptide that can kill gram-negative pathogens in food to student enrollment figures.

Food scientists, in general, remain more connected to universities and colleges than many professions, I think. Much (maybe most) technical expertise is learned from experience over a food technologist’s career, however, generally those careers start with formal degrees. The three arenas of government, industry and academia all have a huge impact on the world of food science and product development.

I myself stay somewhat connected with the University of Minnesota’s Department of Food Science and Nutrition (FScN). Despite the many years that have passed, personal connections remain, including with the department chair, Dr. Gary Reineccius, who was my flavor chemistry professor. I also keep tabs on the “going ons” at FScN in that it also provides source of information into the world of product development.

FScN’s 2011 fall newsletter had a few points I found of interest. They include:

  • Student enrollment in food science is up, but pales in comparison to registration in the nutrition. The department has some 100 students in food science (Reineccius believes food science was down to about 37 students at one time). Enrollment in the nutrition program (which is distinctly different from the food science program) is stable at about 360 students. Lastly there are about 130 graduate students in each of those two disciplines.
  • The department obtained approval from the University’s office that manages research for a Master Agreement for Service and Research. Reineccius notes that ownership of intellectual property (IP) and publication rights are major stumbling blocks in establishing research contracts [a key source of funding for universities]. Furthermore, Reineccius considered it good news that the University now has a program (http://www.research.umn.edu/documents/2011PPT.pdf)  that, in exchange for a “reasonable upfront payment,” will forgo any consideration of intellectual property (IP) rights. “Basically, the University is recognizing that little is gained in royalties and much is lost in not working with industry when appropriate.”
  • Lastly, the newsletter carried an example of the type of research that the industry may be interested in. In August 2011, university researchers discovered and received a patent for a naturally occurring lantibiotic, a peptide produced by a harmless bacteria, that could be added to food to kill pathogens such as Salmonella, E. coli, and Listeria. The newsletter states “The lantibiotic is the first natural preservative found to kill gram-negative bacteria…  The lantibiotic could be used to prevent harmful bacteria in meats, processed cheeses, egg and dairy products, canned foods, seafood, salad dressing, fermented beverages, and many other foods.” The newsletter added that besides food safety benefits, “lantibiotics are easy to digest, nontoxic, do not induce allergies, and are difficult for dangerous bacteria to develop resistance against.”

Here is the link to the complete newsletter: http://tinyurl.com/88463y6

Posted on:January 11, 2012

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