Microbiology workshops with Food Educators

The use of yeast in the food industry, learning about and testing methods for examining milk, counting bacteria, preparing microscope slides – the laboratories of the Division of Food Science of the Institute of Animal Reproduction and Food Research of the Polish Academy of Sciences opened their doors to secondary school students from Olsztyn.

How do you get young people interested in food to help them shape informed consumer attitudes, develop critical thinking, and present exciting career opportunities in the agri-food sector that will lead to an active transformation of the food system in the future? Preferably from the practical side, as secondary school students found out during the Microbiology workshops with Food Educators.

The meeting started with an introduction to microbiology and the yeast 'strongmen’. Marzena Lenkiewicz from the Microbiology Laboratory of the IAR&FR PAS talked about these remarkable microorganisms and their use in the food industry. After the theoretical part, students continued in the laboratories, where they learnt about food safety and milk testing methods, conducted tests on their own, prepared microscope slides and counted bacteria.

– We are happy to show young people the world of science. Perhaps they will choose a career in science (…) Thank you very much for the opportunity to show the whole institute and for the workshop – concludes Ewa Stanisławska-Lepko, a teacher from the Wisława Szymborska Group of Catering and Food Schools in Olsztyn.

Food Educators is a programme of the European Knowledge and Education Community for Food (EIT Food), which creates and disseminates the materials essential to teach young people about healthy and sustainable eating habits. It enables the youngest consumers to make choices that are good for both them and the environment. Food Educators is also about promoting interesting career paths throughout the food supply chain and encouraging adepts to enter the agri-food sector. Join the international network at www.foodeducators.eu

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Meatless Monday with Food Educators

Spaghetti bolognese, burgers, scrambled eggs, smoothies – these are dishes that are quite popular in a teenager’s diet. Is it possible to prepare them in such a way that they are delicious, easy to prepare, healthy and 100% plant-based? The Institute’s experts in the EIT Food 'Food Educators’ project have shown that it is!

Meatless Monday is a worldwide campaign encouraging consumers to reduce their meat consumption – for their own health and for care of the planet. The name of the campaign suggests that the challenge to reduce meat and zoonotic products should start by eliminating meat from our diet for at least one day a week.

While information campaigns outline the topic, a more effective method of supporting a change in consumer habits, especially for young people, is practical action. The Institute of Animal Reproduction and Food Research of the Polish Academy of Sciences, as part of the 'Food Educators’ project, organised a cooking workshop for secondary school students from Olsztyn.

During the event, students learnt about the idea of Meatless Monday, explored conscious consumer attitudes with experts, including dealing with food labels and food packaging, and then stepped into the workshop kitchen, where they learnt about plant-based alternatives to their favourite dishes under the guidance of a chef. The event culminated with a shared meal and space to share their experiences.

– Meatless Monday is a great action that can be successfully incorporated into school canteens. Importantly, the students respond to the idea very enthusiastically! – the organisers conclude.

Food Educators is a programme of the European Knowledge and Education Community for Food (EIT Food), which creates and disseminates the materials essential to teach young people about healthy and sustainable eating habits. It enables the youngest consumers to make choices that are good for both them and the environment. Food Educators is also about promoting interesting career paths throughout the food supply chain and encouraging adepts to enter the agri-food sector. Join the international network at www.foodeducators.eu

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InformPack during „Meatless Monday” culinary workshops

The “Meatless Monday” aims to encourage each of us to swap meat products for delicious plant-based products one day a week.

As part of the EIT Food „FoodEducators” project, high school students and their teachers took part in culinary workshops and prepared plant-based meals – beetroot burgers, tofu soup, power smoothie and zucchini spaghetti in tomato sauce. The meeting was also an opportunity to talk to young people about responsible consumer attitudes, including: in the context of conscious shopping behaviours, recycling food packaging and reducing food waste. Everyone took part in the InformPack „Recycle Hero” quiz and tested knowledge of how to handle food packaging in a sustainable way.

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Olsztyn Science and Arts Days – Workshop „Giving food packaging a second life”

We are very happy that you were with us on 22 September during the #21 Olsztyn Science and Arts Days. The workshop took place at the University of Warmia and Mazury Library, 12 B Oczapowskiego Street, where we prepared a stand of the EIT InformPack project.

Each participant was able to take part in an interactive game that helped to test how you manage to correctly segregate food packaging materials. Together, we tested how you could decipher the symbols on food packaging. We also encouraged you to share your opinion on how you would like information on the purchase, management and disposal of food packaging to be communicated to you. Your opinion is very valuable to us, as it will help researchers and food producers to develop 'tailor-made’ educational campaigns to support the development of environmental awareness.

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21st Olsztyn Science and Art Days – summary

Cosmic food and the secrets of freeze-drying, testing the quality of milk, fermentation as a natural method of food preservation, the pyramid of healthy lifestyle and nutrition, food safety and food storage in the fridge, pro-health antioxidants in popular drinks, tips on handling food packaging with the EIT Food InformPack project – these were the topics we brought to the participants of the 21st Olsztyn Science and Art Days.

– We chose activities that would interest both younger and older schoolchildren. We wanted to show that food research is about the laboratory and food chemistry, but also about a broader context, i.e. food-related phenomena that affect us all – from food storage, through conscious consumer attitudes and drawing attention to the scale of food waste, to handling food packaging – sums up Iwona Kieda, the initiator of the idea of joining this year’s Olsztyn Science and Art Days celebrations and the coordinator on behalf of Inobiotek Ltd.

On 21 and 22 September, scientists welcomed both organised groups and individual visitors who wanted to broaden their knowledge of food or get the youngest members of their families interested in the subject.

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Ketogenic diet and health. Research by Dr. Natalia Drabińska

The increased popularity of the ketogenic diet is not followed by scientific knowledge on the safety of its use, points out Dr Natalia Drabińska from the Institute of Animal Reproduction and Food Research of the Polish Academy of Sciences in Olsztyn, who studies the effects of the ketogenic diet on metabolism, inflammation, selected nutritional parameters and oxidative stress in overweight and obese women.

The ketogenic diet is a high fat, low carbohydrate diet that involves putting the body into a state of ketosis. – It is quite a demanding diet, but one that gives quick results and allows you to lose unwanted kilograms in a short period of time. This is why it has become so popular in recent years – emphasises Dr Natalia Drabińska from the Department of Chemistry and Biodynamics of Food at the IAR&FR PAS in Olsztyn.

However, this does not mean that the ketogenic diet is scientifically well understood; there is still a lot of information published on the internet about the effects of this diet on the human body that is not supported by scientific research. – Although the available scientific literature indicates that the use of the ketogenic diet may be beneficial in reducing body weight, comprehensive studies guaranteeing the safety of its use are not available – she adds.

Seeking to fill this gap, the researcher, as part of an NCN-funded project, is investigating how the ketogenic diet affects metabolism, inflammation, selected nutritional parameters and oxidative stress in overweight and obese women.

The first correlation studied is the effect of the ketogenic diet on metabolism, i.e. the total biochemical processes in the body that process the energy of nutrients from food.

The next step will be to investigate the effect of the ketogenic diet on inflammation – whether and how it can reduce it.

In the effects of the ketogenic diet on selected nutritional parameters, the researcher will examine the levels of fat-soluble vitamins, namely vitamins A, D, E and K; determine the amino acid profile and the fatty acid profile.

The effect of the ketogenic diet on oxidative stress, on the other hand, will be determined by the level of antioxidant activity – what from the diet increases it and how the body responds to it; the level of enzymes involved in neutralising free radicals; and the level of lipid and nucleic acid peroxidation products. – My previous animal research showed that the ketogenic diet, even in a fairly extreme form, did not induce oxidative stress, and in fact lowered it – says the researcher.

– We have now carried out most of the research and have begun to analyse the results. Thanks to them, we will be able to answer questions asked by many people struggling with obesity and overweight, wondering whether the ketogenic diet is a safe and effective way to lose extra kilograms – emphasises Natalia Drabińska.

The cohort included 80 women (72 completed) – healthy, slightly overweight (with a BMI of 25.5-35), with an average age of 35-40 years; they were volunteers from Olsztyn and the surrounding area. For 8 weeks, women received daily balanced meals, provided by a diet catering service, and attended regular check-ups. – All the ladies are satisfied with the results of this diet, as they have shed a total of 380 kg! – indicated the researcher, who also went on a diet.


The ketogenic diet involves balancing meals in such way that the main part of the calories comes from fats and the consumption of carbohydrates is maximally limited. Interestingly, the ketogenic diet was originally used to treat patients with drug-resistant epilepsy.

After four to six weeks of adaptation to such a diet, a state of ketosis occurs in the body, i.e. the body 'switches’ so that it derives energy from ketone bodies (i.e. fat accumulated in the tissues) and not – as before – from sugars (glucose).

– Before this happens, however, you need patience and determination, because the ketogenic diet can make you feel worse in the first few weeks. This is because when your body runs out of glucose and is not yet able to use ketone bodies, you will lose strength and may experience flu-like symptoms. This is when it is especially important to remember to drink plenty of water and to keep an eye on electrolyte levels. As a start, I also recommend supplementation with MCT oil – this is an oil containing medium chain acids that go directly to the liver (without passing through the pancreas) and are converted into ketone bodies there, says the researcher.

The scientist reminds us that in following any diet, it is important to proceed with caution and awareness. – In some situations, it is necessary to consult a doctor, as a high-fat diet should not be followed by people with kidney or liver problems, for example. We must remember that it is a diet based mainly on fat, which is metabolised by the liver. Therefore, loading it with a high-fat diet in people who are ill can be dangerous to their health. It is therefore worth doing a liver panel (ALT, AST, GGTP) before starting the diet, as well as checking kidney parameters such as uric acid, the level of which increases especially at the beginning of a ketogenic diet – she points out.

The ketogenic diet is an elimination diet, so it is important to ensure that it is varied and balanced. – The ketogenic diet is not about meat dripping with fat, but, above all, about healthy fat from, for example, eggs, avocados, nuts, olive oil or selected fruit and vegetables,” emphasises Natalia Drabińska.

As the researcher points out, according to current scientific knowledge, there are no contraindications to prolonged/longed use of the ketogenic diet.

Dr Natalia Drabińska’s research is being conducted as part of a project entitled 'KETO-MINOX: Effects of an isocaloric, reducing ketogenic diet on metabolism, inflammation, selected nutritional parameters and oxidative stress in overweight and obese women’, funded by the National Science Centre (NCN). The project will last until 2025.

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15 September – 'Packaging Day’

All you want to know about food packaging.

What the symbols on packaging mean, whether food packaging needs to be washed before throwing it away to make it recyclable and whether fresh fruit and vegetables need to be packaged – the answers to these questions are not obvious to consumers.

The European education campaign for responsible handling of food packaging, in which the Institute of Animal Reproduction and Food Research of the Polish Academy of Sciences in Olsztyn participates, comes to help.

The EIT Food project 'InformPack’ is an international initiative of scientific and expert institutions from Denmark, the UK, Poland, Finland and Spain.

– The premise of the project is to investigate consumer behaviour, knowledge and attitudes towards food packaging. In the survey, we asked consumers, among other things, whether they pay attention to the material from which the packaging is made when buying food, whether they are able to resign from buying a product because of an excessive amount of plastic in the packaging or whether they find it difficult to segregate used packaging. On this basis, we develop educational materials to encourage consumers to behave responsibly with food packaging, both at home and outside – says Iwona Kieda of IAR&FR PAS in Olsztyn.

Analysis of the results so far has identified three key themes that consumers find most troubling and difficult. These are: lack of understanding of packaging symbols, misunderstandings about the need to clean food packaging before discarding and further recycling, over-packaging of fresh fruit and vegetables and handling of multi-material packaging.

On this basis, experts and researchers from the institutions involved in the project created educational campaigns with material in the form of infographics and animated videos.

Among other things, the materials provide information on whether food packaging should be washed, why manufacturers package fresh fruit and vegetables, what to do with multi-material juice packaging, where to dispose of bread packaging, what the triangles on packaging mean, which plastic packaging is most often recycled and the difference between compostable and biodegradable packaging

Materials on bioplastics and a campaign specifically aimed at children on good practice in the context of handling food packaging will also soon be available.

InformPack Infographics ca be found here.

InformPack Videos can be found here.

The InformPack project has also created a quiz (in adult and children’s versions) to test your knowledge. The quiz is available here.

Currently, project partners are disseminating the developed information on the Internet or in workshops in schools. In the process, they are measuring long-term changes in consumer behaviour.

– Next year, we plan to conduct consumer research in France, Italy, Germany, Denmark and Finland. In addition, in the coming months, we will continue to work on new materials, and we will also continue to hold workshops for schoolchildren and organise educational activities during science popularisation events in Poland – announces Dr Joanna Fotschki of IAR&FR PAS in Olsztyn.

EIT Food InformPack

The EIT Food InformPack project is an international initiative of scientific institutions from the University of Aarhus (Denmark), the University of Reading (UK), the Institute of Animal Reproduction and Food Research of the Polish Academy of Sciences (Poland), the VTT research network (Finland), manufacturers: Bioazul (Spain) and Maspex Group (Poland), and the Spanish supermarket chain Eroski.

The aim of the project’s activities is first and foremost to change consumer behaviour so that they deal with food packaging in a responsible and sustainable manner. It is also important to involve and raise awareness among food producers themselves, as well as local authorities, who are responsible, among other things, for the availability of recycling bins in the streets.

InformPack is funded by the EIT Food, the Knowledge and Innovation Community for Food of the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT), a body of the European Union, under the EU’s Horizon 2020 framework programme for research and innovation.

For more information and free materials, visit: https://pan.olsztyn.pl/science-for-society/informpack/.

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InformPack stand at AgroWARMA 2023 in Gryźliny

On 26 and 27 August, at the Gryźliny airport in Poland the AgroWARMA 2023 trade fair took place – the largest industry event in the region, attracting farmers, exhibitors and residents of the Warmian-Masurian Voivodeship interested in a healthy lifestyle and ecology.

EIT Food #InformPack stand took part in an interactive game on responsible consumer attitudes and food packaging recycling. We also provided hands-on activities on how to segregate packaging into different fractions. For the younger visitors, we set up an activity on how to paint reusable bags that they can use when they go shopping. Participants had the opportunity to ask questions and confront their concerns directly with scientists from our Institute.

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Structures around skeletal muscle linked to insulin resistance

The early stage of insulin resistance development is associated with the structures surrounding the skeletal muscles – show scientists from the Department of Prophylaxis of Metabolic Diseases at IARFR PAS.

The results of their research may be a step towards the search for a new drug for diseases associated with insulin resistance, which would have a targeted effect. 

Insulin resistance is the reduced sensitivity of tissues to insulin (a hormone that regulates blood glucose levels). Its development can lead to type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and many other diseases.

The most important tissue related to the action of insulin are skeletal muscles, which are responsible for about 80-85% of insulin-dependent glucose uptake. These tissues, along with the structures surrounding them, were examined by scientists from the Institute of Animal Reproduction and Food Research of the Polish Academy of Sciences in Olsztyn (their review paper on this subject can be read here).

– Our research shows that the extracellular matrix of skeletal muscle may be important in the development of insulin resistance – it is a kind of mixture produced by cells filling the free spaces between them. It includes e.g. integrins, i.e. protein receptors that transmit information between the external environment and the inside of cells. We have shown that they can be involved in the modulation of insulin action even at the early stages of insulin resistance development – explains Róża Aleksandrowicz, technologist from the Department of Prophylaxis of Metabolic Diseases IARFR PAS.

The results of research conducted together with Prof. Marek Strączkowski and Dr. Magdalena Stefanowicz, have just been published in the „Endocrine Journal” .

As the researcher explains, the role of factors related to the extracellular matrix in the development of insulin resistance is still not fully understood.

– The obtained results are the basis for further research on the role of integrins, which can help in better understanding the pathogenesis of insulin resistance, and in the future can be used to search for new drugs targeted specifically at the action of these integrins – points out Róża Aleksandrowicz.

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Let’s educate and inspire YOUNG PEOPLE about how food is made

„By educating the next generation about food, we can also engage them with the benefits and opportunities of working in our food industry. This is becoming increasingly important as many parts of the industry are experiencing a shortage of labour” – says Laura Elphick Ecosystem Manager for EIT Food and part of the EIT Food Educators programme  on the pages of „Baking Europe’s” magazine. 

The EIT Food Educators programme is inspiring children to learn about healthy and sustainable food production and consumption. Resources have been created for teachers to use in the classroom, including lesson plans.

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