The Dutch company says its new platform, which is based around a 'micro-gut' that measures the effects of food components on intestinal flora, can be used to "upgrade residual flows from the vegetable, fruit and grain processing industries". This will allow manufacturers to tap into the potential from waste generated by commodity industries, with a view to deriving value-added ingredients from them. This is of particular interest at the present time as many food ingredients makers are moving away from commodity-based ingredients in the face of high costs. In addition, TNO says its system can also be applied to ingredients that have already been established as healthy-promoting in the general food, baby food or clinical nutrition industries. This may enable to benefits to be extended or maximised. The TNO system The Dutch firm's system uses technologies drawn from fields like analytical chemistry, physiology, microbiology and molecular biology. It involves fractionation of the food matrix, then use of an artificial micro-gut to determine functionality of the fractions. The functional components are then characterised. TNO says its approach can screen a very large number of fractions in food matrices in a short period of time. It claims its micro-gut is the "only multi-channel system in the world in which the intestinal flora can be cultured as well as kept in a stable condition". A pre-digestion step can also be carried out if required, which is said to give manufacturers information on bioavailability and shed light on how this can be improved. This step could be useful, for example, when looking at the components of crude plant components, to company said. In addition to looking at the effects of food components on intestinal flora, TNO expects in the future it will be possible to look at their effects on skin and oral flora too. Turning waste into revenue Unless technologies are developed that can turn waste into nutritionally and financially useful material, however, it often ends up channelled towards low-value industries such as animal feed. Examples of companies that have already managed to use processing waste as a source of nutritional and healthy ingredients include NutraCea, which found a way to make stabilised rice bran out of a by-product of standard rice processing. Dutch potato starch specialist Avebe has also created a subsidiary called Solanic, which develops non-starch based ingredient from potatoes that have a higher added value. In December last year Solanic announced the official opening of its new factory for the production of protein fractions from potatoes, and start of commercial supply to the food industry. The vegetable-based proteins to the food industry are said to present a viable alternative to animal proteins. UK-based Leatherhead Food International last year conducted industry research aiming to identify plant foods containing compounds that have a specified biological activity, and find alternative uses for waste materials. It said at the outset of the project that it would participating companies a head start in an area that looks set to figure large in the food industry's future.