Massey scientists to lead international protein project

The Proteos project aims to characterise the quality values of the world’s food proteins and has the potential to dramatically improve world food security and meet the nutrition needs of burgeoning populations.

Riddet Institute Co-Director Distinguished Professor
Paul Moughan.


A major research project with far-reaching humanitarian consequences has been announced by the Riddet Institute, New Zealand's top food and nutrition scientific research body.

The Proteos project aims to characterise the quality values of the world’s food proteins and has the potential to dramatically improve world food security and meet the nutrition needs of burgeoning populations, institute co-director Distinguished Professor Paul Moughan of Massey University says.

"The global dataset that will result from the work will be used for assessing nutritional adequacy in the malnourished, for planning for food security and sustainability of food production, and for assessing the role of dietary protein in the maintenance of health and fitness of the worldwide population," Professor Moughan says. "It will also influence international trade in proteins as well as facilitating the establishment of claims made about protein in foods and beverages."

The institute is one of 10 Government-funded centres of research excellence. Hosted by Massey, it includes AgResearch, Plant & Food Research, University of Auckland and University of Otago.

Proteos is funded by an international consortium of food industry sectors and responds to a recent call from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) to provide state-of-the-art information on food protein sources. Its ultimate value is likely to exceed $7 million.

Professor Moughan, who is also chair of the 2011 FAO Expert Consultation on Protein Quality in Human Nutrition, will lead the work by an international team of scientists from Massey University, the University of Illinois in the United States, the Netherlands' Wageningen University, and AgroParisTech in France.

“The novel analytical assays and bioassays to be applied to food proteins to establish this new global database, rest heavily on previous studies conducted by the Riddet Institute into the fundamentals of protein digestion, assimilation and metabolism in humans,” Professor Moughan says.

“This puts New Zealand, Massey University and the Riddet Institute in the driving seat of what is an iconic science project. It is hugely important for planning protein supplies for the world, to avoid malnutrition in the future. This work will provide a database that will be a reference for the quality of protein that will likely be used for the next 100 years. It’s also significant because it is the first time a New Zealand university has been involved in a project like this.”

The Global Dairy Platform, based in Chicago, has undertaken the role of co-ordinating the project on behalf of the various industry sponsors. Established in 2006, the platform’s mission is to align and support the dairy industry to promote sustainable dairy nutrition.

Executive director Donald Moore says, “We are delighted to have helped bring this research to life by facilitating the funding collaboration among different food groups. This work is important to the long-term health and wellness of the growing global population; having accurate information to understand the nutrition that foods actually deliver is vital.”

Massey University Vice-Chancellor Steve Maharey, a Riddet Institute board member, says he is “particularly proud" that the institute has been asked to lead a project of such immediate importance to human welfare. "This work draws upon the proud tradition of Massey University as a world leader in the agricultural and food sciences.

“Outcomes of this nature, underline the importance of New Zealand’s centres of research excellence within the wider New Zealand science landscape. This type of work is crucial if we are to effectively meet the protein demands of a burgeoning world population.”

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