Probiotic and lactic acid functionality in dairy products informed the research undertaken by the Irish, Finnish and US award winners of the IDF Elie Metchnikoff Prize 2010, who were announced at the International Dairy Federation symposia focused on nutrition this week.
The IDF said the prizes recognise outstanding scientific discoveries in the fields of microbiology, biotechnology, nutrition and health with regard to fermented milks, with the secondary aim of reporting the latest progress in the field.
The award is named in honour of the recipient of the 1908 Nobel Prize, who was one of the first scientists to take an interest in the influence of lactic bacteria on health and it was initiated in 2007 by the IDF, in partner with Institut Pasteur Paris and International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics (ISAPP).
A spokesperson for the IDF told DairyReporter.com that the committee overseeing the award received over 30 submissions, and the prize winners were chosen based on how impactful their discovery has been in terms of contribution to science and/or industrial needs, its dissemination as well as products on the market arising from the research.
The work of Finnish dairy probiotics researchers, Seppo Salminen and Erika Isolauri, was recognised, said the jury, because it showed that probiotic-supplemented perinatal dietary counselling could be a safe and cost-effective tool in addressing allergic, inflammatory disease and the metabolic epidemic.
Professor Todd Klaenhammer, from the US, was awarded the prize in biotechnology for his research into the industrial application of molecular genetics to food grade lactic acid bacteria, which has focused on the design of novel genetic strategies to provide bacteriophage resistance to dairy starter cultures, among other applications.
And the collaborative work of Irish researchers Paul Ross, Catherine Stanton, Gerald Fitzgerald and Colin Hill on the mechanistic basis of LAB and probiotic functionality won the microbiology prize.
The IDF spokesperson said that this is only the second time the prize, which has a value of €10,000 per category, has been awarded in three years and that it is conducted on the principal basis that there is a sufficient level of innovative research being conducted in the field.
She said that it is difficult to determine whether the first Metchnikoff Prize in 2007 had the effect of stimulating innovation and research in the area of fermented milk "as this is not easily measurable," but the submissions this year show that the field is a very dynamic branch of the dairy industry.