Technion EIT-FOOD European Collaborative Projects
International Technion Innovation: Technologies to reduce sugar consumption, create healthy plant-based alternatives to unhealthy, animal-based stabilizers, and prevent food poisoning
The EU has allocated millions of euros to three multinational research teams that include researchers from the Technion Faculties of Biotechnology and Food Engineering and Mechanical Engineering. These researchers are participating in EIT-FOOD projects with cumulative budgets of more than €2.25 million, supported by grants of the EU.
The objective: To promote inventions that improve food quality and human health.
Three teams involving Technion – Israel Institute of Technology researchers are running projects of around € 1 million each supported by EU grants from the EIT-Food consortium, the leading food innovation initiative of the European Union whose goal is to lead a revolution in food innovation, business creation, and education.
A consortium led by Professor Yoav D. Livney, of the Technion Faculty of Biotechnology and Food Engineering, is fighting diabetes and obesity by developing the first healthy sweetener for the food & beverage market. The healthy, zero-glycemic-index protein-based sugar-substitute has the potential to revolutionize the global food and beverage market.
The consortium also includes PepsiCo, Danone, and Amai Proteins, a startup led by Dr. Ilan Samish. Amai Proteins is a member of the “Rising Food Stars” startup club of the EIT-FOOD.
“The EIT Food, which the Technion is a partner of, is revolutionizing the European food ecosystem. Our project within this consortium is expected to bring to the global market an innovative sweet protein, along with a novel microencapsulation technology, to replace sugar, a major cause of obesity and diabetes (which are also risk factors for COVID-19 mortality). Sugar replacement is a tough challenge, and there is a great need for non-artificial intensive sweeteners, with a sensory profile similar to that of sugar, that is suitable for the huge global food & beverage market,” said Prof. Livney.
High-pressure processing to achieve a healthy plant-based alternative to unhealthy stabilizers
The Laboratory for Novel Food and Bioprocessing, led by Assistant Professor Avi Shpigelman, is partnering with the EIT project “HPHC – Development and application of hydrocolloids functionalized by dynamic high pressure.” The project aims to create healthier nutrition by physically modifying common currently used polysaccharide-based hydrocolloids using high-pressure food processing to achieve an improved range of techno-functionalities. The goal is to replace or reduce currently used additives and stabilizers with plant-based materials.
The technology is based on ultra-high-pressure homogenization (UHPH), where a liquid is continuously pumped through a narrow valve using high pressures of up to 350 MPa. This results in the modification of biopolymer structure. This technology was originally developed for the pasteurization and sterilization of liquid foods. Specifically, the project aims to physically modify plant-based polysaccharides and fibers with the intention to replace animal-based or unhealthy stabilizers with plant-based, health-promoting ingredients. The German Institute for Food Technology (DIL) is leading the initiative together with the Technion, Herbstreith & Fox, Maspex, ZPOW Agros Nova, and Glucanova.
According to Dr. Spiegelman, “We believe that the project will increase the assimilation of diverse hydrocolloids from plant sources into the food industry and will expand the use of these materials for a healthier diet for the population. “
Lab on a chip – an early warning platform for food safety
of the Faculty of Biotechnology and Food Engineering and Professor Gilad Yossifon of the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering are leading this consortium with six European partners (EUFIC, Grupo AN, Maspex, Energy Pulse Systems, and the University of Queen Belfast) to develop a technology to improve food safety by rapid monitoring of pathogenic bacteria and toxins.
Food poisoning leads to thousands of deaths each year. Food contaminants are mostly monitored in plants using culture-based and time-consuming methods of up to one week. By that time, some of the contaminated products are released to the market and consumed. The Technion team has developed a technology for sensitive and real-time detection of different pathogens and toxins, based on the “lab-on-a-chip” technology developed and verified by the Technion. This technology includes the concentration of bacteria and amplification of their DNA sequences until a measurable signal is obtained.
“Our goal is to integrate the technology into food product tests to obtain safety evaluation in real-time,” said Prof. Kashi. “Our solutions will improve societal well-being, minimize recalls and food outbreaks, and improve production eﬃciency. It is also relatively inexpensive compared to the existing methods, so it will encourage the parties involved in the food market to check products frequently throughout the supply chain, eliminating contaminated raw materials and products in real-time. This will help to avoid recall events, which are harmful for companies and their images.”