How safe is our food industry

Healthy and Safe Food

Demographic change, the increase in nutrition-associated diseases and changing lifestyles and circumstances are important social and scientific tasks. As part of bioeconomy research, the Federal Ministry of Research promotes consumer-oriented product and process innovations. This creates healthy, high quality, inexpensive and safe food. Because a healthy diet requires an appropriate range of foods.

In agricultural production, the quality of plant and animal products should be optimized. The aim is to guarantee and further develop the health effects, quality and safety of food for consumers.

Recognize and control harmful substances

Research plays a very important role here. On the one hand, it is needed to recognize dangers in the first place and to develop tests. To many people it seems as if there are more and more pollutants in our food: after all, they are constantly making headlines. However, many of these pollutants have always been eaten, but nobody knew about the problems. It is believed that our food is safer today than it ever was - only we pay much more attention to this safety than it used to be.

The danger posed by mold, for example, has long been underestimated. It didn't seem to hurt to eat some moldy jam every now and then. Today, thanks to research, we know that mold toxins, especially the aflatoxins, are highly carcinogenic - in fact, they are among the most carcinogenic substances known. That is why there are tight limits to protect us from fungal toxins in nuts, dried fruit or grain, in which the mold can often not be seen at all. The situation is similar with acrylamides, which can form when baking, deep-frying and roasting starchy foods. They weren't recognized as a potential problem until 2002.

Research is also valuable when it comes to keeping harmful substances and pathogens out of food. This can be done, for example, through improved processing, storage and packaging. With mold toxins, better, faster drying often helps. There are also substances mixed in that bind mold toxins, and enzymes that can render the toxins harmless are very modern. Precise control of the baking or deep-frying temperature, which must not be too high, helps against acrylamides. Recipes have also been changed: For example, it helps to avoid certain raising agents such as deer horn salt in gingerbread.

Meet special nutritional needs

Even foods that are free of certain ingredients or allergens are often created through targeted research. With some diseases it is important to avoid certain substances that are harmless to healthy people. There are food allergies and intolerances to countless foods. Special products often make life a little easier for people who are affected.

For example, the ministry has supported research that has made ice cream possible that does not contain milk but tastes like milk ice cream. Instead of milk, it uses lupine proteins. This not only pleases allergy sufferers but also vegans. The lupine ice cream has even won the German President's Prize for the Future.

Sometimes the point is not to keep something out of the food, but to get it in. One example is milk sugar in baby milk. There is no doubt that breast milk is the best food for small children in the first few months. But what if you cannot breastfeed? In the past, diluted cow's milk was given in such cases, which was not ideal. There are better products today. A special ingredient in the latest generation of baby milk is human milk sugar. These complex sugars found in breast milk are helpful for the development of the immune system, for example. They are very complex substances that have only been able to be manufactured for a short time. Research on this topic was funded by the ministry.