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Project Title: Functional properties of Australian bushfoods

RIRDC Project No.: UCS-29A
Start Date: 01/02/02
Finish Date: 30/06/06
Researcher:  Dr Jian Zhao
Charles Sturt University
School of Wine and Food Sciences
Locked Bag 588
Wagga Wagga NSW 2678
Phone: (02) 6933 2968
Fax: (02) 6933 2107
Objectives To promote market growth and enhance profitability of the Australian bushfood industry by:
    4 generating reliable data on the antimicrobial and antioxidant properties of bushfoods to add on to the existing knowledge and anecdotal information on their functionality; 

    5 expanding the application of bushfoods using the research outcomes; and 

    6 developing antimicrobial, antioxidant and emulsifying agents of commercial grade for use as natural substitutes for their synthetic counterparts.

Current Progress Significant progress has been made in the project over the past 12 months. We have completed the work on studying the emulsifying properties of wattle seeds. We have prepared aqueous extracts from wattle seeds and used the extracts to make emulsions with varying proportions of oil and water. The emulsifying properties of the extracts were examined under a range of food processing conditions, including homogenising pressure, pH, ionic strength and temperature. Results show that wattle seed extracts have strong emulsifying capacities and the emulsions formed are stable under typical food processing conditions and have excellent thermal stability. These results indicate that wattle seed extracts could be a promising natural emulsifying agent applicable to a variety of food products. Furthermore, we have isolated and fractionated wattle seed proteins using water, alcohol and dilute acid sequentially, and characterised their properties using a number of techniques, including capillary electrophoresis, SDS-PAGE and differential scanning calorimetry. Results show that wattle seed protein consists of a wide array of polypeptides with the majority being found in the alcohol fraction. We have also made progress in identifying the active components that are responsible for the antioxidant properties of native plant foods and work in this area is continuing.

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Australian Bushfoods magazine