Following in the footsteps of countries like Finland and Canada, Australia is establishing a specialised research institute devoted to the commercial development of functional foods. The Australian government has committed $3.6 million to the Centre for Functional Foods as part of a National Food Industry Strategy (NFIS) that seeks to grow the Australian food industry over the next five years. It will be based at the University of Wollongong and receive funding over the next four years.
Canada has a similar institution at the University of Manitoba, as does Finland at the University of Turku.
NFIS director Richard Brooks said the functional foods centre was set up to address a growing demand for foods with medicinal benefits.
"Not only do we need to know whether such food can be developed, but it has to taste good, be attractive to consumers and the evidence base must be in place to support the claims that functional food delivers added health benefits," he said. A food safety centre has also been established at the University of Tasmania.
"The concept behind the two food centres of excellence is for Australian food science and the industry to consolidate its efforts and focus to establish Australia as an international centre of expertise and excellence for food industry innovation and to support the Australian food industry to be world-class."
He added: "The centres of excellence will pool together the heavyweights of Australian food science and industry to establish Australia as a hub of food expertise and innovation that\ will ultimately lead to increased exports and employment opportunities."