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Quafety project: report of Markes International activities

On 19 September 2012, Markes International published an article on its involvement in the European Project Quafety in American Laboratory website.

The aim of QUAFETY project is to improve the safety and quality of ready-to-eat fresh produce by working with the industry to develop new predictive and probabilistic models and decision making tools.

Quafety researchers, including a team from Cardiff University’s School of Biosciences, will also explore rapid and non-destructive methods for quality evaluation and prediction in order to quantify and manage microbial spoilage and pathogens, with the aim of minimising food safety risks to consumers.

Markes’ workpackages consist in the development of new diagnostic kits for the evaluation of microbial contamination and shelf-life determination; these tools will aid industry operators with their decision-making at critical points in the fresh-cut food supply chain.

To achieve this Markes’ thermal desorption technology, including the Easy-VOC grab sampler and the TD-100 automated thermal desorber, will be used on-site by industry operators as part of their routine quality- analysis process. The technology will also be used to monitor the extensive range of volatile organic chemicals (VOCs) emitted by fruit and vegetables at different stages during the supply chain.

During the test phase, the researchers will focus on monitoring volatiles released by melons, rocket, and fresh-cut fruit salads. Markes’ mass spectrometry division, ALMSCO International, is also playing a key role in the project, with its time-of-flight mass spectrometer, BenchTOF-dx, being used by Cardiff University partners to search for compounds. Commenting further, Dr Carsten Muller, from Cardiff University’s School of Biosciences, said: “We need a system that can go down to parts per trillion to look for trace levels of compounds. Ultimately, better sensitivity will detect more compounds with better spectra for improved discrimination.”

“During the initial stages of this project, rather than using it to follow specific compounds, we’ll be looking for as many compounds as we can possibly see; we’ll be looking at the bouquet of compounds and identifying important biological shifts,” he added.

Commenting on the importance of the research, Dr Muller said: “At the moment there are no objective criteria for determining the safety and quality of fruit and vegetables. People working in the industry estimate shelf-life simply by judging the appearance of the product. Whilst appearance is related to quality it is does not necessarily indicate the presence of pathogenic micro-organisms.”
“Through the QUAFETY initiative, we’ll be able to develop unique tools and processes to help the industry to make informed decisions about the safety and quality of their products,” he added.

Commenting on the importance of developing predictive models, Dr Hilary Rogers, leading the research at Cardiff University’s School of Biosciences, said: “We’ll be looking closely at how we can identify patterns from the volatiles emitted by ready-to-eat fresh-cut fruit and vegetables. To do this, we’ll sample the products every few days, starting from when they are just out of the field, right the way through to the point where they are beyond sales.”

“Thermal desorption techniques will enable us to identify patterns that are associated with compounds that are coming up later in a lifetime of a product. If we identify markers associated with the presence of more micro-organisms than would be expected, it’s important that the industry and packagers know about it. Developing predictive and probabilistic models is essential because it will enable the industry to make decisions that will improve food-safety, increase shelf-life and reduce food-wastage” she added.

For further information on Markes International’s business in general, please email enquiries@markes.com or call +44 (0)1443 230935.

Thanks to Dr Hilary J Rogers (School of Biosciences, Cardiff University) for the supplied material.

Publication date: 1/17/2013
Author: Emanuela Fontana
Copyright: www.freshplaza.com


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