Hundreds get Inside IFR

5th October 2012

Over 1700 people visited the Institute of Food Research during its Open Days in September, getting a unique chance to see Inside IFR.

As well as a series of well-received talks, which are now available to view again online, there were dozens of exhibits and activities based on IFR’s work on food and health. The open days were part of the 2012 Norfolk Food & Drink Festival. Friday 28th was an open day for schools, including IFR’s annual Tallest Jelly Competition, with a public open day on the Saturday.

IFR opened up its laboratories for people to explore and find out about the science behind appetite, and how IFR is finding out exactly what it is in fruit and veg that keeps us healthy. Visitors got hands-on, literally, with a spectrophotometer, to find out how ‘hammy’ or ‘asparagussy’ their thumbs were. Metabolomics, flow cytometry and nanotechnology were all demystified as IFR’s scientists brought to life how the techniques and equipment are being used to find out more about food and how it interacts with our bodies.

Children were kept entertained with a host of activities, including exploring the concept of food miles through art. There was an introduction to microbiology and its role in food safety, which saw over 250 people swabbing food, themselves, their mobiles phones, even a passing dog. The cultures from these are now available to view in the culture gallery. A demonstration of good hand washing technique using UV light, and a quiz on how best to store food in the fridge underlined the serious side of microbial food safety in the home. An innovative game demonstrating the importance of assessing risk from microbes in the food chain proved popular, especially as it involved winning chocolate.

The model colon

As well as IFR’s research on ‘bad’ bacteria, visitors got a better understanding of the role ‘good’ bacteria play, though visiting the model colon – an accurate representation of the bacterial population in our large intestine. An even closer look inside our bodies came through reliving the journey taken by a pill-sized camera through the small intestine. The National Collection of Yeast Cultures explained the importance of yeasts in making bread, beer, and biofuels, and inside the Biorefinery Centre a Lotus car adapted to run on biofuels demonstrated how IFR’s work on food wastes is helping produce new sources of fuel.

The history of IFR and publicly funded food science in the UK was represented by the unveiling of a timeline that is now permanently on display in the IFR reception, and also online. This, and the recreation of a Lab from the Past, especially fascinated many current and former staff during the Open day, as well as highlighting the contributions made over the years. Looking to the future, there was a pleasing number of young people finding out about careers in food science at the careers fair, or asking for opportunities for work experience.

We would like to thank everyone who visited from Norwich, and across Norfolk, (even as far as Nottingham!), and especially our scientists. We’re also grateful to everyone else who joined us Inside IFR:

  • Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital
  • Lotus
  • Chilled Food Association
  • Royal Society of Chemistry
  • MeandER
  • Dr Ken Farquhar
  • Moira Coleman
  • Teacher Scientist Network
  • John Innes Centre
  • Food and Health Network
  • London South Bank University
  • IFST
 This is a selection of comments from people when asked what stood out most about Inside IFR.
  • How wonderful science is!
  • The enthusiasm and knowledge of staff
  • How many people were visiting – we were expecting a fairly low-key event, why not make it 2 days?
  • Access to labs and equipment
  • The wide range of research that goes on here!
  • Access to scientists and their work within so many different areas
  • Clear explanations of a complex field.
  • The willingness of staff to talk and explain things
If you came along, please let us know what you thought using the comment box below