In a move that recognizes the strategic importance of the dairy industry to the Irish economy, the Irish government, working through Enterprise Ireland, has encouraged and funded the creation of Food for Health Ireland (FHI), a ground-breaking partnership of leading academic and government research organizations and the country’s major dairy processing companies. Based on the foundation of a world-class scientific research program, FHI aims to identify bioactive ingredients that can be derived from milk, ensure that any components found satisfy real consumer needs and accelerate their commercialization.
“Although FHI has an Irish focus, we have a distinctly global outlook,” comments Jens Bleiel, FHI’s CEO. “We are keen to liaise with organizations from around the world that have similar objectives. Awareness of the value of milk-derived ingredients has grown significantly over recent years. Our ‘back to basics’ approach, molecular analysis and screening of the many different components that are present in milk, what we call ‘Intelligent Milk Mining’, is designed to identify those components in a systematic way that offer the highest potential to address some of the world’s most pressing health issues. These include early infant development, obesity, immunity\infection and heart health.”
With its head offices based in Cork, Ireland, FHI brings together the scientific and commercial expertise of Ireland’s leading research institutions and dairy processing companies: University College Cork, University College Dublin, University of Limerick, Teagasc’s Moorepark Food Research Centre, Carbery, Dairygold, Glanbia and the Kerry Group. FHI has two main research platforms: a mining platform, where milk is deconstructed and screened to generate a pipeline of milk components; these are then funneled into a health platform that tests these components for bioactivity. Additional programs relating to process scale-up, formulation of food with the bioactives, human intervention, consumer and regulatory affairs and training/outreach are also in place to help ensure successful commercialization.
“The expertise of the participants and the close relationships that have been developed mean that FHI represents a unique alliance of industry and academia,” continues Bleiel. “The dairy industry is ideally positioned to meet the food industry’s demand for healthy, tasty, scientifically proven and affordable products from a natural source. By inputting our understanding of consumer behavior and needs at an early stage, we aim to ensure that detailed research and clinical trials are initiated only on those components for which there is a real demand.”