Food

We are aiming to solve some of the world’s most serious issues associated with food production. The earth’s population is projected to approach 10 billion by 2050. The sustainability of the planet will depend on our ability to feed this population while adapting to climate change, addressing biodiversity and habitat decline and ensuring that we keep enough productive land.

These challenges exist at a time when there is a huge imbalance in food distribution. Under half of the world’s population is of a healthy weight with significant proportions being either underweight, malnourished, overweight or obese. Food@Leeds builds on a 50 year tradition of food research at the University.

Key strengths

We are addressing global challenges in food security by drawing together expertise in four key areas:
  • Food and environment
  • Livestock science
  • Food innovation technology
  • Diet and health

Researchers at our Global Food and Environment Institute are carrying out research in environment, food and agrifood, urban food consumption, food and livelihoods in the global south and international food supply networks. The University supports sustainable agriculture through plant science, crop trials and soil and water management around the world.

Our expertise in livestock science is focused on the University’s £10 million pig research facility, where we have developed diets currently fed to 40% of the UK pig population. Other research at this facility includes examining the impacts of intensification on pig health and disease.

Leeds’ expertise in food innovation technology includes our internationally recognised food colloids group, examining and improving the structure of food. Our researchers also investigate the behaviours and practices of producers, distributors, retailers and consumers.

Researchers and clinicians at our diet and health area work with the World Health Organisation, research funding councils including the Medical Research Council, the Food Standards Agency, as well as industry and charities to address the challenge of providing healthy and sustainable diets for all sectors of the population.

Facts and figures

  • In the most recent Research Excellence Framework, the impact of food science research at Leeds was highly ranked, with all work being rated as internationally excellent or world leading.
  • Leeds is home to both the UK champion for Global Food Security and two of the most highly cited food scientists in the world - in the top 1%.
  • We have strong research links with top ranking universities in Asia, Africa, America Australasia and Europe, including a strategic alliance with Jiangsu University, which has established a UK-China joint laboratory on remote and non-invasive, non-destructive sensing for food quality and safety.
  • We’ve developed innovative tools such as myfood24 and MyMealMate which have provided new insights into diet and behaviour change.
  • We have 226 members of staff working on food research.

Major projects

Livestock innovation centre

Leeds is a partner in The Centre of Innovation Excellence in Livestock which has received £31.7 million funding from the Government’s Department for Business Innovation and Skills to set up state-of-the-art facilities across the UK, providing the livestock industry with world-beating access to research.

UK-China joint laboratory in non-invasive sensing

Leeds - Jiangsu Universities joint laboratory agreement will mean collaboration between the two organisations in the field of remote and non-invasive, non-destructive sensing for food quality and safety, which will maximise the resources and facilities in both universities.

Consumer perceptions of food safety, nutrition and waste

This ESRC funded project aims to understand and improve UK consumers’ decisions about nutrition, food safety, and domestic food waste. We aim to identify strategies for helping consumers to achieve nutritious food choices that improve food safety and reduce food waste.

UK champion for global food security

Leeds provides government advisors, including the UK Champion for Global Food Security. Professor Tim Benton takes on this role and acts as a leader, coordinator and facilitator of the programme. He acts as an ambassador for the programme and the area, facilitating knowledge exchange between researchers and stakeholders in government, industry and society.

WHO collaborating centre in nutritional epidemiology

The School of Food Science and Nutrition has been selected by the World Health Organisation to become the first collaborating centre in nutritional epidemiology. We’ve produced a report analysing the trans fatty acid content of UK diets using the National Diet and Nutrition Survey.

Our work in practice

Developing sustainable agriculture in Africa

We’re leading an international team to improve farming resilience in Africa. The project is focused on creating evidence-based policy to develop sustainable, productive agricultural systems.

The project, funded by the Global Challenges Research Fund, will support smallholder farmers in Africa to meet food security and economic development needs. The University farm will lead training for UK and African agronomists, and the University’s Centre for Plant Science will enhance understanding of root biology and how roots affect soil structure and health.

Improving food security through reuse of wastewater

Leeds research into the effectiveness of wastewater treatment has enabled many countries to reduce costs and grow more food safely for local consumption and export.

Raising public awareness of the risks of caffeine intake during pregnancy

Studies by the University showing the effect of caffeine on the developing foetus have resulted in clearer national guidance, helping women make informed decisions to benefit the long-term health and survival of their child.

Key people

Theme Leads

Professor Louise Dye
Professor of Nutrition & Behaviour

Professor Steven Banwart
Chair in Integrating Soil, Water and Agriculture research

Research and Innovation Development Manager

Dr. Estefania Ledesma Santiso

If you would like to work, partner or collaborate with us, or want to know more about the research we are involved with, email foodhub@leeds.ac.uk.