Vegetable beer, purple carrots and Queen Garnet plum juice are just some of the fruits of the larder which will be on display and up for discussion at University of Southern Queensland’s (USQ) first ever Functional Foods Festival.
Being held on campus in Toowoomba and Ipswich from 8 to 11 August, the festival will showcase the importance of what is and could be grown in the region to provide health benefits to communities.
It includes a Food for Health Symposium, with Canadian Professor Peter Jones, who has been brought to Australia by USQ as a Visiting Research Giant, as the keynote speaker.
“The University’s work in developing foods with health benefits has attracted international attention, and is an area of research that makes us enormously proud,” USQ Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Jan Thomas said. “Professor Jones is one of the worlds’ leading researchers in functional foods, and we are delighted he is able to be part of this festival with our own highly acclaimed team and other specialists to give the public an idea about this developing sector,” Professor Thomas said.
Professor Jones is the founding Director of the University of Manitoba’s Richardson Centre for Functional Foods and Nutraceuticals, which has worked closely with USQ’s Functional Foods Research Group (FFRG).
Led by Professor Lindsay Brown and Dr Sunil Panchal, FFRG research has identified foods which can help reduce obesity and improve the structure and function of the heart and liver.
The FFRG’s findings have helped to change the way the public views the connection between food and health, and have found functional foods may relieve inflammatory conditions such as arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease and chronic kidney damage.
“Functional foods are also likely to help promote healthy ageing, and decrease the impact of inflammatory and metabolic diseases which can have such a big impact on people’s quality of life as they age,” Dr Panchal said. “As such, this is really important research for the people in our region and beyond,” he said.
As well as involving researchers from other universities, the symposium will include presentations from Nutrafruit, the Queensland company which has commercialised the Queen Garnet plum, and MDB Energy, which has developed high-value algae-based foods.
Professor Brown said the development of functional foods as an industry presented opportunities for food producers and processors as well as researchers and investors.
“Toowoomba and its surrounding regions have a long and proud history of growing fruit and vegetables, and of processing food. We look forward to telling people about where that is leading as food starts to interface with medicine,” Professor Brown said.
Professor Jones will be speaking at all four Functional Foods Festival events. The festival kicks off at USQ Toowoomba with an afternoon lecture for schools on Monday 8 August, followed by an evening public lecture on Tuesday and the symposium on Wednesday, 10 August. The festival’s final event is a public lecture at USQ Ipswich on Thursday 11 August.