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Is breakfast giving you a bellyache?

Tuesday, 26 November 2019

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A new study has the secret ingredient to improve the safety of common breakfast foods.

Professor Michelle Colgrave, a researcher based at Edith Cowan University and CSIRO, is using revolutionary protein technology to detect “hidden” gluten and other proteins causing food allergies.

Most recently she has focused her investigations on food commonly found on the Australian breakfast menu including cereal, breakfast bars and drinks, powdered drinks and a popular savoury spread.

“We were pleased to find that products that were specifically labelled as gluten-free were on the whole safe to consume,” she said.

“However it is often another story for many foods that should be gluten-free, such as oats or soy flour.”

Professor Colgrave said her team was looking to improve the safety of all Australian food and deliver tools to industry and regulators that can ensure compliance to Australian and international standards.

“Coeliac disease affects up to two per cent of the Australian population and despite this group carefully avoiding gluten in their diet, many of them report associated symptoms at least once a month,” Professor Colgrave said.

“We are interested in discovering whether they are unwittingly consuming gluten through hidden traces in their diets.”

Professor Colgrave said contamination can occur at many stages during manufacture from harvest to processing.

“Commonly used tests might be sensitive enough to detect small amounts of a contaminating substance in a raw ingredient, but might be challenged to detect the same contaminant in a processed food. Yet the human body was still able to detect it and react to it,” she said.

“The technique we use has been successfully deployed to test heavily processed products and it will provide a way to ensure that foods actually contain what it says on the label.”

Sharing the knowledge

At 9:30am Thursday 5 December Professor Colgrave will present a free public lecture on the role of proteins in food security and safety.

Professor Colgrave will discuss her work on the hidden ingredients of Australian processed foods.

She will also elaborate on her role in the $35 million Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Innovations in Peptide and Protein Science, where she is uncovering new proteins from nature that have the potential to improve the food, pharmaceutical and agriculture industries.

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