Florida State’s food science expertise leads to research agreement with Brunei Darussalam

Yun-Hwa "Peggy" Hsieh, Florida State's Betty M. Watts Professor in the College of Human Sciences.

Florida State University and the Nation of Brunei Darussalam have signed a cooperative research agreement focused on the detection of hidden blood protein in food and other dietary products.

The agreement was reached based on innovative blood detection technology created by Yun-Hwa “Peggy” Hsieh, a distinguished professor in FSU’s Department of Nutrition, Food and Exercise Sciences in the College of Human Sciences.

Islamic law forbids Muslims from eating food or using products that are not halal, such as those containing any type of animal blood and pork fat, muscle or gelatin. These types of protein materials are widely used in food, dietary supplements and pharmaceutical products, creating a major concern in largely Muslim Brunei. The research agreement was established to help expand Brunei’s capabilities in detecting hidden ingredients derived from blood so its consumers can feel confident that the food they consume and products they use are halal.

“Many people would be surprised to know that the food they consume on a daily basis, the medications they take and even the shampoo they use could contain a host of hidden and sometimes unwanted ingredients,” Hsieh said. “I’ve dedicated much of my research to finding those hidden materials so consumers can be fully informed, and being able to work with the Nation of Brunei to help its citizens is a dream come true.”

Hsieh’s novel and commercially successful food-testing technology took off in the 1990s when her research first revealed that even the rigors of rendering didn’t destroy certain marker proteins in animal muscle tissue. With that discovery, she developed immunoassays using specific antibodies that react to the presence of those thermo-stable proteins and identify which species they come from.

Commercial kits for pork detection using Hsieh’s technology have already been licensed to two companies and are available on the international market. Results from her immunoassays have trumped those of traditional analyses and she plans to produce a simple strip test in the near future that will be able to tell if a dietary product, regardless of whether it is raw or cooked, contains blood, fat or gelatin derived from a pig or other animal species.

“The scopes of cooperation contained in this research agreement will focus on establishing collaboration on immunochemical detection of hidden blood protein in dietary products and also on jointly developing methods for food analysis,” said Sabri Mohd. Taha, head of the Brunei Darussalam Halal Industry Innovation Centre. “We hope that this collaboration with FSU will be a good start in Brunei Darussalam’s efforts to strengthen its capabilities inline with its national agenda to be at the forefront of scientific research and development in the area of halal science and technology.”

The partnership offers a unique opportunity for collaboration, according to Gary K. Ostrander, vice president for Research at FSU.

“I believe this will be the first of many collaborations on the academic level, as well as a chance for the people of our two nations/communities to develop meaningful relationships that extend beyond our academic work,” said Ostrander. “We at FSU are really looking forward to this opportunity.”

To learn more about Hsieh and her food detection research, visit her website.