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Jane Parker

Jane Parker Staff Profile
  • Founder and Director of The Flavour Centre
  • PhD supervisor, MSc and BSc project supervisor
  • Organising Committee, BSF Flavour Course.

Office

4-26

Building location

Harry Nursten

Areas of interest

The Flavour Centre

This was established in 2008 to address the needs of the food and flavour industries. The centre draws on the accumulated expertise of the flavour group to offer services in the area of flavour science. There are currently projects underway which involve:

  • flavour consultancy
  • analysis of flavourings
  • proof of concept
  • contract research
  • analytical services
  • tailor-made training courses.

Research

Flavour is something which caught my interest whilst working as a chemist at Firmenich SA in Switzerland. As a chemist, I am fascinated by what compounds are responsible for taste and flavour, and how they are formed - either in nature (in fresh fruit and vegetables), or during cooking or processing. Furthermore development of off-flavours during storage can have a very negative impact on consumer acceptance and it is also important to understand how these are formed.

Understanding the chemistry behind these flavour forming reactions is the basis for my research. The Maillard reaction is fundamentally responsible for producing flavour and colour during thermal processing of foods, and it is incredibly important for the food industry to be able to control this complex reaction. Kinetic modelling, based on fundamental chemical mechanisms, can help to identify critical control points where intervention can be used to manipulate the reaction. Intervention could be as simple as altering time and temperature regimes during cooking, or could involve manipulating precursors. This is something that can be done by changing the recipe, changing the source of the precursors to enrich those that are limiting, or by using agronomy and selective breeding techniques or different growing conditions to alter the composition of the raw materials.

Since the consumer is the ultimate judge of flavour, I am also interested in the "odour impact" of individual compounds (GC-Olfactometry) and how changes in flavour profiles (from different recipes, cooking or storage conditions) are perceived by a human sensory panel. This work is done in conjunction with the sensory group and the Sensory Science Centre. The strength of the Reading flavour chemistry group lies in the fact that, knowing food is a complex matrix of components which can influence the Maillard reaction, most of our work is carried out in real food or simplified food systems. This allows us also to look at the interactions of flavour compounds with the other food constituents, both from a physical and a chemical aspect, and we are starting also to look at how flavour compounds interact with the tongue. I have strong links with the food industry, both through longer term research contracts and shorter-term projects via the Flavour Centre.

Food Sustainability

With the UN predicting that world food production must rise by 50% by 2030 to meet increasing demand, and additional threats from climate change, agronomists are selectively breeding high yielding, drought resistant crop varieties for the future, and process engineers are tasked with reducing energy and water requirements. Whilst yield and nitrogen efficiency are key indicators of success, it is recognised that the consumer still expects a high quality product and is unwilling to sacrifice the flavour when selecting a product which is more healthy, ethical or sustainable. One of our roles as flavour chemists is working collaboratively with agronomists and process engineers to optimise food quality, particularly flavour, in the food of the future.

Techniques

The lab is well equipped with advanced flavour extraction techniques and analytical methods including automated SPME, GC-MS, GC-MS-olfactometry and LC-MS, and we have routine techniques for analysing flavourings, taste compounds (glutamate, ribonucleotides, sugars, acids, limonin), precursors (sugars, amino acids), off-notes (trichloroanisole, geosmin, skatole), toxins (acrylamide, PAHs), polyphenols (flavanols, catechins) as well as chlorogenic acids, artificial sweeteners, fatty acids profiles and vanillin. Our expertise covers most area of food and drink, specialising in meat, potatoes, melons, tomatoes and strawberries, and also covering cereals, fish, liver, onions, garlic, herbs and spices, fruit and vegetables.

Outreach

I am keen to communicate the role of taste and flavour to a wider audience and have been involved in the local WI Science Event and with the RSC in developing a series of lunchbox talks.

Academic qualifications

  • BSc (Hons) Chemistry, St Andrews
  • PhD Physical Organic Chemistry, University of Cambridge
  • C.Chem. Member of Royal Society of Chemistry (MRSC).

Awards and honours

  • BBSRC CASE awards – 2004, 2006, 2008, 2011
  • KTN SPARK award, 2012
  • a large number of industrially sponsored research contracts, which are my main source of income.

Professional bodies/affiliations

  • Associate Member of the British Society of Flavourists (BSF).

External activities

  • Hon. Sec. Reading Amateur Regatta.

Publications

  • Piornos, J. , Balagiannis, D. , Methven, L. , Koussissi, E. , Brouwer, E. , Parker, J. (2020) Elucidating the odor-active aroma compounds in alcohol-free beer and their contribution to the worty flavor. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry , 68 (37). pp. 10088-10096. ISSN: 0021-8561 | doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1021/acs.jafc.0c03902
  • Parma, V. , Ohla, K. , Veldhuizen, M. , Niv, M. , Kelly, C. , Bakke, A. , Cooper, K. , Bouysset, C. , Pirastu, N. , Dibattista, M. , Kaur, R. , Liuzza, M. , Pepino, M. , Schopf, V. , Pereda-Loth, V. , Olsson, S. , Gerkin, R. , Dominguez, P. , Albayay, J. , Farruggia, M. , Bhutani, S. , Fjaeldstad, A. , Kumar, R. , Menini, A. , Bensafi, M. , Sandell, M. , Konstantinidis, I. , Di Pizio, A. , Genovese, F. , Öztürk, L. , Thomas-Danguin, T. , Frasnelli, J. , Boesveldt, S. , Saatci, Ö. , Saraiva, L. , Lin, C. , Golebiowski, J. , Hwang, L. , Ozdener, M. , Guardia, M. , Laudamiel, C. , Ritchie, M. , Havlicek, J. , Pierron, D. , Roura, E. , Navarro, M. , Nolden, A. , Lim, J. , Whitcroft, K. , Colquitt, L. , Ferdenzi, C. , Brindha, E. , Altundag, A. , Maachi, A. , Nunez-Parra, A. , Patel, Z. , Fiorucci, S. , Philpott, C. , Smith, B. , Lundstrom, J. , Mucignat, C. , Parker, J. ORCID: 0000-0003-4121-5481 , van den Brink, M. , Schmuker, M. , Fischmeister, F. , Heinbockel, T. , Shields, V. , Faraji, F. , Santamaria, E. , Fredborg, W. , Morini, G. , Olofsson, J. , Jalessi, M. , Karni, N. , D'Errico, A. , Alizadeh, R. , Pellegrino, R. , Meyer, P. , Huart, C. , Chen, B. , Soler, G. , Alwashahi, M. , Welge-Lussen, A. , Freiherr, J. , de Groot, J. , Klein, H. , Okamoto, M. , Singh, P. , Hsieh, J. , Reed, D. , Hummel, T. , Munger, S. , Hayes, J. (2020) More than smell – COVID-19 is associated with severe impairment of smell, taste, and chemesthesis. Chem Senses , 45 (7). pp. 609-622. ISSN: 1464-3553 | doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/chemse/bjaa041