How our Research Benefits Canadians
AAFC scientists work to develop healthy, safe, high-quality and functional food for Canadians.
Since the 1990s, they also have developed greater knowledge of probiotics and nutraceuticals to boost the health properties of food. This knowledge has also helped the pharmaceutical industry better understand food-drug interactions.
Scientists at AAFC also work to protect animal welfare and our environment.
Here are some examples of recent achievements from our labs:
- New flax dehulling technology is being used commercially to create health and beauty products for global markets
- Researchers at the Guelph Food Research Centre in Ontario have developed a novel, comprehensive shelling process, known as flax dehulling technology, which effectively separates the hull from the kernel and makes the crop more readily available for consumption and commercial use. The dehulled flaxseeds offered the same nutritional benefits as other flax products and were much easier to store. While flaxseed oil and ground flax require refrigeration to avoid oxidation, which results in a loss of nutritional value and produces a rancid odour, the flax dehulling technology eliminates the threat of oxidation. Since the oil remains safely contained within the kernel, the dehulled seeds can be stored at room temperature for up to one year. The research was award a Leadership Award from the Federal Partners in Technology Transfer in 2006.
- A unique fruit dehydration system helps Canada tap the US market for dried cranberry products
- Research pioneers in food processing at the Food Research and Development Centre in Saint-Hyacinthe, Quebec created a new method of fruit dehydration which can also be applied to vegetables, meat, or fish known as osmotic dehydration. Collaboration with private industry led to the design, development, installation, and start-up of a custom build dried-cranberry production line that is unique to the world. It was awarded the
"Innovation André-Latour"Award in 2000 as well as the Federal Partners in Technology Transfer Award in 2003. This technology also has great potential for future innovation; particularly in its application of blueberry processing.
- Sensory research vital in assisting British Columbia's wine industry design and implement a wine quality assurance program
- The Sensory Research Laboratory at the Pacific Agri-Food Research Centre in Summerland, British Columbia worked closely with the provincial wine industry to develop and refine a wine quality assurance program known as the BC Vitners Quality Alliance (BCVQA). The AAFC scientists developed a scorecard, created benchmarks, established a wine library, trained judges to identify wine defects and originally implemented the monthly evaluations, interpreted and communicated wine standards to winery representatives. The AAFC sensory lab oversaw the sensory panels until 2010 when the creation of a new facility and training by AAFC professionals allowed the industry to autonomously implement the BCVQA and sensory panels. This research and quality assurance program has helped raise the standard for great Canadian-made wine.
- The discovery of naturally occurring bacterial strains has been key to developing feed additives and feeding systems to manage grains and animal feed contaminated with mycotoxins (a serious threat to livestock and human health)
- Around a quarter of the world's food crops can be contaminated with mycotoxins every year, creating an ongoing, serious threat to human health and food and livestock industries. Scientists at the Guelph Food Research Centre in Ontario have discovered naturally occurring bacterial strains that can effectively control these mycotoxins - produced by various molds - by converting them into less or even non toxic compounds. These bacterial strains are particularly effective in detoxifying vomitoxin (deoxynivalenol - DON) in contaminated grains and animal feeds which untreated can affect livestock growth through weight loss, feed refusal, nausea, and vomiting. New feed additives and novel feeding systems based on the discovered bacterial strains are currently being developed by related industries. The strains are also being used to identify mycotoxin-detoxification enzymes and genes. This may also help scientists develop effective products to eliminate the targeting mycotoxin in food and feed and develop crop varieties resistant to mycotoxin production, thus preventing the mycotoxin from entering human and animal food chains.
- Scientists have confirmed the functional properties and physiological effects of oat beta-glucan to substantiate the Canadian health claim statement,
"Oat fibre helps reduce cholesterol, which is a risk factor for heart disease"
- Scientists at the Guelph Food Research Centre in Ontario examined the physicochemical properties of oat beta-glucans and determined how these soluble fibres behave in solution, in food products and in the body. Human clinical trials and simulated digestion protocols developed in the lab were also used to investigate the relationship between the physicochemical properties of oat beta-glucan and their affect on blood glucose and serum cholesterol. This research will help industry make the most of its potential, by determining the processes and foods which enhance effectiveness. This research was required by regulators in order to add the health claim statement to specific food products and which in turn will help educate the public about the health benefits of oat fibre and encourage Canadians to increase their consumption of oat foods. A similar health claim has also been allowed in the European Union, partially based on the research done by AAFC scientists.
- Lactic fermentation, used to preserve vegetables without pasteurization or chemicals, offers a market opening for Canadian products exported overseas
- Fermentation of vegetables (cabbage made into sauerkraut, for example) is a millennia-old conservation method. At the Food Research and Development Centre, in Saint-Hyacinthe, Quebec, mixed lactic ferments have been developed that are capable of preventing the secondary fermentation that caused bags of organic vegetables to inflate. This natural method, without pasteurization or the addition of chemicals, makes it possible to preserve vegetables (garlic flowers, cabbage as sauerkraut, various vegetables as kimchi...) for over a year, keeping them crunchy and fresh, with a lightly sour taste. User sub-licences already exist with a number of countries: Hungary, Japan, Germany, the United States, the United Kingdom and Latvia.
- Techniques to identify, reduce and eliminate sources of musty odour and recurring taste problems in French fried potatoes helps Canadian potato products retain international market shares and improve market advantage
- In 2000 there were serious issues of earthy flavour and musty odour in pre-cooked potato fries shipped to overseas markets. Scientists at the Guelph Food Research Centre in Ontario worked closely with industry to identify various sources of musty odour in potato fries and propose ways to reduce and eliminate recurring taste problems. No recurrence of musty and earthy flavour has been observed or reported in potato products since these recommendations were made and incorporated which has helped Canadian potato products retain international market shares.
- Soil nitrogen management studies reduce the potential for environmental pollution in intensively cultivated crops in south coastal British Columbia
- Field and laboratory studies conducted at the Pacific Agri-Food Research Centre in Agassiz, British Columbia helped gain fundamental knowledge about the dynamics of nitrogen in soils in response to the relatively unique weather conditions of south coastal British Columbia. This knowledge provided the basis for the development of management recommendations and soil tests to minimize environmental pollution of nitrate in surface and ground water. The application of management recommendations and soil tests has contributed to the decreased potential for nitrate pollution of water while maintaining optimum production of crops under the intensive cultivation practices necessary in a region with significant urban-agriculture competition for land. This work was recognized with a Sustainable Development Award in 2001 from Government of Canada 4NR (four natural resource departments) Science Leaders program.
- Four new biological control agents made available to horticulturists helps them combat agricultural pests, while keeping the environmental impact to a minimum
- A complementary research team at the Horticulture Research and Development Centre in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Québec, has developed four biopesticides that have a minimum environmental impact. Virosoft CP4, popular in the Western United States, controls the very harmful coddling moth. Requiem controls soft-bodied insects: mites, thrips and aphids. Bioprotec CAF and Bioprotec 3P offer a biological alternative for caterpillar control. Their advantages? No toxic effect on the health of people or the environment or on mammals populating agricultural areas.