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Coughlan views innovative Limerick research on reduced salt ready meals

The Minister for Agriculture and Food, Mary Coughlan TD, today visited the University of Limerick where she saw at first hand exciting research being undertaken to develop low sodium ready meals. The research will facilitate the development of a new generation of consumer-focussed products with enhanced health benefits. The research is being funded through the Government's "Food Institutional Research Measure" (FIRM).

Emphasising her commitment to building an innovative, competitive and consumer focussed agri-food industry, Minister Coughlan praised the research team at UL. Led by Dr Martin Wilkinson, and working in collaboration with researchers at the Teagasc centre in Ashtown, the team have been awarded funding in excess of €700,000 for the project. It is one of three research projects funded through the FIRM initiative in 2006 aimed at reducing salt levels in our food.

Speaking during her visit to the Research Laboratories on the Limerick campus, the Minister said: "I have earmarked funding of €2 million across these three research projects and I am confident they will make a significant strategic contribution to the campaign to reduce salt intake. Demand for ready made meals and convenience foods is on the increase, but consumers also want to be sure that they have the healthiest options available to them while on the go. This research on reducing salt levels will ultimately have a significant positive health impact for consumers."

Minister Coughlan said that promoting the implementation of evidence-based healthy eating interventions was one of the recommendations of the National Taskforce on Obesity. The research work under FIRM, together with other initiatives she has funded, including the Scientific Study on Children's Diet and the pilot health food initiative (known as the Food Dudes Programme) to encourage fruit and vegetable consumption among primary schoolchildren, were playing a part in tackling obesity.

"The research work underway at University of Limerick will help shape the diet of Irish consumers in the future and will create exciting and interesting food product opportunities for innovative Irish companies," the Minister concluded.

30 November 2006

NOTE FOR EDITORS

FIRM is part of the Productive Sector Operational Programme of the National Development Plan 2000-2006. FIRM finances public good research by qualified research institutions. Funding is awarded on a competitive basis and projects involving collaboration between institutions are encouraged in order to build up centres of excellence. The research results are disseminated through the RELAY project to food companies and institutions throughout Ireland. €94 million in funding has been approved for public good food research projects under FIRM in the period of the NDP 2000-2006. €3.7 million has been awarded for research projects being carried out at the University of Limerick, including research by Dr. Wilkinson's team on salt reduction in ethnic ready meals.

Date Released: 30 November 2006