The Richardson Centre for Functional Foods and Nutraceuticals (RCFFN) is turning five years old and to mark the occasion it was joined by the Honourable Erin Selby, Minister of Advanced Education and Literacy, as it signed two international research agreements.
Celebrations will continue tomorrow, May 14, when RCFFN hosts an open house. It runs from 10 a.m. till 3 p.m., and there will be tours, taste tests, ice cream, balloons and displays. It will be free and open to all.
Today, RCFFN Director Peter Jones signed two
memoranda of understanding: one with the Beijing Academy of Agriculture and Forestry Sciences and one with Maastricht University Medical Centre in the Netherlands; both MOUs will allow parties to collaborate on research and training projects.
Jones, Canada Research Chair in Nutrition and Functional Foods, also provided an update on the state of the centre, which is a hub of Canada’s food research network. (Functional foods are any foods that confer health benefits beyond providing energy, vitamins and minerals – think of omega-3 infused products lining your grocer’s shelf.)
"The Richardson Centre for Functional Foods and Nutraceuticals is a venerable institute the University of Manitoba is proud of," David Barnard, University of Manitoba President and Vice-Chancellor said. "For five years it has dedicated itself to the study of foods and their products that bring unquestionable health and economic benefits to the people of Manitoba, Canada and the world. It’s exciting to imagine the research and innovation that will take place in this excellent centre in the coming five years."
"When we invested $9 million to help in the construction of the Richardson Centre, we knew we were helping fund some of the most innovative research in the world," said Erin Selby, Minister of Advanced Education and Literacy. "This unique research centre has already proved its value in developing new products that greatly benefit food producers and consumers. I want to congratulate everyone connected with the centre for the excellent work they are doing."
For five years RCFFN has dedicated itself to leading functional foods and nutraceuticals research while supporting the development of an economically viable functional food and nutraceutical industry. The internationally renowned centre has studied such things as how whole grains, dairy, and oils can lower cholesterol; how plant sterols – specific organic molecules -- can reduce blood cholesterol when provided in a number of different food formulations; and how eating yellow pea flour results in a substantial improvement in blood sugar and insulin control.
It has also tested products for businesses to see if "the next best cure" is legitimate. Sometimes, they are. Sometimes they are not. In 2009, RCFFN began trials to test the efficacy of two different formulations of golden-brown algae on treating psoriasis, an autoimmune disease. A British Columba firm hired RCFFN to test it and the product passed scientific trials and is now sold across Canada. One product that didn’t pass muster was ostrich oil that can cure baldness if two balloons are rubbed above it. This idea was pitched a few years ago.
"We don’t waste our time with a lot of the ideas that comes our way," Jones said. "But we keep open minds and let the scientific method guide us."
The RCFFN is always looking for volunteers to participate in food trials. To learn more about this and the open house, visit