UMass Amherst professor wins 2019 Nils Foss Excellence Prize for pioneering work in food design

University of Massachusetts Amherst Distinguished Professor David Julian McClements was honored Monday in Hillerød, Denmark, with the 2019 Nils Foss Excellence Prize for his pioneering work in food design and nanotechnology.

The annual award, named after the late founder of FOSS, a worldwide food tech company, was established in 2016 to recognize a globally respected scientist for innovative research that leads to "remarkable improvements" in the quality, safety, nutrition and sustainability of food.

The award includes a cash prize of 100,000 euros, which McClements says he will use to move his research program into new directions. The funds will help support new equipment and further investigation, particularly in the area of future foods, such as plant-based foods, 3-D food printing and nano-enabled nutraceuticals.

"I am really honored to receive such a prestigious award," says McClements, author of the new book, "Future Foods: How Modern Science Is Transforming the Way We Eat" (Springer Nature, 2019). "It is an extremely exciting time to be a food scientist, and there are many innovative scientific and technological approaches being developed to tackle problems linked to the food supply, such as feeding a growing population, ensuring our food is safe, minimizing the harmful impact of the food production system on the environment, and improving human health and well-being."

A committee of academic and industry members selected McClements for the excellence award and Aarhus (Denmark) University assistant professor Qian Janice Wang for the Nils Foss Talent Prize for her research into the flavor perception of taste.

This year's winners have made significant contributions in food science and have brought some truly new ideas to the table. It is crucial that we understand both the composition of foods and the drivers of the human flavor system in order to design a healthier future - at the nanoscale and through the senses."

Per Falholt, committee chair

The Nils Foss Excellence Prize is the latest of many awards bestowed on McClements, who is among the world's most highly cited researchers. Earlier this year, he received the Institute of Food Technologists' (IFT) Nicolas Appert Award, a lifetime achievement recognition named after the French inventor known as the "father of canning."

McClements' research focuses on designing functional foods at the nanoscale that are fortified with nutraceuticals or probiotics to address malnutrition in developing countries, combat chronic disease such as obesity and cancer, and keep astronauts healthy in space. This requires understanding the physicochemical breakdown of foods within the gastrointestinal tract.

The award committee emphasized that an important strength of McClements' work is its application.

"Professor McClement's research in functional foods has contributed to improved quality, safety, sustainability and healthiness of the food supply, and has served as a paradigm for many other researchers in the field," a FOSS statement says. "Further, broad collaborations with the food industry has led to implemented research findings in practice."

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