Category Archives: health

DNA doesn’t lie: new technology authenticates food ingredients

Steven Newmaster

By Jane Robinson

Guelph – Now that scientists can barcode and catalogue the unique DNA sequence of any living being, they’re putting the technology to the test to authenticate food products.

University of Guelph professor Steven Newmaster is helping food manufacturers verify the products they use don’t contain any adulterated ingredients.

University of Guelph scientists invented DNA barcoding in 2003, starting with animals and plants and identifying more than 60,000 plant species to date. Newmaster, the director of the Natural Health Products (NHP) Research Alliance at Guelph, wondered how the catalogued information could be used by the food and NHP industry.

He began by using the previous barcoding work to create new libraries of DNA information for commercial plant species used in agriculture and food. Now, he’s successfully created a new tool to deal with food fraud – the practice of using lower cost substitute ingredients in the food industry – that will soon be installed by food manufacturers for on-site testing.

“With a shrinking food supply and a population headed to nine billion, there is tremendous pressure on the supply chain, and contamination or substitution of ingredients may become more tempting for some companies,” says Newmaster. Continue reading

The Growcer brings year-round food production to hard-to-feed places

By Lisa McLean

Ottawa – If you’ve visited or lived in a remote community in Canada, chances are you weren’t there for the salad.

In many regions that are far from traditional food production systems, fresh vegetables are inconsistent and costly due to the distance and effort required to get them there.

Now, an Ottawa-based company with a focus on food access is helping remote communities grow fresh vegetables 365 days a year, thanks to Containerized Growing Systems.

Corey Ellis, chief executive officer and co-founder of The Growcer, says the company offers plug-and-play hydroponic systems that allow local entrepreneurs to grow vegetables commercially, even when outside temperatures are -50 degrees Celsius.

“We knew that any food production system we developed for the arctic and remote regions would need to be easily dropped in communities that lack road access, and it would have to be ready to use, without relying on skilled tradespeople,” says Ellis. Continue reading

New portable sensor detects food allergens in minutes

Suresh Neethirajan

By Jane Robinson

Guelph – An estimated 2.5 million Canadians report an allergy to at least one food, according to Food Allergy Canada. Peanut allergies alone affect the lives of approximately two in every 100 Canadian children.

As the list of food allergens continues to grow, there is a genuine need for a quick and accurate allergen test whether you are scrutinizing every snack for your child, or conducting randomized testing on a food production line. Current allergen testing can take hours, when minutes can make all the difference.

A new technology developed at the University of Guelph successfully shaves valuable hours off accurate testing, and will soon be widely available in Canada.

Prof. Suresh Neethirajan has developed a new test that accurately pinpoints and quantifies the presence of food allergens. Designed to deliver results in a matter of minutes, the test can be used by consumers, restaurants and food manufacturers for on-site testing in a user-friendly format. Continue reading

Local food company feeds raw food niche with fibre-rich wrap

By Jane Robinson

St Catharines – Joanne Van Liefland never pegged herself an entrepreneur. But that was before she brought some of her homemade, vegetable-based wraps to a meeting that caught the taste buds of a store owner.

That was 2012. Van Liefland had a full-time job in education, and was making the dehydrated, raw wraps for herself, family and friends to satisfy her craving for bread-like products after switching to a raw food diet.

The chance tasting led to her first order. Six months later, she launched Wrap It Up Raw.

Her food business manufactures organic, vegan wraps with no gluten, wheat or dairy in St. Catharines, Ontario, and sells them in 150 independent food stores in Ontario, Quebec, Saskatchewan, Alberta and BC.

“It’s been quite a surprise at how easily the business has grown,” says Van Liefland, a registered holistic nutritionist. “Customers have come to me, I didn’t even go looking.” Continue reading

Peeling back the cancer-fighting potential of Ontario-grown onions

By Jane Robinson

Guelph – There’s a new reason to cry when you peel back the layers on a local Ontario onion in your kitchen…tears of joy, that is.

New research at the University of Guelph has found a way to safely extract the free-radical fighting properties of Ontario-grown onions, creating new opportunities for Ontario farmers and the nutraceutical and food production industries.

In the not-so-distant future, you could be enjoying the healthy properties of onions through supplements, additives and creams.

Scientist have long known that onions carry the highest content of quercetin (an antioxidant flavonoid) of nearly 40 different fruits and vegetables. Flavonoids like quercetin attract and neutralize free radicals – the naturally-occurring molecules in human tissue that can lead to cancerous cells.

Suresh Neethirajan, a bioengineering researcher in the School of Engineering at the University of Guelph, is in the final phase of an Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) funded project examining the varying levels of quercetin in Ontario-grown onions. Continue reading