Industry must improve bioavailability measurement, study author concludes

By David Anderson

- Last updated on GMT

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Food businesses, academia and the government should club together to help fund research into improving the measurement of bioavailability amid consumers demanding heightened information about the supplements they consume, according to the author of a paper looking into emerging trends in food engineering.

Dr Sam Saguy, professor of technology and innovation, Institute of Biochemistry, Food Science and Nutrition, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, told Nutra Ingredients that it was imperative that the food industry provide consumers with a better understanding of supplements and what they do and that delivering only a safe product wasn’t enough.

“It’s not enough to say we are adding this amount or that amount, the issue is really how much of that is bioavailable. We are really looking for information on how to measure the bioavailability,” he told us.

He said that for too long the food industry has lacked a comprehensive understanding of how food interacts with the body.

But by improving understanding of the proportion of nutrients which have an active impact on the body, then it could help usher in an era of personalised supplements and other products, he said.

Consumers need to know 

“This is an issue which really harms the development of a lot of a new products, ideas and technology. What was sufficient in the past just to have on the package let us say 100mg of vitamin E.

“This is an old story and is not sufficient. What we need to know is really how to measure it and how to quantify that so in the end we are delivering what the consumers’ needs are,”​ he told us.

Saguy said the cost of improved research into bioavailability can be prohibitively high, so has called on industry partners to club together to share the financial burden.

“The government and the food industry and academia and private business should look at that [funding] in a holistic approach and find a way to collaborate,”​ he told us.

Saguy is the author of a paper looking at some of the issues facing food engineering and how to best resolve them.

Food engineering undermined by research cuts

Food engineering, the paper notes, has been undermined by diminished research funding, declining new academic positions, and competition for talent from rival industries, which has meant that has become a less attractive field to enter.

To help meet these challenges, the paper says the food engineering industry needs to redefine itself and its “vision and strategy”, which would help it arrest the slide of talent joining the industry.

“Open innovation” mindset

Along with funding into bioavailability, the paper has also called for an “open innovation” mindset for the industry to adopt.

Key to this approach would be to not just look towards incremental innovation but embracing start-up mentalities and promote research and innovation that disrupts the industry.

“A new and open innovation driven mindset built on the university foundation of basic sciences should be a very powerful combination to address all aspects of the future,”​ the paper notes.

 The paper has also called on the industry to embrace developments in cloud computing, big data and artificial intelligence to help improve the understanding of food formulation and processes, as well as an acknowledgment that social responsibility should be an integral part of the future of food engineering.

Source: Trends in Food Science & Technology

Published online ahead of print: doi.org/10.1016/j.tifs.2016.08.008

“From open innovation to enginomics: Paradigm shifts.”

Authors: Sam Saguy, Petros S Taoukis

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