University studies on food science and technology are relatively new in Spain. Those studies were comprised in other careers, mainly veterinary, pharmacy, and agricultural engineering, and have been redesigned as a second-cycle degree during the present decade. In the new plan of studies, the first cycle consists of the three first academic years of a disciplinary career such as chemistry, biology, biochemistry, and so on or of a more technical career such as veterinary, pharmacy, or agricultural engineering, after which the university graduate degree is attained. Afterward, food science and technology studies, the second cycle, consists of two academic years, although in some cases, depending on previous studies, some complementary subjects may be needed to obtain a five-university-years degree of licenciado. The third cycle to attain the philosophy doctor degree usually takes four years, one year of Ph.D. courses, and three years of research work. Twenty faculties all over Spain offer now the second cycle of food science and technology studies, with 50 to 75 new admissions per year in each faculty.

Technical and further education oriented to the different sectors of the food industry are also found in all autonomous regions of Spain, generally focused on the areas of the greatest importance for each particular region.

RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT The Organization of Research

Spain has a complex public research and development system, under the competency of various ministries. Organisms funding research projects on food science and technology are the Inter-ministerial Commission for Science and Technology (CICYT); the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food; the Ministry of Industry; and the governments of the autonomous regions. A Science and Technology Bureau (OCYT), reporting directly to the presidency of the government, was created in 1998 to plan, coordinate, and evaluate the research carried out in Spain under public funding.

The CICYT, working closely with the Ministry of Education, is the organism responsible for the National Plan of Science and Technology. Within the National Plan there is a National Program of Food Technology (which has recently changed its name to Agro-Food Resources and Technologies). During the period 1995 to 1998, the National Program of Food Technology distributed 61% of its budget for funding public research projects, 24% for projects in collaboration with private companies, 11% for scientific equipment, and 5% for special actions (CICYT, unpublished data, 1999).

Projects funded by the National Program of Food Technology, oriented both to basic knowledge on food science and to the development of products and technologies, were mostly carried out at university departments (53% of the National Program budget for projects) and at public research organisms such as the CSIC (National Council for Scientific Research), with several institutes actively working on food science and technology (38% of the National Program budget for projects).

The main objectives of the current National Program of Food Technology are (1) study of the modification of food components and functional properties of foods by physiological and industrial processes; (2) biotechnological processes occurring in or applied to fermented foods; (3) development of industrial equipment, processes, and products; (4) food safety, with particular reference to toxi-cological aspects and detection of alergenic compounds in foods; (5) nutrition, in particular methodology for the evaluation of the real nutritive value of foods; (6) evaluation of food quality, by means of the development of new analytical techniques for sensory grading and equipment for online determinations; and (7) improvement of raw materials for the food industry.

Three strategic actions within the area of food science and technology will be launched in the near future, on the following subjects: new species in aquaculture, control of food quality and safety, and improvement of wine quality and competitiveness. Strategic actions are oriented to increase the research effort carried out by private companies in dynamic sectors of the economy. Participation in a pro ject of one or more private companies, generally together with a public research organism, is wished, with funding of the project from both public and private sources.

The Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food runs its own Sectorial Research Program, managed by the INIA (National Institute for Agricultural and Food Research and Technology), which funds projects on food science and technology, as well as on agriculture and forestry. These projects are mostly carried out at research centers dependent on the regional governments, where a more product-oriented research is done, although universities and other organisms may also compete for this type of funding. Current priorities of this Sectorial Research Program related to food science and technology are (I) development of raw materials for the agroindustry, (2) postharvest physiology and storage of raw materials, (3) applications of biotechnology to the improvement of agroindustry processes, (4) improvement of quality and safety of food, (5) improvement of artisanal food products, and (6) consumer acceptance and market tendency studies.

Particular types of research projects are integrated projects, such as the one already under way on olive oil. In these projects, with a vertical design, all steps from the production of the raw material, including genetics, irrigation, plant protection, and so on to technological processes, final product characteristics, consumer acceptance, marketing, and so on are covered. Multidisciplinary teams of a large size are thus intended to achieve a more global approach to the problems of a sector and to the most promising trends in research and innovation.

The Ministry of Industry, through its Center for Technological and Industrial Development (CDTI), funds concerted projects, jointly carried out by private companies and public research organisms, and development projects, carried out by private companies on themselves. Funding of projects by CDTI consists in no-interest or low-interest loans to private companies involved in the projects. There are no scientific priorities with regard to the subject of the projects funded by CDTI, technological innovation being the main criterion for the selection of projects. During the last three years, the meat, dairy, fruit, and wine industries have shown to be the most innovative sectors, taking into consideration the number of funded projects.

Participation of Spanish researchers in food science and technology projects funded by the EU has gradually increased throughout the successive European Commission Framework Programs, under ECLAIR, FLAIR, AAIR, and FAIR Programs. Research topics in which Spanish groups are involved in the area of Nutrition and Consumer Weil-Being of FAIR projects are quality policy and consumer behavior, mealiness in fruits, impact of dietary fat reduction, foodborne glucosinolates, wine and cardiovascular disease, conjugated linoleic acid, food allergens of plant origin, and bioactive constituents in new food plant varieties. In the area of New and Optimized Food Materials, Spanish groups participate in projects on topics such as N-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, molecular markers for olives, production of oral vaccines in plants, genetic manipulation of melon ripening, molecular improvement of strawberry quality, and genetic manipulation of vegetable shelf life. In the area of Advanced Technologies and Processes, current projects deal with the evaluation of fruits' and vegetables' internal quality, physical and biochemical markers of meat quality, high-pressure treatment of liquid foods, osmotic treatment of foods, sourdough starters, frozen food quality, onion wastes, dry sausages ripening, olives' texture, robotics technology, active and intelligent packaging concepts, and improvement of natural resistance of fruit. Finally, in the area of Generic Food Science the research of Spanish groups is focused on natural antimicrobial systems, quality of thermally processed foods, detection of pesticide residues in foods, whey proteins, risk assessment of pathogenic spore formers, and prevention of mold spoilage in bakery products (5).

The Development of New Products

As in any other European country, a considerable variety of new products appears in the Spanish food marketplace every year. Because of the increasing circulation of products within the EU, and also due to the fact that most large Spanish food production plants belong to multinational companies, part of these new products enter simultaneously in the global European market. Low fat content, high fiber content, vitamin enriched, calcium fortified, omega-3 fatty acids enriched, and so on form part of the labeling culture of the new products, which in most cases are compositional modifications of existing products oriented to a growing healthy-food market. Probiotics added to fluid milk, milk powder, fermented milks, and cheese have been extensively introduced in Spain in the last five years, being accepted as a nutritional benefit by consumers of these dairy products. Yogurt cannot be labeled as such if it has been heat treated, but dairy products based on heat-treated fermented milks are more and more common.

Prepared dishes, generally under frozen form, some of recent development but many others following traditional Spanish cuisine recipes, appear continuously in Spanish supermarkets. Traditional Spanish desserts under new commercial presentations are also gaining place in the supermarkets. More original is refrigerated pasteurized gazpacho, a new food industry product that eliminates time-consuming preparation at home of the cold vegetable soup abundantly consumed in hot summer months. The fish products industry has shown to be particularly innovative, with different fish block products, caviarlike products, and especially baby eel-like products (baby eel is a very appreciated, scarce, and expensive fish) developed by means of a sophisticated surimi technology.

The wine industry has considerably enlarged the scenario of Spanish wines, based on the conjunction of new wine-making technologies with the introduction of foreign grape varieties (Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah) and the revalorization of local grape varieties. A strong promotional effort of moderate wine consumption on the basis of its beneficial health effects is being carried out, regaining market with respect to beer. Olive oil, another characteristic Spanish product, is also regaining market share against other oils and fats in spite of its higher price, on the basis of its nutritional advantages and favored by new attractive commercial presentations, especially of extra-virgin (cold-pressed) olive oil.

Your Heart and Nutrition

Your Heart and Nutrition

Prevention is better than a cure. Learn how to cherish your heart by taking the necessary means to keep it pumping healthily and steadily through your life.

Get My Free Ebook

Post a comment