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Teagasc spearhead new Irish sensory food network

"We are now in a unique situation to develop a world-class capability in sensory food science across the island of Ireland.”

A new sensory 'network of excellence' has been set up in Ireland in order to address the needs and gaps documented by the food industry in relation to sensory science.

Funded by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, under the FIRM programme, the new Sensory Food Network Ireland will also ensure that good practice and the highest level of service will be assured to industry, said the Irish agriculture and food development authority Teagasc - which will coordinate the new network.

The increasingly recognised importance of sensory science in the food industry has evolved from the increasing need for a scientifically sound and systematic approach to the sensory evaluation of foods, said Teagasc - noting that the field has made substantial progress in developing new methods and approaches, and in advancing understanding of consumer responses to foods in recent years.

“This network of excellence is of immense strategic importance to the Irish food industry," said Declan Troy, assistant director or research at Teagasc. "We are now in a unique situation to develop a world-class capability in sensory food science across the island of Ireland.”

Dual role

The new Sensory Food Network Ireland will play a dual in serving the Irish food industry, said the Irish authority. Firstly, as a specialist service to the marketing, development and manufacture of new and modified food products. In this role it will measure differences in new products throughout the process of scale-up in addition to measuring sensory differences that may occur as a result of lowering production costs or through altering variables in the ingredients or packaging of foods.

Secondly, the network will play a role in research to improve the methodology of testing, devising the most appropriate tests for real-time problems and improving the expertise in flavour chemistry and sensometric methodologies.

“This investment by DAFM will strengthen and integrate the current expertise in sensory food science in Ireland and provide a platform that will better address the commercial needs of the food industry in terms of new product development and the opening of new markets thereby assisting in reaching our Food Harvest 2020 targets. It will also help promote good nutrition and healthy eating," said Richard Howell, head of the research and codex division at the Irish Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.

The coordinators and partners of the new sensory food network are now proactively seeking interaction with industry and other research institutes, and invite anybody interested to contact them via email .

Partners in Sensory Food Network Ireland include: Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute; University College Cork; University College Dublin; Dublin Institute of Technology; College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise; St Angela’s College, Sligo; Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology; University of Ulster; Northern Ireland Centre for Food and Health; and Limerick Institute of Technology.

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