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UM food scientist Feliz Koksel

Filiz Koksel

Manitoba Co-operator: Playing with food never gets old

July 13, 2022 — 

As the Manitoba Co-operator reports:

A Manitoba researcher specializing in plant proteins has won an award for emerging researchers.

Filiz Koksel was one recipient of the Terry G. Falconer Memorial Award from the Winnipeg Rh Institute, aimed at rewarding early-career researchers. She is a food science researcher at the Food and Human Nutritional Sciences Department at the University of Manitoba and her work tackles world hunger through sustainable plant-based foods. It also aims to develop new ways to monitor and improve the quality of Canadian crops from field to table.

Earlier in her career, Koksel focused on the processing of cereals and pulses for baked products. More recently, she’s been focusing on extruded foods. Extrusion processing has been used since the 1940s and ‘50s in the food industry, initially for making puff snacks like Cheetos or breakfast cereals such as Cheerios.

Koksel said there are two different methods used for the extraction process when working with plant proteins. When processed under lower moisture conditions, products are often added to burger patties or sausages as high-protein filler to reduce costs and improve the “mouth feel” of the food.

“For example, to make it a little bit more juicy or chewy, we would add some plant proteins into a beef burger,” Koksel said. “That’s very common in the food industry.”

Using the same extrusion process, but under high-moisture conditions, food scientists have created the vegan or vegetarian meat alternatives now seen on grocery store shelves.

“We use more concentrated plant proteins in these formulations and process them with layered and fibrous structures, so that when you bite into them, they will mimic animal protein, like chicken breasts,” Koksel said.

But for her, it’s about more than fillers and niche market food products.

“We have to make sure that we have a world where we are able to sustainably produce food and make sure that we have a secure food future,” she said.

Read the full story here.

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