News - December 15, 2017

WUR student awarded prize for research into insect discolouration

Tessa Louwerens

Master’s student Food technology Greta Canelli was awarded the Unilever Research Prize for her thesis on the influence of iron on the browning of insect proteins.

David Blanchard – Chief R&D Officer R&D Unilever, gives the prize Greta Canelli © Unilever R&D

Insects are a sustainable source of proteins, but they very quickly turn brown during processing, making them look less appetizing. Canelli based her research on earlier observations made by a Bachelor student who suspected that iron might play an important role in this discolouration. Canelli designed a model system in which she tested combinations of iron and polyphenols. With these experiments, she proved that iron can form complexes with polyphenols, causing black colour formation. Canelli: ‘Future experiments should investigate how to counteract this discolouration further, without removing the iron from the food.’

The Unilever Prize, a sum of 2,500 euros, is awarded annually to young master’s students who performed excellent research into a subject that is relevant to one or more Sustainable Development Goals. Each of the 13 universities nominate their best master’s student for the prize. Canelli certainly was surprised: ‘When I saw the email, I first thought it was spam, as it was written in Comic Sans. But it turned out to be real.’

She has not yet decided what she will do with the money. ‘I will go to Bangkok for the World Food Program next year; I think I will use part of the prize money to travel around Thailand.’ She has already pocketed the 9.5 for her thesis, with which she has graduated Cum Laude.