Canada Gets New Centre Of Excellence


The emerging Canadian natural health products, functional foods and nutraceuticals industry is to be further boosted with the construction of a $25 million research centre in western Canada.

The Richardson Centre for Functional Foods and Nutraceuticals is being backed by both government and industry and will be situated on the University of Manitoba campus. It will work in conjunction with the Faculty of Agricultural and Food Sciences, along with the Faculties of Human Ecology, Medicine and Pharmacy.

Its marketing and research development manager, Kelley Fitzpatrick, said the centre ?will work to develop functional, health-enhancing foods and nutraceuticals, from agricultural products of importance to the prairie region of western Canada, including oats, wheat, barley, buckwheat, canola, flax, hemp, pulses, as well as animal-derived products.?

Adding Value To Agriculture
Fitzpatrick, an advisory board member for this magazine, said the centre will initially develop technologies to add value to western Canadian grain.

?The question the government and others asked was: How do we add value to agriculture? The Richardson Centre hopes to provide some answers to this question. It has been set up to specifically develop functional foods and nutraceuticals ingredients for western Canadian crops. But we won?t stop there. We will then be looking at investigating how we can incorporate them into dietary supplements and, longer term, functional foods.?

The centre aims to fully exploit the region?s natural advantages, Fitzpatrick noted. ?For example, the cooler growing season often enhances the synthesis of the inherent bioactives. In the case of polyunsaturated fatty acids, the further north you go, the higher the PUFA content.?

She said the centre would build on much of the activity already being undertaken at the University of Manitoba and would work in four principal areas: agriculture, human nutrition, medicine and pharmacy. Protecting Canadian business interests from multinationals and large companies south of the border will be a likely side effect, she said.

Another objective for the centre is to address the lack of funding that often marginalises entrepreneurs who drive innovation.

Fitzpatrick said Agriculture Canada estimated functional foods and nutraceuticals could save $30 billion in health care costs.

State-Of-The-Art Facility
The 60,000-square-foot facility will house eight research laboratories where food safety, food development, quality control, analytical and molecular biology work will take place. There will also be a plant growth chamber, animal care facility and pilot plant (to facilitate the intermediary step for scale up of processes from lab to commercial scale) as well as full processing capabilities that include:

  • Primary processing: cleaning, size reduction, initial separations, mixing.
  • Secondary processing: separation, extraction, purification, concentration to be distributed amongst five specialized rooms.
  • Packaging: powder tableting and encapsulation, liquid filling, bulk packaging.

The centre is expected to open in 2005.

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