Australian food analyser could help counteract bowel cancer

Australian researchers have developed and manufactured a world-first analyser, which will be used to help create a new breed of healthier starches and other ingredients for inclusion in processed foods.

The Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) worked with Perten Instruments, a Swedish manufacturer of advanced analytical instruments for quality control of grain, flour, food and feed in the agricultural industries, to develop the system.

Called the neutron Rapid Visco Analyser (nRVA), the invention will reportedly revolutionise food manufacturing processes in terms of health benefits and energy used in production.

The nRVA monitors the behaviour of starches as they are cooked, helping food companies identify the best way to cook and process starches for different foods.

The invention will not only allow manufacturers to develop healthier processed foods, but will also help lower the energy used to create certain foods, according to Innovation Minister Senator Kim Carr.

“This discovery could mean manufacturers will be able to make food more efficiently, with lower energy input. It also gives manufacturers the power to consistently create starches with known health benefits, like those that have been proven to help counter bowel cancer,” said Senator Carr.

The nRVA reportedly employs neutrons from ANSTO’s OPAL research reactor at Lucas Heights in to enable users to better understand food at the molecular level.

ANSTO scientists uncovered a way to see how starches change when they’re cooked, by employing neutron scattering techniques.

The nRVA analyses small samples of starch and other ingredients under controlled test routines.

ANSTO food science project leader, Dr Elliot Gilbert, said the analyser offers benefits for companies manufacturing a range of food products.

“This is not a question of irradiating food but of exploring the properties of starch down to the molecular level,” he said.

“The nRVA could radically improve food manufacturing processes like measuring flour and grain quality for breakfast cereals, snack and animal foods.”

Senator Carr says the invention is a positive case study promoting the level of innovation possible when Australian development teams with complimentary capabilities work together.

“This is a great example of collaboration between scientists and industry resulting in a new technology with the potential to benefit Australia,” he said.