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SCI Seligman Fellowship Report Dr Gabriel Okafor

1 September 2004

The Seligman APV Fellowship Programme in Food Engineering endowed by APV in honour of its founder Dr Richard Seligman (1878-1972), which was skilfully packaged by the Management Committee of the Seligman Trust under the framework of SCI, has over the years brought joy and professional progress to many Scientists from different countries, by providing the opportunity to visit the UK’s renowned food engineering research establishments.

I am privileged to have been selected for this Fellowship programme at the time I needed it most. I was assigned to develop the technology for canning Nigerian traditional dishes in my former place of work (Federal Institute of Industrial Research, Lagos, Nigeria). Though I succeeded in developing ten different products, validations of the thermal processing parameters of the developed soups were not carried out due to lack of appropriate equipment.

This fellowship has enabled me to carry out that outstanding part of the work and interact with both SCI members and officials, and verify that SCI is indeed ‘where science meets business.’ There are no better word combinations fit to describe the Society’s activities better than those. The marriage of the two words ‘Science’ and ‘Business’ can never be overtaken by civilisation as long as the world exists, because science creates business and business makes science.

During the entire period of my fellowship programme, I have pondered over those words, lived it and would continue to apply the concept in my future scientific research activities and other professional dealings.

Research Project

I arrived from Nigeria on 9 February 2004, to consummate my APV Seligman Fellowship programme at the School of Food Biosciences, University of Reading, where my primary research on thermal processing would be carried under the supervision of Dr Mike Lewis. The research programme was designed to cover most thermal processing techniques currently in use in the food industry, like Ultra Heat Treatment (UHT) of milk, food canning and heat process validations. I was given the opportunity to register with the library and have access to books, internet and periodicals, which simplified my literature search for relevant information, as well as the theoretical part of my work.

The knowledge acquired was applied in canning and validating the thermal processing parameters of four Nigerian traditional soups (Egusi & Mushroom, Bitter Leaf Soup, Ogbono, and Ogbono & Okra). This aspect of research work on thermal processing, was not possible at the Federal Institute of Industrial Research, due to unavailability of a research retort equipped with thermocouples to read the temperature history of canned products during thermal processing.

The following studies were equally carried out to support and help in understanding the research object:

  • Microbiological examination of the ingredients used in formulating and canning the soups.
  • Rheological and textural properties of Cocoyam, a thickener used in preparing bitter leaf soup in Nigeria.
  • Rheological properties of wild mango seeds (Irvingia gabonesis), popularly known as Ogbono in Nigeria - a thickener used in preparing ogbono soup.

Using a Rotary Retort at the pilot plant of the School of Food Biosciences, University of Reading, the temperature histories of the following products were determined:

  • Canned Egusi Soup
  • Canned Egusi and Mushroom Soup
  • Canned Bitter Leaf Soup
  • Canned Ogbono Soup
  • Canned Ogbono and Okra Soup
  • Canned Cowpea and Sweet Corn in Tomato Sauce
  • Canned Cowpea and Fried Yam in Tomato Sauce
  • Canned Cowpea and Plantain in Tomato Sauce
  • Canned Cowpea in Tomato Sauce

These soups and cowpea dishes are consumed by most Nigerians, therefore canning and exportation of them to Europe and especially the UK, would help to reduce the incidence of pest migration into the UK, which could accompany the raw ingredients if imported indiscriminately.

Research on UHT of milk was equally planned and conducted. We intended to investigate the effect of dissolved gases (air, nitrogen, carbon dioxide) on the occurrence of milk fouling during UHT, however, due to some logistic problems in obtaining a new data logger within the available time, the research work was aborted.

Visits

  • International Congress Engineering and Food ICEF 9, Montpelier, France, 6-11 March 2004

I cannot thank the Management of the Seligman Trust enough for their wisdom in making it possible for me to attend this conference, which exposed me to the current research trend in food engineering throughout the world. The conference papers and posters were carefully selected to cover high pressure processing of food products, electric and non-thermal operation, pulsed electric field, microbial inactivation, sub-zero temperature processing and engineering aspects, which are dynamic areas in food engineering. It gave me the opportunity to interact with many scholars from most countries of the world, on areas of research interest.

  • SCI Scholars Lunch, 19 March 2004

In attendance were SCI’s current and previous Messel and Gray Scholars, the Selection Panel, Awards Committee members and most of the eminent stalwarts at the helm of SCI’s affairs. It provided me with the much-needed opportunity to meet and interact with those who have been taking care of my professional interest for a very long time, as well as other Scholars.

  • ‘Career in Food Industry’, Chemical Engineering Department, University of Birmingham, 24 March 2004

This conference exposed me to advances in food engineering and equipment design, creative skills and provided a better understanding of the sophisticated UK food manufacturing industry.

  • Dr Ian Wilson, Jesus College, University of Cambridge, 28- 29 March 2004

Dr Wilson left no stone unturned in getting me to grasp the research ethics of the renowned University of Cambridge. We were taken through the length and breadth of the Department of Chemical Engineering, where I learnt some emerging technologies in food processing and observed in action cross pollination of ideas between food and chemical engineering.

  • Prof Joe Quarini, University of Bristol, 1 April 2004

Prof Quarini taught me, amongst other things, some invention techniques, pigging and its application in the food industry.

  • Dr Gary Tucker, Campden and Chorleywood Food Research Association (CCFRA)

The visit to this research association was a dream come true. Ever since I was assigned a project to develop the technologies for canning some Nigerian dishes, on joining the Federal Institute of Industrial Research in 1997, I had seen CCFRA as a place to be. During this visit, Dr Tucker and his team, introduced me to the latest technology for validating thermal processing parameters using Time Temperature Indictor (TTI), and briefly showed me their modern food processing equipment.

  • Food Standard Agency, 14 April 2004

The Food Standard Agency is a UK-wide independent government agency, with the mandate to protect consumers by effective enforcement and monitoring of food safety standards in partnership with local authorities, to support consumer choice through accurate and meaningful labelling and provide advice to the public and to government on food safety, standard and nutrition. This agency has similar mandate with NAFDAC, which is also an independent government agency. Therefore, the visit was very interesting and proactive, because we shared knowledge, experience and expertise in areas of common interest like structure, food labelling, imported food regulation, food law enforcement and HACCP. This visit provided a unique opportunity for networking and future professional relationship, considering the trade relationship between the UK and Nigeria.

  • Leatherhead Food Research Association, 19 May 2004

I attended the open day ceremony of this research association, which brought many food professionals from different countries of the world together. Nutrition and increasing obesity problems were discussed, causes were identified and some solutions like effective dieting (eating little of everything) and leading an active life were proffered. I met and discussed with Jean Feord on food legislation. It also gave me the opportunity to visit their laboratories and observe their modern research facilities.

  • ‘Food Authenticity: Purity of Oils and Fats in Foods’, SCI Oils and Fats Group, 20 May 2004

Topics such as history of adulteration of food, authentication of oils, environmental contamination as well as NMR spectroscopy and isotopic techniques for authenticity of oils and fats were discussed. The experience would assist me in regulating oils and fats distribution in Nigeria and reduce the spread of adulterated oil in the country.

  • HACCP Training Workshop, CCFRA, 26-27 May 2004

This two-day workshop, which conforms to the industry agreed training standard on ‘HACCP Principles and Application in Food Safety’ and approved by the Royal Institute of Public Health (RIPH), enabled me to improve my understanding of HACCP and sit for the RIPH Intermediate Certificate Examination in Applied HACCP Principles. It also provided an opportunity of seeing the ancient city (Campden). The knowledge gained would be very useful in my work as a Food Regulatory Officer, especially during General Manufacturing Practice (GMP) inspections and vetting of GMP reports.

  • Steve Grace and Richard Pettifor, APV, 4 June 2004

The visit furnished me with knowledge on latest techniques in process engineering, Computer Aided Design and leading intelligent automation systems, used by APV in making innovative products, providing process solutions and support services in the food, dairy, beverage, pharmaceutical and healthcare industries

Acknowledgements

I am convinced that the 4 months spent in UK under the Seligman fellowship was worth every penny spent on it by the Seligman Trust. I hope to utilize the acquired knowledge to improve scientific, legislative, diplomatic and bilateral trade relationships between the UK and Nigeria.

If you unzip my heart this day, amongst the many things you will find there are Mountains of Gratitude, grassland and valleys of bliss towards this Seligman Fellowship Award.

I wish to convey these feelings of thankfulness to Jeroen Van der Veer (SCI World President), Sir Richard Denyer (SCI General Secretary and Chief Executive), Graham Byars (Seligman Trust Management Committee Chairman), Monica Iglesias (SCI Award Coordinator), Rosamund Snow and other SCI Officials immensely, for the financial and logistic support provided, without which this programme would not have been possible. My profound gratitude also goes to Dr Dora Akunyili (NAFDAC Director General) and all of the members of NAFDAC’s management team, for permitting me to consummate this fellowship award.

I wish to thank the following people who contributed in no small measure towards the successful completion of the fellowship programme: Dr Mike Lewis (School Food Biosciences, University of Reading) for his supervision and guidance of the research work, as well as Dr K Niranjan (SCI Food Engineering Group Chairman) for his intellectual, technical and moral support, Dr Bogdan Dobraszczyk, for his assistance in Rheology and Textural studies, Alistair Grandison for his guidance in Canning and Heat Penetration studies, James Magee for assistance in microbiological studies, Peter Swallow for various IT help received.

The visits arranged in this programme made it possible for me to meet so many renowned British Scientists; Dr Ian Wilson (University of Cambridge), Dr Joe Quarini (Bristol University), Philip Richardson (CCFRA), Richard Burt (FSA), Caroline Moris (FSA), Ann Goodwin (FSA), Stephen Airey (FSA), Theresa Ekong (FSA), Sarah Appleby (FSA), Jean Feord (LFI), Richard Pettifor (APV), Shaun Brown (APV), Richard Guest (APV), Steve Grace (APV) and host of others. They helped to make me tread more efficiently on Food Engineering, Legislation, Markets and Strategies for the benefit of Nigeria, UK and the World at large.

Dr Gabriel Okafor
Lagos, Nigeria

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