Federal Research Institute of Nutrition and Food
Research for healthy and tasty diet
Can functional food fulfil the expectations we associate with it? Are fish and meat more contaminated than they used to be, or less? And how can we improve and secure the quality of meat, fish, milk, fats and oils, cereals, potatoes, fruit and vegetables in the long term?
Currently, some 200 scientists are investigating these and many other issues relating to nutrition and foodstuffs at four locations belonging to the Max Rubner-Institut. Their research focuses on consumer health protection in the nutrition sector.
An excerpt from MRI’s statutes:
»The federal research institutes within the remit of the Federal Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Consumer Protection (BMELV) are charged with drawing up scientific criteria to facilitate policy decisions in the fields of food, agriculture, forestry and consumer protection. In doing so, they are also charged with extending scientific knowledge in these areas to the benefit of the common good. In the context of this assignment the federal research institutes retain scientific independence.«
Depending on the respective focus and location of research, special facilities are available to ensure and facilitate the excellence of nutrition and food science research at MRI.
Karlsruhe, for example, has the necessary infrastructure for carrying out controlled dietary studies in-house – including a test kitchen and volunteer suite. For investigations into meat quality and product grading Kulmbach uses an X-ray computer tomography. Scientists at Kiel have outstanding facilities for analysing the factors influencing milk quality, which they can track “from grass to glass” at their own experimental station with 100 cows at Schädtbek, at the National Reference Laboratory and at a pilot plant for milk and milk products. And in Detmold a milling pilot plant and an experimental bakery provide the infrastructure for research closely related to relevant practice. Thanks to excellent facilities for analysis MRI is in a position to trace contamination, for example by pesticides, or identify various quality parameters such as the proportion of value-adding elements in terms of nutritional physiology.
The option of using state-owned research vessels means that researchers can take samples in specific fishing grounds and investigate the quality of fish stocks.
Research – horizontal and vertical
Research at the Max Rubner-Institut (MRI) focuses on consumer health protection in the nutrition sector. The institute advises the Federal Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Consumer Protection (BMELV) in this area. MRI was founded on 1 January 2008 as the successor to the Federal Research Centre for Nutrition and Food (BfEL). In addition to its headquarters in Karlsruhe, MRI also conducts research at centres in Kiel, Detmold and Kulmbach. And there’s an unit with research focus on fish quality in Hamburg.
Four of MRI’s eight departments as well as the MRI Analysis Division use a cross-product approach, focusing their research on investigating the quality rating of foodstuffs in terms of nutritional physiology and health, food safety and bioprocess engineering. This approach traces the active chain of nutrition from the level of molecules and cells to the entire organism. One particularly important area is the study of nutritional behaviour. The results of this cross-product research are incorporated in recommendations for healthy nutrition.
The research work undertaken in the other four departments relates to specific categories of foodstuffs such as cereals, vegetables, milk and meat. In these departments the entire food chain is studied. MRI’s research, which is geared to the production chain, targets the safety and quality of foodstuffs as well as the sustainability of food production. Investigations cover the whole period from the moment of harvesting or production through to the consumer.
The Max Rubner-Institut is responsible for the continued development and implementation of National Nutrition Monitoring and the Federal Food Key. It also undertakes national tasks in the context of the Agricultural Statistics Act and the Precautionary Radiation Protection Act.
There are eight departments at MRI:
- Department of Nutritional Behaviour
- Department of Physiology and Biochemistry of Nutrition
- Department of Food Technology and Bio Process Engineering
- Department of Safety and Quality of Fruit and Vegetables
- Department of Microbiology and Biotechnology
- Department of Safety and Quality of Milk and Fish Products
- Department of Safety and Quality of Cereals
- Department of Safety and Quality of Meat
- Analysis Division