Research

What do we research?

The Institute of Agrochemistry and Food Technology (IATA), created in 1966, is a center of the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC).

Its scientific-technical objective is to carry out research of excellence on the production of sustainable and quality food, taking into account its safety, health impact and consumer acceptance.

IATA research can be grouped into the following lines of research:

INNOVATION IN FOODS AND PROCESSES

Study the mechanisms responsible for the function of different food components by a multidisciplinary approach. Investigate the processes that add value and sustainability, and which determine or modulate the physico-chemical, biochemical, nutritional and sensorial behaviour of complex food matrices by placing special emphasis on products from plants (cereals and other grain based products) and animals (meat and meat based products).

Structure and functionality of components in food matrices

Link the molecular structure and the endogenous and added constituents/components interactions of food systems with a technological, functional and nutritional response of food submitted to physical, chemical and/or enzymatic modification processes throughout manufacturing and storage.

Study the modification/design of structures by ingredients and innovative processes and their relationship with their technological, functional, sensorial and nutritional properties.

RESEARCHERS

Concepción Collar Esteve
Concepción Collar Esteve
Pilar Hernández Muñoz
María de los Desamparados López Rubio
María de los Desamparados López Rubio
M.Cristina Molina Rosell
M.Cristina Molina Rosell
Ana Salvador Alcaraz
María Teresa Sanz Taberner
Miguel Ángel Sentandreu Vicente
Miguel Ángel Sentandreu Vicente
María Amparo Tárrega Guillem
Fidel Toldrá Vilardell
Claudia Monika Haros
Mechanisms to develop aroma, flavour and functional ingredients

Investigate the chemical, enzymatic and microbiological mechanisms involved in the generation and perception of aroma and flavour. Use “omics” techniques to establish a profile of compounds with functional activity, and develop enzymatic mechanisms to reinforce their presence in foods and/or develop them as functional ingredients. In sensorial terms, study the generation of aromatic and flavour compounds and their stability, including the development of strategies to enhance the aroma and flavor of foods. 

RESEARCHERS

M.Concepción Aristoy Albert
M.Concepción Aristoy Albert
Mónica Flores Llovera
Miguel Ángel Sentandreu Vicente
Miguel Ángel Sentandreu Vicente
María Amparo Tárrega Guillem
Fidel Toldrá Vilardell
Sustainability in food processes

Valorization of sub-products generated in the food industry by chemical and biochemical treatments to obtain new products with high added value.

Optimise processes to reduce the quantity of sub-products generated in the food industry.

Improve energy efficiency, especially in high energy cost processes: optimise processes to save energy and to improve/increase the processing capacity of existing equipment. 

RESEARCHERS

M.Concepción Aristoy Albert
M.Concepción Aristoy Albert
Mónica Flores Llovera
Antonio Martínez López
Antonio Martínez López
José Antonio Prieto Alamán
M. Francisca Randez Gil
María Dolores Rodrigo Aliaga
María Dolores Rodrigo Aliaga
Fidel Toldrá Vilardell
Sensorial and consumer perceptions

Investigate the sensorial quality of foods and mechanisms of perception of sensorial attributes. Analyse their relationship with consumer preferences and other consumer responses. Study the influence of information (food composition, nutritional information, symbols, messages, etc.) on consumer perceptions..

RESEARCHERS

Ana Salvador Alcaraz
María Teresa Sanz Taberner
María Amparo Tárrega Guillem

FOOD SAFETY AND PRESERVATION

Food safety is an essential requirement in a healthy food supply system that needs to be dealt with in different ways.

On the one hand, food preservation as a fundamental discipline of production processes that allows food safety and quality to be guaranteed in order to constantly supply food from farms to consumers.

On the other hand, studies that rapidly, sensitively and accurately detect and quantify microorganisms, residues and chemical contaminants are necessary to lower or eliminate the risk of exposure to these agents.

Preservation and packaging technologies
  • Develop, optimise and validate thermal and non-thermal preservation technologies, either separately or combined (hurdle technology): sterilisation and pasteurisation by heat, high hydrostatic pressure (HPP), pulsed electric fields (PEF), radiation (UV, light pulses, e-beam, microwaves), natural antimicrobials, biopreservation.
  • Inactivation kinetics of  enzymes and spoilage and pathogen microorganisms (enteric bacteria, fungi and viruses) related with food safety and quality.
  • Microorganism growth kinetics.
  • Shelf life studies.
  •  Develop and optimise conventional (retorting and aseptic) and emerging (MAP, active and intelligent) packaging technologies. 
María José Fabra Rovira
Rafael José Gavara Clemente
Pilar Hernández Muñoz
M.Teresa Lafuente Rodríguez
Jose María Lagarón Cabello
María de los Desamparados López Rubio
María de los Desamparados López Rubio
Antonio Martínez López
Antonio Martínez López
María Dolores Rodrigo Aliaga
María Dolores Rodrigo Aliaga
María Jesús Rodrigo Esteve
Gloria Sánchez Moragas
Lorenzo Ángel Zacarias García
Biopolymeric materials and nanotechnology
  • Development, characterization and improvement of polymeric, biopolymeric and nanocomposite materials for food use.

  • Development and characterization of coatings and nanostructured multilayer materials with tailor-made barrier properties and/or active, bioactive and intelligent functionalities.

  • Development and improvement of packaging materials with better properties and lower environmental impact by using biopolymers, nanotechnology and structural design.

  • Characterization of materials properties for the design of food packaging, with special attention to environment/packaging/food interactions and the structure/barrier properties relationship.

  • Development of materials for food applications with antimicrobial and virucidal capacity to improve food safety.

  • Development of micro- and nanoencapsulation systems for the protection of diverse bioactive ingredients of interest in functional foods

RESEARCHERS

María José Fabra Rovira
Rafael José Gavara Clemente
Pilar Hernández Muñoz
Jose María Lagarón Cabello
María de los Desamparados López Rubio
María de los Desamparados López Rubio
Microbiological risks
  • Develop “real-time PCR” methods to quantitatively detect viable pathogenic bacteria and infectious enteric viruses to determine their incidence on food and water.

  • Develop mathematical models to predict the inactivation and growth of spoilage and pathogenic microorganisms as a fundamental tool to evaluate exposure within a risk assessment system.

  • Sublethal damage and virulence changes in microorganisms as a consequence of preservation processes.

  • Microbial and emerging risk assessment.

RESEARCHERS

Rosa Aznar Novella
Eladio Barrio Esparducer
María Carmen Belloch Trinidad
Antonio Martínez López
Antonio Martínez López
Pedro Vicente Martínez Culebras
Amparo M. Querol Simón
María Dolores Rodrigo Aliaga
María Dolores Rodrigo Aliaga
Gloria Sánchez Moragas
Pollutants and chemical waste

We study food safety from the analytical and toxicological point of view. We synthesise bioconjugates of small organic molecules (haptens) and we produce specific high-affinity monoclonal and polyclonal antibodies. With these immunorreagents we develop rapid, economic and reliable immunoanalytical methods to detect and/or quantify potentially toxic substances, such as waste, additives, biotoxins and other pollutants in food. We also analyse toxic trace elements and we develop methodologies that allow their most harmful species to be determined. As part of analysing the risks associated with the intake of these pollutants, we perform bioavailability tests and we assess toxicity in vitro and in vivo.

RESEARCHERS

Antonio Abad Fuentes
Vicenta Angela Devesa Pérez
Josep Vicent Mercader Badia
M. Dinoraz Vélez Pacios
M. Dinoraz Vélez Pacios

DIET, MICROBIOTA AND HEALTH

Certain food confers the organism with benefits that go beyond their nutritional input by helping to improve general well-being or reducing risk of disease. The digestive tract is colonised by numerous microorganisms (microbiota), which have co-evolved with human beings for millions of years, and have struck a balance that is vital to maintain health. This research line features a true revolution thanks to modern molecular techniques, allowing a clear connection of health with components of diet and intestinal microbiota. This allows innovations and dietetic solutions to develop that can help prevent diseases and chronic disorders.

Probiotics and prebiotics

Probiotics are defined as “living microorganisms which, if administered in suitable quantities, are beneficial for the host’s health”. Our work in this field addresses the isolation of bacteria of various origins, and studies their mechanisms of action and efficacy by means of in vitro and in vivo model systems, and also in humans. We also study and produce oligosaccharides and glycans (prebiotics), similar to those found in human milk, which favour the development of beneficial bacteria, like bifidobacteria and lactobacilli, that also mimic pathogen-binding targets in the intestinal epithelium by acting as blocking agents of bacterial or viral infections.

RESEARCHERS

Rosa Aznar Novella
María Carmen Collado Amores
Vicente Monedero García
Gaspar Pérez Martínez
Gaspar Pérez Martínez
M. Yolanda Sanz Herranz
María Jesús Yebra Yebra
Manuel Zúñiga Cabrera
Microbiota and Microbiome

The human intestine houses a vast quantity of microorganisms that compose “microbiota”, and all their genes are known as “microbiome”, which is estimated to be 100 times greater than the human genome. These bacterial genes confer essential biological functions for the organism, such as the metabolism of nutrients, or the regulation of the immune and neuroendocrine systems. We study in this research line how microbiota composition influences human health in all life stages, from the perinatal period to old age, and the influence of genetic and environmental factors (e.g., diet) by metagenomic approaches and bioinformatic analyses. Dietetic strategies allow us to re-establish alterations in the composition and functions of microbiota to maintain a good nutritional and health status.

María Carmen Collado Amores
Vicente Monedero García
Gaspar Pérez Martínez
Gaspar Pérez Martínez
M. Yolanda Sanz Herranz
María Jesús Yebra Yebra
Manuel Zúñiga Cabrera
Nutrients and bioactive components

The research activity of this subline centers on nutritional studies of plant products and on their biological activity for their subsequent integration into new food matrices. For this purpose, different in vitro and in vivo strategies with simple model organisms are used as rapid systems to screen for desired biological activities. These assays include the determination of bioaccessibility/bioavailability of minerals and polyphenols, antioxidant capacity, response to oxidative stress and/or effect on longevity, glycaemic index and nutrient inputs according to Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs). The ultimate objective is to identify dietetic solutions and innovations to prevent diseases and to improve consumers’ well-being and health.

RESEARCHERS

Concepción Collar Esteve
Concepción Collar Esteve
María Teresa Fernández-Espinar García
José Vicente Gil Ponce
José Manuel Guillamón Navarro
M.Cristina Molina Rosell
M.Cristina Molina Rosell
M.Teresa Lafuente Rodríguez
Paloma María Manzanares Mir
José Antonio Prieto Alamán
Sergi Puig Todolí
M. Francisca Randez Gil
María Jesús Rodrigo Esteve
Patricia Roig Montoya
M. Yolanda Sanz Herranz
Fidel Toldrá Vilardell
Lorenzo Ángel Zacarias García
Claudia Monika Haros

FOOD BIOTECHNOLOGY

The Food Biotechnology line aims to understand the physiological and molecular bases of the action of organisms and molecules in food production. This knowledge is used to develop new processes that improve food quality, safety and shelf life.  Research conducted in this line spans from the selection of molecules and organisms with enhanced properties for food production to the design of new foods with improved functional properties.  This line includes researchers with extensive expertise in the study of microorganisms and molecules of interest for food production as well as the ripening and conservation of fruits.

Yeasts

Yeasts are biotechnological tools used to produce fermented foods and beverages. Furthermore, cell extracts or fractions of yeast cells are also employed in the food industry as ingredients. The overall objective of this research line is to unravel the physiological, metabolic and molecular bases that determine their performance in fermentation processes, as well as their contribution to the nutritional or functional properties of the final products. Such knowledge will be the basis to improve the processes and products in which yeasts intervene, and to obtain products and molecules of interest.

RESEARCHERS

Eladio Barrio Esparducer
María Carmen Belloch Trinidad
José Manuel Guillamón Navarro
Paloma María Manzanares Mir
Julio Polaina Molina
José Antonio Prieto Alamán
Sergi Puig Todolí
Amparo M. Querol Simón
M. Francisca Randez Gil
Lactic acid bacteria

Lactic acid bacteria participate in numerous fermentation processes, some of which are considered to benefit health. This research subline investigates the physiology and genetics of these microorganisms to improve the fermentation processes that they intervene in, and to use them as cell factories to produce molecules of industrial interest.

RESEARCHERS

Rosa Aznar Novella
María Carmen Collado Amores
Vicente Monedero García
Gaspar Pérez Martínez
Gaspar Pérez Martínez
María Jesús Yebra Yebra
Manuel Zúñiga Cabrera
Filamentous fungi

Filamentous fungi are producers of a wide range of useful enzymes and metabolites in the agri-food industry. Some of these organisms are, however, harmful as they are major phytopathogens or are capable of producing pernicious mycotoxins. We employ biotechnological approaches to characterize and modulate the production of metabolites, enzymes and other proteins, to identify the determinants of pathogenesis and virulence, and to characterize mycotoxigenic fungi.

RESEARCHERS

Carmen González Bosch
Luis González Candelas
Luis González Candelas
Andrew Peter Maccabe
José Francisco Marcos López
Pedro Vicente Martínez Culebras
Margarita L. Orejas Suarez
Protein engineering

The objective is the modification of enzymes and non-enzymatic proteins to develop new products and biotechnological applications. We obtain enzymes by molecular engineering that withstand extreme temperature and pH conditions, the action of chemical products, etc., as well as new enzymatic synthesis products, such as prebiotic oligosaccharides. We also work on the design, modification and biotechnological production of proteins and peptides with antimicrobial activity and beneficial properties for health, based on the study of their mechanism of action and stability. We also produce specific monoclonal antibodies for small organic molecules.

RESEARCHERS

Antonio Abad Fuentes
Paloma María Manzanares Mir
José Francisco Marcos López
Josep Vicent Mercader Badia
Julio Polaina Molina
Postharvest and fruit quality

The objective of this subline is the study of fruit quality by characterizing the metabolic pathways of key metabolites, and how these metabolites are modified during postharvest preservation. In addition, fruit-pathogen interactions and preservation methodologies are studied, with the aim of avoiding or reducing postharvest losses caused by physiological and pathological alterations in the fruits. These activities are performed by multidisciplinary approaches in order to know the physiological and molecular mechanisms related to fruit quality during ripening and postharvest periods.

RESEARCHERS

José Vicente Gil Ponce
Carmen González Bosch
Luis González Candelas
Luis González Candelas
M.Teresa Lafuente Rodríguez
José Francisco Marcos López
María Jesús Rodrigo Esteve
Lorenzo Ángel Zacarias García