The mission of the Quality and Safety Assessment Research Unit is to conduct basic and developmental research on methods to determine the structure of foods and fibers as related to processing characteristics and end use quality, including the sensory, nutritional and functional value of products. The structural components are determined by genetics, environment, harvesting, storage and processing. Therefore it is paramount to measure and understand the structural modifications due to these factors in order to improve the valuable qualities of agricultural products.
We employ sophisticated spectroscopic, dielectric, and microscopic measurement methodologies to analyze chemical, biological and physical structure. Moreover, we define and quantitate complex food characteristics using instrumental and human sensory evaluation techniques. Using this diverse set of tools we strive to understand the mechanical, hydrothermal, chemical, enzymatic, and microbiological processes which influence the quality of agricultural products. Furthermore, the most advanced chemometric methods are employed to correlate structural measurements to product quality. From this body of knowledge we develop practical methods for evaluation of quality parameters. In many cases these tools have the potential to permit rapid and nondestructive quality measurement.
Our strength is in our diversity of experience with a wide range of quality assessment technology and its application across multiple commodities. Current materials being studied include: wheat, rice, corn, kenaf, flax, cotton, poultry, beef and processed foods. Our methods quantitate such parameters as strength, fineness, purity, flavor, aroma, texture, dietary fiber composition, fat content, moisture level, and protein value.