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Status: In Progress

Thesaurus terms: Food; Human health; Nutrition

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The food industry is an important sector in Belgium with an annual turnover of roughly 30 billion euros. Having to operate in an atmosphere that is growing increasingly complex, the food producing and food processing companies are finding themselves faced with major challenges. Consumers are becoming more critical, costumers more demanding, prices sharper. The industry is expected to produce high quality food products that are both safe and healthy, and that also have a long shelf-life. And all this at a fair price and with sustainability in mind. The future success of a food company depends in large measure on its ability to anticipate its customers’ wishes and demands in a timely and adequate manner.

To meet all these challenges, the food industry is nearly obliged to pursue a policy of continuous innovation. Successful innovation is a matter not only of offering new solutions, but also of creating a market and having sufficient opportunities to test the innovations in practice. This kind of innovation can be achieved only through a combination of multidisciplinary fundamental, generic and applied research.

Ghent University wants to anticipate these new trends and developments. The Food2Know Center of Excellence was created to make an integrated and multidisciplinary approach to these innovation-driven research needs feasible. This interfaculty knowledge centre for food science, nutrition and health coordinates 36 research groups spread out over the five life science faculties (Bioscience Engineering, Pharmaceutical Sciences, Veterinary Sciences, Sciences, and Medicine & Health Sciences).


The aims of Food2Know are threefold:

  1. to encourage and promote top-ranking international fundamental and applied research in the field of food science, nutrition and health;
  2. to stimulate collaboration between Food2Know research groups, industry and government organizations in the field of food, nutrition and health;
  3. to promote knowledge exchange and technology transfer between university and industry in the field of food science, nutrition and health.

Food2Know works on two levels: in relation to its member its member researchers and in relation to government and industry.

On the first level, Food2Know aims to give the proper support to its researchers in developing their research and to actively aid them in their quest for research funding. In a further stage, Food2know itself wants to define and develop innovative R&D projects in which the interdisciplinary approach plays a central role in the research effort. Food2Know investigates the international trends in the field of food and health technology, it analyzes the focus points of the financing authorities, and it reports the results to its members. The Food2know staff are constantly on the lookout for new opportunities for R&D in the food industry.

On the second level, Food2Know constitutes the primary contact point for technological questions from third parties on food and health. Food2Know identifies and analyzes the questions and refers them to the best placed research group(s) within the Knowledge Center. Food2Know sees this not only within the regional and national contexts, because also at the international level it has the ambition to play an active role.

Food2Know provides access to the advanced apparatus available at Ghent University both for routine analysis and for setting up larger research projects. These services are intended for companies of all sizes, ranging from SMEs to the big industrial players.

A permanent secretariat serves as the initial point of contact for channeling inquiries from researchers and industry.

Focus points: food safety and functional food

The quality of our food is determined by a variety of different factors related either directly or indirectly to the product or production process. The direct factors include the technological quality of food (e.g. structure and consistency), the sensory quality (color, scent, flavor), the user friendliness (e.g. fast and easy to prepare), the safety (absence of chemical, physical and microbial contaminants) and the nutritional value (presence of nutrients and health promoting components). One important indirect factor is the image, which is partly determined by the consumer’s perception of the product or production process (e.g. animal welfare). All these factors touch upon the different steps of the production of primary agricultural products, the processing of these products into foodstuffs and the attitude and perception of the consumer towards these products and processes. Further product development and innovation require additional research on all these factors of product quality. All these fields of research are covered by the expertise present in Food2Know.

Research carried on under the auspices of Food2Know revolves around two main focus points: food safety and functional food.

Due to the recent food crises in the European Union, a number of initiatives have been launched to secure the safety of food products and thus keep the risk of contamination as low as possible for the consumer. Governmental organizations, research centers and industry must all take these developments into account. Within Ghent University, the research groups involved are following these developments closely and are playing an active role in formulating and evaluating government health policy initiatives. On account of their expertise, no less than seven Food2Know researchers have been requested to participate as members of the Scientific Committee of the Federal Agency for the Safety of the Food Chain. Food2Know can play a role in the introduction and implementation of the new standards and legislation on food safety in the companies. Food2Know is also developing new technologies that increase the safety of the food products produced.

In recent decades there has been a surge of interest in the relationship between food and the risk for chronic non-degenerative disorders such as obesity and heart and coronary diseases. Despite the fact that other risk factors are also important for human health (e.g. physical activity and smoking), food is a key determinant whose effects on our health require further research. To this end, knowledge is needed of the effects of food on the functioning both of humans and animals. After food safety, ’nutrition and health’ constitute the new focus point for Europe.

Within Food2Know there are some 10 different laboratories participating in research efforts dealing with functional food. Here, too, they always opt for the multidisciplinary approach. Ongoing research projects include topics such as: health promoting components from hop and soy, bio-active peptides from milk with a blood pressure lowering effect, increasing the percentage content of health promoting components in meat and milk through the animal feed, positively influencing the intestinal microbiota through human nutrition.

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