CoE Articles

CoE researchers examine food hazards affecting child nutrition

Published June 11, 2018, by Mologadi Makwela

Laboratory research, currently underway at the DST-NRF Centre of Excellence in Food Security (CoE), aims to provide an in-depth analysis of food contaminants in child-feeding practices that contribute to child malnutrition in South Africa.

Using Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) techniques, CoE researchers are examining the authenticity, safety and nutritional content of popular ready-to-consume highly processed products. The research is a collaborative initiative by research teams based at the University of the Western Cape (UWC) – led by Professor Eugenia D’Amato; the University of Pretoria (UP) – led by food safety expert, Professor Lise Korsten and the Sustainable Livelihoods Foundation, led by Dr Leif Petersen.

Between 2016 and 2017, the researchers collected samples from townships and mainstream wholesalers, small businesses and supermarkets in the Western Cape, Gauteng and the Free State. The samples were cataloguedand a database was established at UWC using a barcoding approach. The sample size comprised 200 products of each type of polony, baby food andcanned fish.

Using NGS and bioinformatics (collecting and analysing complex biological data such as genetic codes), researchers can identify all components of animal, plant, fungi and bacterial species found in processed foods.

NGS techniques make it possible to identify the origin and species content of highly processed foods such as Vienna, sausage, pate, polony and any type of shredded product

Professor Lise Korsten

“The technique can also provide more information on the presence of foodborne pathogens such as Listeria monocytogenes” adds Korsten, who is also co-Director and Principal Investigator of the Food Safety Programme at the CoE.

With reports about the listeriosis outbreak highlighting the shortcomings of food safety practices within the SA food system, it is hoped that this research will help authenticate the content and safety of highly processed foods used for babies and toddlers and products of choice for the lowest income strata of the population as sources of protein.

This exciting research is located within the CoE’s research programme focussed on the persistence of child malnutrition. Two other studies running concurrently are Secondary Data Analysis to determine the levels, trends anddeterminants of malnutrition; and Child Malnutrition Case Studies which seek to understand context and reasons for persistent malnourishment.

All three studies are in progress and are due to be completed by the end of 2018.

WATCH: Prof Lise Korsten explains how food safety hazards affect food security

related Articles

Right to food is linked to the right to health and adequate...

Hunger violates human dignity, is an obstacle to socioeconomic and political progress and is closely linked with the attainment of…

Listeriosis rocks Tshwane!

The interactive play vividly captured the emotions surrounding unfolding events during the listeria outbreak Listeria Hysteria, a short play jointly…

Listeria Hysteria on the menu at Science Forum South Africa 2018

SFSA is a powerful public platform through which to facilitate debate about the role of science in society, by “making science accessible…