Training & Mobility Programme Interview with Ruth Kinkead


Ruth Kinkead recently attended the 7th International Symposium on Recent Advances in Food Analysis (RAFA) in Prague. The article below gives an overview of her visit. Funding for this visit was provided under the safefood Training & Mobility Programme. More information on the programme available here.  

Ruth is a final year postgraduate research (PhD) student based at the Institute for Global Food Security, Queen’s University Belfast. Prior to this Ruth worked as a research and development scientist within industry in toxicological screening for drugs of abuse. Her PhD project is focused on advanced methods of biomarker discovery in detection of protein and metabolites relevant to growth promoter misuse in beef cattle. The work has been funded by the Department for Employment and Learning NI under the supervision of Dr. Mark Mooney and Professor Chris Elliott.


The 7th International Symposium on Recent Advances in Food Analysis (RAFA) was hosted in Prague jointly by the University of Chemistry and Technology (Czech Republic) and RIKILT Wageningen UR (The Netherlands) from 3rd – 6th November 2015. As always, the conference drew a wealth of attraction from experts across the EU and further afield with more than 800 delegates from 65 countries in attendance. With the help of the safefood Training and Mobility Program Ruth was able to present her research entitled, “Effect-based metabolomic plasma profiling of bovine responses to growth promoting agent exposure,” within the topic of ‘FoodOmics’.

This incorporated work from her PhD project showcasing discriminant models able to detect metabolite changes in the plasma of cattle after administration of dexamethasone, prednisolone or 17β-oestradiol for growth promoting purposes. There is current concern within the EU that targeted methods employed as screening tests cannot identify either low dose or endogenously produced hormone abuse. Through non-targeted profiling using UPLC–HRMS, groups of distinct metabolite changes in bovine plasma were revealed specific to each growth promoter treatment regime with potential to be utilised in novel screening applications. The findings form this work was presented at RAFA and resulted in recognition as one of the top poster presentations and was awarded a prize from the conference sponsors.

The symposium program consisted of presentations by prominent scientists concerning the use of bioanalytical methods for food control, food quality, food allergens, food authenticity and fraud, food contaminants and residues, food analysis, toxins analysis, and omics approaches in food analysis. In addition there were a series of workshops and seminars introducing innovative instrumentation techniques. Networking opportunities were provided through social events. 


The symposium series began with a plenary session dedicated to recent issues and novel technologies for food related analysis. This was led by the founder of rapid evaporation ionization mass spectrometry (REIMS) Prof. Zoltan Takats who proposed this instrumentation as a novel and rapid screening method in a range of applications. Prof. Chris Elliott sought to define the concept of ‘Food Fraud’, demonstrating the elaborate opportunities for this to occur within the food supply chain and the need for innovative approaches to combat occurrence. This paved the way for Paul Brereton and Petter Olsen’s campaign for ‘common sense’ approaches to tackling today’s growing food concerns. Committed to the EU funded Food Integrity Project, they demonstrated how ‘Citizen Science’ is establishing a medium for simple sample collection and called for a move away from analytical chemistry investigation towards addressing the paper trail of errors with numerical reasoning and social media. Leading scientists then took to the stage to reveal the advanced capabilities of ambient mass spectrometry and spectroscopic techniques as powerful tools for non-destructive sampling and offline screening procedures. Michel Nielen presented colourful work on laser-ablation electrospray ionization in the detection of fruit contaminated with pesticides. The workshops and tutorials facilitated interactions and discussions across method development and generated a large interest in novel mass spectrometry techniques for untargeted analysis.

Added value
The symposium provided a unique opportunity to present results to experts within the food analysis sector and generated interest for future research purposes. The setting within such an historic city provided ample opportunity for interactive engagement and knowledge sharing.


Without the support of the safefood Training and Mobility Programme Ruth would not have been able to attend such a professional and well established symposium, facilitating the dissemination of work from her research.

The opportunity to meet with leading scientists across the EU and receive recommendations towards further research has been invaluable. The knowledge gained in novel techniques has been useful for continuing research applications

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