The Science Of Food

 shutterstock_67879747Research findings from the Clinical Nutrition Research Centre help companies formulate better food products.

Singapore’s food scene is getting really exciting — not just for avid gourmands and Instagrammers, but for those geeks out there who are interested in the science and processes behind what eventually ends up on your plate. As the Government moves to grow the Food Science and Technology industry through an Industry Transformation Map announced in 2016, it is supporting all sorts of interesting developments. These include efforts to turn everyday food in to medicine and overcome our limitations when it comes to traditional farming methods. Here are some cool projects that have already gotten off the ground:

shutterstock_119936701National University of Singapore food scientists have successfully introduced the antioxidant-rich plant pigment anthocyanin to breads, which may help lower the risk of certain chronic diseases.

Make food the new medicine

The Clinical Nutrition Research Centre (CNRC) is working to create new foods that address growing regional health and lifestyle concerns, such as diabetes and heart disease. A collaboration between Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*Star), National University Health Systems (NUHS), and Singapore Institute for Clinical Sciences (SICH), the $20-million CNRC focuses on researching the metabolic impact of the food we eat, how our senses affect what we eat, and the impact of food on our body composition and metabolic health. All this goes towards its vision of developing an integrated programme that understands how food can be used to prevent and manage chronic diseases and promote healthy living.

Producing healthier bread

Last year, food scientists at the National University of Singapore (NUS) successfully formulated a recipe for healthier bread by adding a natural plant pigment called anthocyanin. Extracted from black rice, anthocyanins are rich in antioxidants and may help prevent heart and neurological diseases, cancer and inflammation. Also, because anthocyanins inhibit digestive enzymes — which in turn reduce blood glucose levels — they are known to play a role in controlling obesity and diabetes. The NUS team, led by Prof Zhou Weibiao, Director of the Food Science Technology Programme at the NUS Faculty of Science, found that it is feasible to make functional food products by fortifying them with anthocyanin. They hope to conduct further studies to incorporate anthocyanins into other food items like biscuits.

FIRC 2The Food Innovation & Resource Centre assists food enterprises in developing innovative food products to meet the changing demands of consumers.

Researching food science innovations

Since its establishment in 2009, the Food Innovation Resource Centre (FIRC) at Singapore Polytechnic (SP) has researched and tested more than 650 food projects. A collaboration between SP and SPRING Singapore, the FIRC provides food enterprises with technical expertise in aspects such as packaging and shelf-life evaluation. Several of its projects have been commercialised over the years.  These include NuHoney, a carbonated honey drink, as well as a ready-to-drink version of the Singapore Sling. The centre involves students from SP’s Food Science and Technology diploma course in its projects, providing the practical training they need for industry work.

B76A4632-1Homegrown commerical vertical farm Sky Greens produces five times more vegetables than traditional farms.

Building urban farms

In its bid to promote food security in land- and resource-scarce Singapore, the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) helped entrepreneur Jack Ng come up with one of the world’s first commercial vertical farms in 2011. Sky Greens now produces a ton of vegetables — lettuce, spinach, kangkong, xiao bai cai, etc — every other day and is five to 10 times more productive than a regular farm. More such vertical farms have sprouted in Singapore in the last few years, including ComCrop, the country’s first rooftop farm.

DCake Akk 3 Mini BasketThrough a collaboration with ingredients manufacturer Faesol, confectionery D’Cake can now keep its snacks for up to three days using natural preservatives.

Making ang ku kueh last longer

For an SME like D’Cake, a confectionary, extending the shelf life of their creations like ang ku kueh can seem a mammoth task because due to a lack of research and development capabilities. A new food innovation project from SPRING Singapore helped change that, as it facilitated a collaboration between D’Cake and ingredients manufacturer Faesol. The latter helped D’Cake tweak its recipe so that the ang ku kueh now have a three-day shelf life as opposed to one, thanks to the use of natural preservatives. This project aims to help 50 SMEs in the food manufacturing industry develop healthier products, improve staff skills and become less reliant on manpower.  

All this spells good news for the labour force too: the hope is that by 2020, the Food Science and Technology industry would have added some 2,000 skilled jobs, and that Singapore will cement its status as a hub for nutritional research. 

Share This Article