Food Chemistry Research Programme
Protect the public from health risks brought upon by food
The Food chemistry project at NIFS focuses on exploring the application of food chemistry to add value to under-utilized plant resources to address food security. Food security is a problem of national importance for Sri Lanka in the context of climate change. In this backdrop, adding value to the under-utilized resources is a good strategy as Sri Lanka is a tropical country with a rich biodiversity of plant resources. Furthermore, in the agricultural sector, there are several byproducts, which are either wasted or under-utilized due to lack of research on their commercial value. However, through systematic studies, we can add value to formulate novel food products or ingredients. These novel products can address the food and nutritional needs of the society and also serve as functional foods to mitigate the risk of developing chronic diseases such as diabetes. We investigate the nutritional composition, bioactivity, keeping quality and functional properties of raw materials from these under-utilized plant resources. Generally, the nutritional composition, bioactivity and functional properties of raw food items can change due to the application of different food processing methods such freezing, thawing, drying, frying, etc. Research on such changes is of considerable importance for human nutrition, food safety and wellness. As a part of the project, we also focus on the application of food chemistry to ensure the quality and authenticity of food products to safeguard consumers from fraudulent practices.
Why does this matter ?
Nutritional quality and organoleptic properties of food are often affected by food processing. Although different processing methods are required to be applied to destroy pathogenic bacteria and other harmful microorganisms, this inherently causes some losses in the nutritional quality of foods. Processes that expose foods to high levels of heat, light or oxygen cause the greatest nutrient loss. It is practically impossible to add everything that has been taken out, especially, vitamins, minerals, and bioactive phytochemicals. Therefore, it is vitally important to maintain the authenticity and quality of food to provide customer satisfaction in a competitive marketplace.