1. Introduction 

Declan Troy, President of the Institute of Food Science & Technology of Ireland (IFSTI), welcomed the attendees and stressed the importance of the conference for post-graduate students and early stage researchers in food science and related disciplines. The conference is now under the umbrella of IFSTI and the intention is to build on past strengths and carry it forward with renewed energy. There were five keynote lectures, 25 other orals, 125 attendees, 53 poster presentations, and a careers fair. There was ample opportunity for networking during the poster sessions, coffee and lunch breaks, and at the conference social evening. The conference was organised by Declan Troy, Eimear Gallagher and Kay Burgess ǀ in association with colleagues in Teagasc (Ashtown) and personnel from IFSTI. 

2. Keynote lectures (KLs)

KL1 (O. Schlüter; Germany) discussed phase changes as a tool for food processing. Focus was on the phase diagram of water and on the effects of high pressure (HP) on phase transitions of water in terms of freezing point depression, latent heat reduction, and different forms of ice. Opportunities for HP-low temperature processing include: (i) storing food at <0ºC; (ii) freezing food at >0ºC; (iii) pressure assisted freezing/thawing; (iv) pressure shift freezing; (v) pressure induced thawing; and (vi) freezing to ice-3. Aspects (i-vi) are clearly visible on the phase diagram for water with a temperature y-axis (-50 to +10ºC) and a HP x-axis (0 to 400MPa). Ice-3 is a form of solid water which consists of tetragonal crystalline ice. The potential application of plasma along production chains was also highlighted with examples of increasing germination rates, decreasing stem lengths, and modified flavonoid glycoside profile in pea plants/peas. The impact of plasma on water/fat binding and swelling properties of protein- and fibre-rich fractions from pea flour was also discussed as was the use of plasma for inactivating bacteria in foods. 

KL2 (S. Mulvany, Teagasc, Ashtown) defined IP as: (i) any creative work or invention considered to be the property of its creator; (ii) intangible asset of a business; (iii) something an investor can invest in; (iv) an insurance policy; (v) a revenue stream; and (vi) a business tool. The benefits of researchers collaborating with industry were highlighted in the order university versus (vs) industry: (a) expanded research capacity vs campus research collaborations; (b) research or project funding vs lower research overhead; (c) access to cutting edge/real world projects vs access to world class expertise; (d) student learning opportunities vs future employees/recruiting; (e) fees for equipment and facilities vs access to specialised equipment; (f) licensing revenue vs licenced IP; (g) academic publications opportunity vs publicity for sponsorship. Protecting IP confers it with a ‘value’ that can be commercially exploited, sold or traded. Other aspects discussed included ownership of IP developed in Teagasc, commercialisation pathways, principals of technology transfer, and metrics of patent applications.

KL3 (Brijesh Tiwari, Teagasc, Ashtown) discussed non-thermal processing technologies including high pressure, ultrasound, airborne acoustics, ozone, plasma, and light-based technologies, and their role in food quality, safety and nutrition. Their effect on food constituents, microbial inactivation, and food physical properties was outlined with emphasis on the chemical effects. Food lipids, carbohydrates, bioactive compounds and minerals are minimally affected by these technologies when used optimally. Opportunities offered by non-thermal technologies include wide applications, full retention of nutrients and flavour, effective reduction of microbes, and zero residual effects. Challenges posed are cost, consumer perception, legislation, and feasibility of scale-up.

KL4 (M. Cullen, Dawn Farm Foods) defined innovation as connecting the many different elements of the innovative things a company does and focusing them on the company’s customers. It’s about connecting the company world to the customers’ world. NECTAR is the company branded stage gate process to ensure there is a pipeline of innovation for key customers i.e. working with customers to identify their needs, staying aligned with their needs, and designing products that deliver real value. Four types of new product development (NPD) were cited: (i) variant NPD, e.g. existing product with a different flavour; (ii) adaptive NPD, e.g. minor change to process, pack, portion size; (iii) step change innovation, e.g. significant change to product or process that would open up new markets or possibilities; (iv) new to market innovation, e.g. a genuine new product or process that would give a competitive edge in the market place.

KL5 (V. Vasilis, University of Malta) described the anti-fungal efficiency of zinc oxide nanoparticles (ZnO NPs) and their application in air filtration. Air filtration systems are used in food storage facilities to control fungal spores which may enter via a range of routes. A review of conventional air filtration systems was given followed by outcomes from the EU 7th Framework RePear project. This relates to the development of a new sustainable long term solution that complies with Integrated Pest Management (IPM) standards and the future EU Directive of Sustainable Use of Pesticides for the pear postharvest sector (RePear, 2014-2017). Conclusions were: (i) predictive mycology is a powerful tool to assess growth dynamics of fungal contaminants; (ii) ZnO NPs with sizes <50 nm have significant antifungal activity against postharvest fungal isolates, and (iii) the level of surface contaminants on industrial scale filters was small. 

3. Theme lectures (orals)

This embraced 25 lecture/oral presentations which have been broadly grouped under six theme headings (3.1 to 3.6). The number assigned to each oral corresponds to that in the conference book of abstracts.  

3.1 Food safety [orals (O) 4, 10, 11, 14, 22, 25]

O4 showed that high pressure processing (HPP) gave higher rates of inactivation for E coli, Listeria and Salmonella, and lower levels of spoilage organisms than conventional thermal treatment in raw milk suggesting that HPP has applications for shelf life extension of liquid dairy products. Proteolytic enzymes of some enterococci species have application as starter and adjunct cultures that improve the organoleptic properties of food (O10) and a study was conducted to develop an improved rapid, one-step screening method to isolate proteolytic enterococci. Kanamycin Aesculin Azide (KAA) agar proved key and was combined with skim milk to produce a growth medium selective for proteolytic enterococci from various sources. The potential of ultra-short peptides (USPs) to combat drug-resistant microbes was the topic of O11. Results indicated that amidated USP showed growth inhibition/killing of several fungal contaminants of cereal products in addition to anti-yeast activity and is a starting point for designing novel food preservatives. Circa 50% of poultry carcasses are Campylobacter positive after slaughter (O14). Use of bacteriophages (viruses) is one way to reduce Campylobacter in poultry. Isolated bacteriophages for Campylobacter control have been characterized and applied to poultry meat to quantify their antimicrobial effect. Preliminary assessment of biofilm formation of 44 mushroom industry isolates indicated that L. monocytogenes can readily form biofilms on industry relevant surfaces (O22). Areas of specific concern where rigorous cleaning and disinfection was required were identified. Developing a model to predict growth of Listeria in complex food matrices as a function of pH, water activity and acetic/propionic acid concentrations was the topic of O25. This study is the first to report on modelling of propionic acid as an inhibitor of Listeria in combination with other hurdles. The outcomes provide insights into predictive model design, performance and validation in real food systems. 

3.2 Food quality/marketing (orals 7, 9, 16, 18, 24)

Finding market opportunities for animal proteins derived from low value streams in the meat processing chain was the topic of O7. ReValueProtein i.e. blood, lungs, cook loss and meat exudates from ham production are promising co-products from an economical perspective. Simulated retail display tests on the stability of suckler bull beef from grass- versus concentrate-based systems (O9) indicated that despite the higher content of easily oxidised PUFA in the former, its higher α-tocopherol/PUFA ratio resulted in greater stability compared to the latter. O16 showed that bactofugation (pre-treatment to remove Clostridium spores) resulted in lower levels of butyric acid fermentation in Maasdam cheese without significantly altering other ripening characteristics. However, care is needed when incorporating high-heat treated bactofugate into cheese milk as this can influence cheese composition and hardness. Pink discoloration in cheese is an ongoing problem (O18) and studies on the presence of Thermus thermophilus and its potential to cause the defect showed that it was absent in control cheese samples and that pinking was strain dependent and was also influenced by other unknown factors. The smell of fresh bread was the focus of O24. Bread contains over 540 distinct volatile compounds but less than 20 contribute to bread aroma. A small survey indicated that the smell of fresh bread was the second favourite food aroma after roasted coffee. 

3.3 Ingredients (orals 3, 8, 15, 21)

O3 outlined the development of a prediction tool for the application of hydrocolloids in the production of potato starch-based gluten-free breads. The tool facilitated optimising the inclusion level for each of six hydrocolloids in order to produce gluten-free breads with the same quality characteristics as wheat flour breads. Polyphosphate chelating salts are added to milk protein concentrate (MPC) powders to aid their solubility by binding calcium (O8). However, chelating salts can interact with casein micelles causing increases in viscosity and gelation. This study transglutaminase MPC had lower viscosity in the presence of high levels of sodium hexametaphosphate which allowed dispersions to be dried at higher chelating salt concentrations. Using xylitol, mannitol and maltitol as potential sucrose replacers in burger buns was the topic of O15. A 30% reduction of added sucrose was achieved by the use of polyols. Of these, mannitol showed the highest sensory acceptance. O21 reported on the isolation and characterization of κ-casein/whey protein particles from heated milk protein concentrate and the role of κ-casein in whey protein aggregation. Samples containing the highest proportion of caseins were the most heat-stable, κ-Casein appeared to act as a chaperone thereby controlling the aggregation of whey proteins.

3.4 Health (orals 1, 2, 6, 20)

O1 dealt with the evaluation of physicochemical and glycaemic properties of 17 commercial plant-based milk substitutes from different cereals, nuts and legumes. Only soya based samples had protein contents matching those of cow’s milk. Glycaemic index values ranged from 47 (bovine milk) to 64 (almond-based) and up to 100 (rice-based samples). Most products had low nutritional quality. Hydrolysed milk proteins are beneficial to allergic individuals who have difficulty in digesting bovine milk proteins. O2 reported a study on developing model medical or therapeutic beverages using bovine casein-dominant hydrolysates. The results showed that hydrolysates-based beverages could be produced but with significantly reduced physico-chemical stability compared to those using non-hydrolysed proteins. The aim of the ‘Milkybiotics’ study was to investigate the effect of selected milk components on modulating intestinal cells to allow enhanced colonisation of health-promoting bacteria (O6). This provided an insight into how these bacteria colonise the human gut and highlighted the potential of colostrum and milk components as functional ingredients. The effect of starter cultures on the antithrombotic activities of sheep milk and yoghurts was the topic of O20. The results indicated that all the yoghurts tested possessed potent biological activity and that the process of bacterial fermentation changes the polar lipid composition of milk as it is fermented to yoghurt. 

3.5 Methodology (orals 5, 13, 23)

Developing a rapid PCR-based method to discriminate the flavour-forming Macrococcus caseolyticus species from related Staphylococcus species was the topic of O5. The method was based on a primer set designed to amplify part of the cytochrome C oxidase subunit II (ctaC) gene and offers a rapid, efficient tool for targeting M. caseolyticus strains in complex microbial communities as well as discriminating this species from species of its sister genus Staphylococcus. O13 was on the validation of an in-line Process-Analytical-Technology (PAT) tool to monitor coagulation kinetics of milk at different protein contents. A NIR diffuse reflectance and fluorescence sensor was used for the measurements and it was concluded that the PAT tool developed combined with robust prediction models, has potential for in-line monitoring of milk coagulation kinetics. The objective of the work described in O23 was to build a mathematical model for strawberries to assess the effect on quality of: (i) in-pack headspace gas composition; (ii) the cold chain (temperature and relative humidity); and (iii) product respiration rate. Outcomes showed that a reduction of the respiration rate (via modification of in-pack atmosphere) and reduction of water transfer (via edible coatings) may prove more successful than other interventions. 

3.6 Rheology (orals 12, 17, 19)

Fortified blended food (FBF) powders are supplied by the World Food Programme and are consumed as a porridge or soup (O12). FBFs were made using oats (FBFO), wheat (FBFW) or barley (FBFB). Respective contents (% w/w) were: starch (39.1, 37.8, 32.7), protein (19.5, 19.1, 19.8), fat (7.2, 5.8, 6.6) and moisture (6.1, 6.3, 6.6). Viscosity of pastes made from the powders was in the order FBFO > FBFW > FBFB. These results show that ccereal type influences the nutrient value and edible consistency of FBFs. O17 discussed the influence of protein concentration (as influenced by seasonality) and coagulation temperature on viscoelastic properties of milk gels. The results suggested that seasonal milks can be successfully coagulated at 5% protein and 28°C; however, concentrating to 6% protein requires process modification. Knowledge of bulk handling properties of food powders is essential for the design of industrial equipment (O19). Protein-rich (33-39%) amaranth, buckwheat and quinoa powders had: (i) higher ash, fat and fibre contents; (ii) smaller particles; (iii) higher compressibility indices, and were more cohesive compared to their regular protein content equivalents. This information is critical in optimising the processing, stability and applications of these value-added ingredients.

4. Poster presentations

The 53 posters have been broadly classified in the six theme areas above; it was necessary to include a seventh theme i.e. processes/technology to facilitate a better classification. The number of posters in each theme area is expressed as a percentage: food safety (30), processes/technology (23), ingredients (11), methodology (11), food quality/marketing (9), health (9), rheology (7).

5. Careers fair

This was of key importance for post-graduate students who will enter the jobs market in the near or relatively near future. It was facilitated by personnel from Kerry Foods and other mentors.

6. Conference close

Stefan Horstmann (UCC) and Jonathan Magan (Teagasc, Moorepark) received awards for the best student oral (Development of a prediction tool for the application of hydrocolloids in the production of potato starch based bread) and poster (Effect of bovine diet on the functional properties of whole milk powders) presentations respectively. Declan Troy thanked the speakers, chairpersons, poster presenters, mentors, attendees and his co-organisers, and said he looked forward to meeting everybody again at 47th Conference in UCC in 2018.