I recently offered to say a few words about organising meetings at an Early Careers event and it was only when I sat down to think about it that I started to appreciate how much goes into it. Some things I had clearly been doing on auto pilot but there were numerous little tasks that I had been encouraged to do or simply picked up along the way over the years. So for the sake of posterity here is my take on it.
10 things you need to know about organising meetings…
Preparation – what happens before the meeting
Ask yourself why are you having a meeting – what is the aim?
Who needs to be there?
Don’t forget to order refreshments or lunch!
Part 2 ...The Agenda and avoiding the hidden agenda.
It was an honour to be invited back to represent the SCI on the judges panel for the Final of the IFST Young Food Scientist of the Year Final (North of England). This year it was hosted in Middlesbrough by Teesside University.
Undergraduates and Postgraduates were competing to win their category by presenting findings from their dissertation projects. We were welcomed to the very stylish modern campus and an aptly named building, the Curve, by Nigel Atkinson Senior Lecturer at Teesside University in Forensic/Applied Science (Food Chemistry). I was joined by my fellow judges, panel leader Ivan Bartolo of the Sea Fish Industry Authority, Ian Blakemore of Protem Projects and our timekeeper Martin Nulty. This year we were very pleased to welcome onto the panel Claire Abbott, Head of R&D Programme Management at Quorn Foods.
We certainly had our work cut out for us as we were treated to a very high standard of talks from a group of students that were confident and self-assured, on the surface anyway. They certainly kept any nerves well under control. The competition was kicked off by undergraduate Melissa Turner from Sheffield Hallam University who had been studying stress in students, and how the levels of salt consumption may affect systolic blood pressure. Five other undergraduates from Sheffield Hallam, Newcastle and Teesside Universities followed covering a range of topics from the behaviour of green tea polyphenols in the mouth, the effect of a super-fruit on blood sugar and insulin levels, analytical chemistry of fatty acids in edible oils, the impact of branding on consumer choice, and a report on strategies for reducing campylobacter in the food supply chain. Judges were looking at several elements in the presentations; the rational, was the reason for the study explained well; the method adopted, results and their interpretation. Additionally how applicable was the study to the food industry, would the findings add value? Finally the presentation skills and ability to keep to time were considered. The winner from this section was Beth Twilley, from Sheffield Hallam University, with "The role of information and expectation on sensory evaluation: a study investigating the effect of branding". And here are all the winners and runners-up.
Photo courtesy of Teesside University
There were four postgraduate finalists two from Liverpool John Moores, one from Leeds and one industry based at 2 Sisters Food Group. With a little more time they had an opportunity to go into more detail. Of course that meant we had the opportunity to ask more questions! Excellent talks were given on: take away food and impacts on CVD, a novel use of ultrasonics as an analytical tool for studying enzyme kinetics, processing strategies for reducing the incidence of small bones in chicken breast fillet, and a very interesting final talk from Tanja Harrison from Liverpool John Moores University on obesity phenotypes, nutritional status and cardiometabolic risk. In this postgraduate category the winner was Ruth Wright, from 2 Sisters Food Group, with her talk "A study into the reduction of bones in boneless chicken breast fillet". This was a big topic to cover and although only in her first year Ruth presented the project concisely and clearly.
Of course our most discerning judges are often our peers and the audience of fellow students took their opportunity to nominate their own favourite of the evening…and this award went to postgraduate Luisa Patzschewitz, from University of Leeds, with "The ultrasonic resonator technique - a potential analytical tool to measure enzyme kinetics".
All in all an excellent evening and all the participants should be very happy with their performance. Hopefully the Judges didn't do such a bad job either…until next year then.
Since the time of writing “Nanotechnology in the food industry” that appeared in Volume 28, Issue 4, December 2014, FS&T the regulatory environment has shifted once again in Europe.
In December 2013 the European Commission (EC) proposed a new definition of ‘engineered nanomaterial’ for Regulation (EU) No. 1169/2011. This was rejected by members of the European Parliament’s Committee for Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI) on the grounds that ‘the definition could lead to existing nanomaterials not being labelled’.
The changes in the proposed Regulation submitted by the EC to the European Parliament on 24th of November 2014 includes a modified definition: “'engineered nanomaterial' means any intentionally manufactured material, containing particles, in an unbound state or as an aggregate or as an agglomerate and where, for 50% or more of the particles in the number size distribution, one or more external dimensions is in the size range 1 nm to 100 nm. By way of derogation, fullerenes, graphene flakes and single wall carbon nanotubes with one or more external dimensions below 1 nm shall be considered as engineered nanomaterials.” Notification of the proposed changes was made to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) which summarised the changes in approach. http://bit.ly/1Ab5tIB
However, a European Parliament report dated December 1st raised the problem that if instead of the European Food Standards Agency (EFSA) preferred benchmark of 10%, a 50% threshold was applied “even for risk assessment purposes, there would be the serious risk that some nano-ingredients will not be captured by the definition, and would therefore not be subject to risk assessment.” http://bit.ly/1zIc5P3
There is clearly room for further change in the proposed regulations assuming formal objections are submitted following the release of the new regulation. Additionally, there are still unresolved issues around the reliability of measurement of nanomaterials particularly in complex mixtures. The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) has set up working groups to investigate appropriate standard methods for characterizing nanomaterials ISO TC 229/ WG3 and WG4 http://bit.ly/1g3IMvC.
For clarification, it is worth reiterating the EC requirements around novel foods and food ingredients into which nanomaterials fall. The term “Novel foods and food ingredients” generally refers to products which were not consumed in the European Union (EU) to a significant degree before 15th May 1997, i.e. before the current Regulation entered into force.
These products must be:
Also: “To market a novel food or ingredient, companies must apply to a EU country authority for authorisation, presenting the scientific information and safety assessment report.
According to the same EC website on the subject (http://bit.ly/1BIzHk6): “Requirements for labelling of novel food and ingredients are additional to the general EU requirements on food labelling and where necessary, labelling of novel food and novel food ingredients may mention:
If adopted, the new regulations will encompass nanomaterial when the appropriate definition is approved and we will see “(nano)” appearing after nanoengineered ingredients on labels.
Currently, if a EU country considers a novel food, or ingredient, a risk to human or environmental health because of new information, it may suspend or temporarily restrict the marketing and use of any novel food or ingredient on their territory. In the current climate different attitudes towards nanomaterials across member states may result in an on-going degree of uncertainty in the industry. Typically, a country instituting national regulations will inform the Commission of their findings and concerns of risk and the Commission may either extend the national measures to all EU countries or asks that they are repealed. If food ingredients, previously used exclusively in food supplements, were given new uses in other foods, they would fall under the Novel Food Regulation and require authorisation.
It is important to understand what the Novel Food Regulation does not cover. It does not cover foods and ingredients for which an approval exists:
By the end of April 2015, there should be a degree of clarity emerging in this area but I suspect that we will witness a prolonged period of uncertainty. As a result, companies may be hesitant to embark on new developments in nanotechnology based food ingredients whilst the picture across European member states is fragmented. Hopefully, the updated regulatory framework will resolve these issues sooner rather than later.
A few years go I was working on potato flavour at the University of Reading and came upon a class of potent odorants called methoxypyrazines. They were identified in tubers as early as 1973 and have been associated with the characteristic musty, earthy note of potato (Buttery and Ling, 1973; Nursten and Sheen, 1974). The 2-isopropyl-3-methoxypyrazine (IPMP) has previously been identified in raw potato (Buttery and Ling, 1973) and tentatively identified in boiled potato peelings (Meigh et al., 1973). It is of particular interest due to its very low odour threshold value of 2 ng/L (Seifert et al., 1970) and has a characteristic earthy or raw potato/potato peelings odour. Following baking, different potato varieties have been found to contain different concentrations of methoxypyrazines in the skin, where the highest levels were located (Duckham et al., 2001; Oruna-Concha et al., 2001). Unlike many other flavour volatiles the methoxypyrazine levels demonstrate no clear correlation to tuber storage time (Duckham et al. 2002). IPMP has been identified in cultures of Pseudomonas taetrolens (aka. P. perolens) and Buttery and Ling (1973) have suggested that it may be formed in the soil or on the tuber surface from where it could be absorbed into the tuber. The potato is related to the bell pepper, which can produce relatively large amounts of the related compound 2-isobutyl-3-methoxypyrazine (Buttery and Ling, 1973) which has a characteristic capsicum aroma.
Methoxypyrazines may be seen as a fault in some products but in wine they play a more positive role. Interestingly, the methoxypyrazines have been associated with Sauvignon Blanc grape and wine character (Harris et al., 1987; Lacey et al., 1991; Allen et al., 1991) and Campo et al. (2005) found varietal differences when comparing wines.
The origin of the methoxypyrazines remains unclear and their importance as key odorants may be grossly underrated. They have very low odour thresholds and are typically present below the limit of detection of most analytical techniques without pre-concentration and the use of mass spectrometry. A total of six methoxypyrazines were tentatively identified during an earlier study of baked potatoes but, unlike alkyl pyrazines, did not appear to be generated during the cooking process (Duckham et al. unpublished data). Gallois and Grimont (1985) identified several methoxypyrazines apparently responsible for the characteristic potato odour produced by some members of the Enterobacteriaceae family, namely Serratia and Cedecea strains. Improvements in the sensitivity of mass spectrometers over the past 10 years will ensure more reliable detection and identification of these key compounds. Current studies are likely to more reliably identify them in foodstuffs and from environmental sources hopefully leading to a clearer understanding of their biochemical origins. Watch this space.
Several methoxypyrazines have been associated with off-flavours and taints in foodstuffs and this will form the subject of a future posting.
Allen, M.S., Lacey, M.J., Harris, R.L.N. and Vance Brown, W. (1991). "Contribution of Methoxypyrazines to Sauvignon blanc Wine Aroma". Am.J.Enol.Vitic. 42(2):109-112.
Buttery, R.G. and Ling, L.C. (1973). Earthy aroma of potatoes J. Agric. Food Chem., 21: 745-746.
Campo, E., Ferreira, V., Escudero A. and Cacho J. (2005). “Prediction of the Wine Sensory Properties Related to Grape Variety from Dynamic-Headspace Gas Chromatography−Olfactometry Data” J. Agric. Food Chem. 53: 5682−5690.
Duckham, S.C., Dodson, A.T., Bakker, J. and Ames, J.M. (2001). Volatile Flavour Components of Baked Potato Flesh: A Comparison of Eleven Potato Cultivars. Nahrung, 45, 317-323.
Duckham, S.C., Dodson, A.T., Bakker, J. and Ames J.M. (2002) Effect of Cultivar and Storage Time on the Volatile Flavor Components of Baked Potato. J. Agric. Food Chem., 50: 5640-5648.
Gallois, A. and Grimont, P.A.D. (1985). Pyrazines Responsible for the Potatolike Odor Produced by Some Serratia and Cedecea Strains. Applied and Environmental Microbiology 50(4):1048-1051.
Harris, R.L.N., Lacey, M.J., Brown, W.V. and Allen, M.S. (1987). "Determination of 2-Methoxy-3-alkylpyrazines in Wine by Gas Chromatography/Mass Spectrometry". Vitis 26(4):201-207.
Lacey, M.J., Allen, M.S., Harris, R.L.N. and Vance Brown, W. (1991). "Methoxypyrazines in Sauvignon blanc Grapes and Wines". Am.J.Enol.Vitic., 42(2):103-108.
Nursten, H.E. and Sheen, M.R. (1974). Volatile Components of Cooked Potato. J. Sci. Fd Agric., 25: 643-663.
Oruna-Concha, M.J., Duckham, S.C., and Ames, J.M. (2001) Comparison of the Volatile Compounds Isolated from the Skin and Flesh of Four Cultivars of Potato After Baking. J. Agric. Food Chem., 49: 2414-2421.
Seifert, R. M.; Buttery, R.G.; Guadagni, D.G., Black, D.R. and Harris, J.G. (1970). Synthesis of some 2-methoxy-3-alkylpyrazines with strong bell pepper-like odors. J. Agric. Food Chem., 18: 246-249.
Craig is a consultant, a flavour enthusiast and an unapologetic analytical chemistry geek.