Undoubtedly, food safety is a hot button in the US and Europe as ingredients are imported from around the world. In Europe, the Netherlands serves as a major logistics hub (third-largest world exporter of agricultural products) and a major research and development center (second only to the US and Germany in number of patents) for food, agriculture and the biosciences. But food safety isn’t the only concern. Europeans are succumbing to the same diseases that plague Americans because European eating habits have, in recent years, included more fats, especially the bad kinds. With a 40% adult obesity rate in the Netherlands, nutrition and food quality have also been key drivers in food R&D.
“Food Valley” is the science and innovation area of the Netherlands for agrifood, life sciences, genomics, nutrition and health. Centered roughly in the Wageningen area in the eastern Netherlands, Food Valley employs 10,000 people active in sciences, R&D and associated businesses, and encompasses several bio-tech and food/agricultural research firms, food processors and universities. The area is home to H.J. Heinz, Nestlé, Campina, Mars, Heineken, Seminis/Monsanto, Unilever, Abbot Labs, Numico Research and more. The Valley’s research cluster includes NIZO, TNO Food & Nutrition, Rikilt Institute of Food Safety, Plant Research International, the Innovation Center for Nutrigenomics, Center for Biosystems Genomics and Wageningen University & Research Center. Innovations coming out of Food Valley range from farm-level applications to the esoteric areas of microbiology and nanotechnology. For example, Clean Light licenses a UV crop protection system to farm machinery builders, DSM has a three-day test for Salmonella, EBI Food Safety provides a bacteriophage for fighting Listeria, and TNO is working on superheated steam processing (e.g., a way to make French fries without the deep fat frying), to name a few.
The Netherlands Foreign Investment Agency (NFIA) is seeking processors, research labs and universities to partner with Food Valley companies and researchers with the goals of sharing knowledge and solutions. NFIA can be reached at 212-246-1434 or www.nfia.com.