By Fábio de Castro
Agência FAPESP – Nutrition and health have been central topics for science and food engineering, and researchers from these areas are taking more and more interest in another aspect of the universe of food, that is, the pleasure of eating.
In April 2013, some of the foremost international specialists from this sector will meet in Pirassununga (SP) to discuss scientific developments that will allow for the manipulation of structural factors to bring pleasure and satisfaction to natural and processed food consumers.
The event, entitled Advances in the Molecular Structuring of Food Materials, will be held by the University of São Paulo School of Zootechny and Food Engineering (FZEA-USP) as part of the FAPESP-funded São Paulo School of Advanced Science (ESPCA) from April 1-5.
According to Paulo Sobral, the advanced School coordinator and FZEA-USP School of Food Engineering professor, the event’s main objective will be to advance discussions in the areas of food technology and science, which are still underdeveloped in Brazil.
“We eat for nutritional and health reasons, but mostly because we like it. In Brazil, research is still largely focused on questions related to the analyses that guarantee food safety, but the question of pleasurable eating comes second. In other places, however, this debate is growing more all the time,” Sobral told Agência FAPESP.
Questions about the effects of processing and the conditioning of raw materials and food and about the structural characteristics of their components will be addressed at the School.
“Aside from smell and whether it tastes good or not, one of the main attributes that affects flavor is texture. However, it’s not possible to determine a general standard for texture because this factor is related to consumer expectations. Some products are expected to be hard and crunchy, and others soft. Advanced discussions on all these topics will be held at the School,” said Sobral.
According to the researcher, the factors related to satisfaction and to the pleasure of eating are so crucial that they are not limited merely to the commercial relevance of the food industry. The pleasurable characteristics of a food have a very large cultural impact.
“There have already been cases where humanitarian aid packages sent to Africa went to waste because the local population, even though they were suffering from hunger, couldn’t adapt to the characteristics of the food they received,” he said.
The ESPCA Advances in the Molecular Structuring of Food Materials will offer full scholarships for 100 students, 60 for students from abroad and 40 for Brazilians. Another 100 students will be selected and may participate by paying their own tuition.
“Aside from the 100 scholarship students, there will be another 100 spots distributed between three categories: young doctors, professors and Brazilian students,” explained Sobral.
Panels, seminars and visits
The programming will include three panel discussions. The topic “Perfecting nutrient bioavailability” will be led by Yrjo Roos (University College Cork, Ireland), António Vicente (Universidade de Minho, Portugal) and Miriam Hubinger (Universidade Estadual de Campinas, Unicamp).
“Innovative food structuring processes” will be led by José Miguel Aguilera (Universidade Católica do Chile), John Mitchell (University of Nottingham, UK) and Carmen Tadini (USP). “Food for space travel” will be the topic of a debate led by R. Paul Singh (UC Davis, United States), Gustavo Barbosa-Cánovas (Washington State University) and Gustavo Gutierrez-López (Instituto Politécnico Nacional do México).
“Aside from panel discussions, we will hold a series of seminars lasting 2 or 3 hours each in which four Brazilian professors will talk about specific food products while the foreign speakers will present more theoretical and general topics,” said Sobral.
One day of the School will be dedicated to visits to laboratories in Campinas (SP). “We expect that having participating students from overseas will result in opportunities for some of them to come back to Brazil and, more so, that our students will be inspired to develop overseas studies after meeting scientists at the School that they had previously known through books and articles,” he said.
Applications for students wishing to participate in the School should be sent by November 1st. The event will be held in English without simultaneous translators. More information is available here.
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