Pilot Plant Facilities for Food Processing at Campus Ås
The Research Council of Norway has granted 27 mill NOK (3.4 mill euro) for establishing Campus Ås as a National centre for Food science and product development with modern pilot plant facilities for food production, packaging and storage. Existing pilot plant facilities will be upgraded and a unique new pilot plant for processing of foods contaminated with pathogenic microorganisms will be established. This pathogen pilot plant, at Biosafety level III, will be available for international cooperation among R&D institutions, Universities and industry.
Campus Ås consists of the Norwegian University of Life Sciences (UMB) and a number of free standing research institutions, e.g. Nofima AS and Bioforsk. In 2018 The Norwegian Veterinary Institute and The Norwegian School of Veterinary Science will move from Oslo and become a part of the new Campus ÅS.
New and unique pathogen pilot plant
Existing pilot plant facilities at Campus-Ås have fundamental equipment, primarily for dairy science at UMB. At Nofima, pilot plant facilities exist for meat, fish, vegetable and cereal products and packaging.
Food safety is an important aspect of all food production, food production development and food research. The Campus Ås pilot plant facilities, therefore, will include a separate pathogen pilot plant unit where conventional and new food can be produced, deliberately contaminated with pathogens in order to investigate the fate of such microorganisms under different production conditions. The pathogen pilot plant will also be used for testing of novel and conventional cleaning and disinfection methods of equipment and whole room disinfection testing.
– Upgrading of exciting pilot plant facilities at Campus Ås for food production and the establishment of a new and internationally unique pathogen unit will enable us to do important education and research with regard to food safety, development of new (innovative) methods for sustainable food production, new products, and increased food production. The improved pilot plant facilities will be suitable for full scale food science (dairy, meat, fish, vegetables and cereals), as well as public health risk aspects, which will be addressed through the pathogen module of the pilot facilities, says Helga Næs, director of Food Safety and Quality at Nofima.
A huge international need
– To our knowledge, no pathogen pilot plant facilities with such a broad activity as we envisage here is available internationally, says Næs.
A small survey has been made to investigate whether facilities similar to the pathogen pilot plant exist in Europe and whether there is an interest for such facilities. Leading European food research institutes have been contacted. In summary, none of these institutes have, or are aware of, facilities such as the one we envisage for the pathogen pilot plant. All institutes are favourable to the idea of a pathogen pilot plant as this would enable more accurate studies and validation of pathogen behaviour in food.
The pathogen pilot plant will contribute to strengthening and developing Campus Ås to a core competence centre at high scientific level both nationally and internationally within strategic and prioritized areas. A pathogen pilot plant will give new and important knowledge on behaviour of microorganisms, identifying critical control points and avoiding future food poison outbreaks. From the industries and consumers’ perspective the plant will constitute a facility for testing of new products and processes. Innovative tasks for the pathogen pilot plant will be research, contract work for the industry and post-qualifying education.
The idea of building a pathogen pilot plant was born when we wanted to study methods to reduce the risk for pathogenic E. coli (EHEC) presence in dry fermented sausage. To accomplish this, we designed a mini pilot plant for making dry fermented sausage inside a standard Biosafety level III laboratory. Here we have performed experiments adding EHEC to the sausage batter and followed survival and growth during fermentation, maturation and storage. There is a need to perform similar experiments also for other products and raw materials and a larger facility is therefore required.
– With this allocation of research funding from The Research Council of Norway (infrastructure programme) we have the opportunity to build a complete facility meeting the needs of the industry and scientific world. One of our goals is to make the pilot plant facilities a central part of European food research, says Næs.