Sean Ward, supervised by professor Mike Page and Dr Nicholas Powles, has been working on the project for the last 12 months.
Gelatine is used in a variety of products and the discovery will be of interest to producers of Halal foods who need to avoid any trace of pork in their ingredients. The technique will allow a form of quality assurance, said Dr Powles.
The University’s chemistry research centre, named IPOS (Innovative Physical Organic Solutions), is pioneering a chemometric software package, called Mass Profiler Professional (MPP), to extract data about the molecular composition of food and pharmaceutical products.
The software is marketed by scientific equipment supplier Agilent, which co-funded the project.
Ward conducted mass-spectrometry analysis of gelatines to discover which, among thousands of molecules, are the chemical markers of beef or pork.
The work is on-going and the methodology has to be validated before it can be published or the service is provided commercially.
Available commercially within six months
Powles told FoodQualityNews.com: “Several companies have shown an interest in the work and we expect the technique should be available commercially within the next six months.”
Developing this use of MPP allows IPOS to move into several other areas, such as a technique to determine when cheese has reached maturity, using molecular analysis rather than relying on the judgement of a taster. There are also plans to examine aspects of egg production.
“These are in the early stages but showing promising results. After these projects we will be looking for other challenges in the food industry and potential companies to collaborate with,” added Powles.
Ward trained and worked as a mechanic before switching to science and studying for a MChem degree at the University of Huddersfield. He is now coming to the end of the first year of his three-year project.