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Every year I get requests from students for research topics for final year projects. The following is a short list of potential food science, food technology, food microbiology projects that reflect current issues in 2016.

I have agreed to supervise a number of students undertaking projects in these topic areas at CAFRE's Loughry Campus.

if you are interested in any of these projects please discuss with faculty members in your own college or university. 

Investigate the optimal protein concentration for a “sports ice-cream” intended for athletes

Traditional dairy ice cream contains around 3 % protein. The protein concentration can be increased by using whey protein concentrates. There are a number of commercial ice creams containing higher concentrations of protein. Some of these are aimed at athletes who are being encouraged to consider consuming these products to aid recovery after exercise.

What effect does additional protein have on the palatability of ice cream? Is there an optimal protein concentration for palatability? Can you reduce stabiliser / emulsifier usage by increasing protein concentration?

Origin of Str thermophilus present in pasteurized milk in a Mozzarella cheese manufacturing plant in Great Britain.

During an investigation of the growth of thermoduric lactic acid bacteria in HTST pasteurizers used in Mozzarella-manufacturing plants in Northern  Ireland and Great Britain high growth of Str thermophilus sufficient to reduce starter use was found in one plant.

Where are these strains coming from? Starter culture? Raw milk?

 Modelling the numbers of E. coli 0157:H7 in raw milk cheeses using published models and worst and best case scenarios

There have been a number of recent outbreaks of food poisoning caused by E. coli 0157:H7 including one attributed to a raw milk cheese made in Scotland.

The infectious dose of E. coli 0157:H7 is not known but may be as little as one organism for susceptible people. This organism is difficult to enumerate in an environment which also contains non-pathogenic E. coli and can be difficult to find in cheese or milk. The pathogen may not be distributed uniformly in milk or cheese and infected animals may not allways shed the pathogen. So negative results do not mean it is not present.

There are a number of models that predict the decline of E. coli 0157:H7 in cheese.

This project will use a number of models to predict the decline of E. coli 0157:H7 with time in cheeses of varying pH stored at various temperatures and consider the effect of worst and best case scenarios on the safety of raw milk cheese.

Finding the causal agent of pink colour defects in cheese factory environments

 “Pinking” the development of a red / pink colour in many cheese-types has been known for many years and has been the attention of significant research interest for decades. Much of this research has been inconclusive although some association with lactobacilli has been suggested.

Recently Quigley et. al. (2016) have published data that suggests that this defect is caused by Thermus thermophilus.

 This project will investigate the occurrence of Thermus thermophilus in one or more commercial cheese plants in Northern Ireland.

The project is particularly relevant to the manufacture of continental soft cheeses and has application outside Ireland.

Using current research develop a plan to reduce the incidence of E. coli 0157:H7 in raw milk for a farm producing raw milk cheese or a factory producing mould ripened cheese from raw milk.

Raw milk is a potential source of E. coli 0157:H7. The incidence in milk herds is accepted to be low, generally less than 10%.  There is a demand for raw milk and its products in the UK and elsewhere and it is important that action is taken to reduce the probability of milk containing this pathogen.

Existing guidelines as implemented by farms in the UK for the production of quality milk are not fully effective in producing raw milk free of E. coli 0157:H7.

This project will develop and validate an improved HACCP plan for producing raw milk or mould-ripened cheese from raw milk free of significant concentrations of E. coli 0157:H7.

Effect of hydrogen peroxide producing starter cultures on the microbiological quality of raw milk

Some commercial starter companies’ offer cultures that when inoculated into the silos storing raw milk prior may improve the microbiological quality of raw milk and associated products. Early work looked at the effects of these cultures on psychrophic bacteria and generally showed useful effects.

With recent developments in problems with E coli in raw milk it would be interesting to see if these cultures can reduce coliforms and E coli in milk. Note not all institutions will have facilities to work safely with E. coli 0157:H7 and students may wish to look at coliforms and generic E. coli if they cannot work with pathogens.

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