GCU helps to make food safe on World Health Day

07 April 2015

GCU helps to make food safe on World Health Day

Professor Kofi Aidoo

New data on the harm caused by foodborne illnesses underscore the global threats posed by unsafe foods, and the need for coordinated, cross-border action across the entire food supply chain, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), which is dedicating its annual World Health Day (today, April 7) to the issue of food safety.

Though safe ingredients in food and drink often include additives, preservatives and chemicals, a list of such ingredients is now likely to put consumers off and food companies are challenged to create healthier products with longer shelf lives.

Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) has significant expertise in the areas of microbiology and food sciences. World class expertise in the microbiology, safety, chemistry and structure of food at GCU is regularly called on by corporate and public sector organisations, enabling them to develop food products without harmful bacteria, pathogens, toxins and chemicals.

Professor Kofi Aidoo sits on the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA), the international scientific expert advisory board administered by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation and WHO The influential body has been meeting since 1956 to evaluate the safety of food additives and its work now also includes the evaluation of contaminants, naturally occurring toxicants and residues of veterinary drugs in food.

Professor Aidoo’s appointment helps to enhance food safety standards internationally. “We can’t live without food but, as much as it provides nourishment and what we need for growth, there are major issues surrounding food which lead to serious health issues such as food poisoning and food-borne diseases.”

GCU is the only university in the UK to have a United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS) accredited laboratory in food analysis. Specialist equipment includes dedicated instrumentation which allows for the rapid detection and classification of bacteria relevant to food safety. The University’s food analysis services are used by many blue chip companies and SMEs which rely on effective and efficient sampling and analysis.

Recent consultancy projects include analysis of levels of preservatives such as sorbic acid and sulphur dioxide and microbiological evaluation of bacteria in a range of food products. Significant work is undertaken in assisting food and drink companies extend the shelf life of their products through improvements to the factory production process advised by longer term microbiological analysis of samples.

There is a growing demand worldwide for highly trained graduates in food science and technology, for positions in the food and food-related industries. GCU’s MSc Food Bioscience programme is designed to meet that demand.

WHO has issued the first findings from what is a broader ongoing analysis of the global burden of foodborne diseases. The full results of this research, being undertaken by WHO’s Foodborne Disease Burden Epidemiology Reference Group (FERG), are expected to be released in October 2015.

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