Australian invention to improve health qualities of starch

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 11th November 2011

Scientists behind a new Australian invention which monitors the behaviour of starches as they are cooked say it could revolutionise food manufacturing processes.

The Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) worked with Swedish manufacturer Perten Instruments to develop the ‘neutron Rapid Visco Analyser’, or ‘nRVA’. They claim the invention will allow manufacturers to establish the best way to cook and process starches.

In developing the nRVA, the scientists employed neutron ‘scattering’ techniques to examine how starches change when they are cooked. In a statement released today, ANSTO’s food science project leader Dr Elliot Gilbert explained that the nRVA works by analysing small samples of starch under controlled test routines.

“This is not a question of irradiating food but of exploring the properties of starch down to the molecular level,” Dr Gilbert said. “The nRVA could radically improve food manufacturing processes like measuring flour and grain quality for breakfast cereals, snack and animal foods.”

Innovation Minister Senator Kim Carr said the invention will help food manufacturers to develop healthier ingredients, as well as helping lower energy used in the manufacturing process.

Senator Carr said, “This discovery could mean food manufacturers will be able to make food more efficiently, with lower energy input. It also gives manufacturers the power to consistently create starches with known health benefits, like those that have been proven to help counter bowel cancer.

“The nRVA uses neutrons from ANSTO’s OPAL research reactor at LucasHeights to enable manufacturers to better understand food at the molecular level. This is a great example of collaboration between scientists and industry resulting in a new technology with the potential to benefit Australia.”