Tim Brocklehurst - Articles and news items
Issue 2 2008, Past issues • 13 June 2008 • Zoe Dunford, Media Relations & Science Writer, John Innes Centre and Institute of Food Research and Professor Tim Brocklehurst, Head of Microbial Ecology Platform & Head of the IFP Food and Health Network, Institute of Food Research
IFR is publicly funded and can undertake the kind of long term fundamental research that cannot economically be undertaken by industry, but will lead to product and processing innovations in years to come. Past breakthroughs include pioneering work in the 1930s on controlled atmosphere storage to enable the transport and increased shelf life of foods. Research from the 1970s underpins UK policy on dietary fibre and work from the 1990s informed policy on fruit and vegetable consumption.
As part of a study into the effect of food structure on microbial growth, a need for accurate prediction of the chemistry of the food environment was identified. The project described here aimed to develop tools to predict the local pH and concentration of organic acids in products from the agri-food industry and related sectors.
pH is a key property of foods. It affects flavour, physical structure, colour and can be one of the key determinants of microbiological stability. Acidic products are intrinsically less hospitable for the growth of food poisoning bacteria and low pH also promotes the action of weak acid preservatives such as potassium sorbate. Despite this pivotal role, predicting the pH of a product from knowledge of its recipe is far from straightforward and therefore products are frequently formulated entirely by trial and error.
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