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Quafety Athens meeting 11-12 July 2013: the report

On 11 and 12 July, the mid-term meeting of European Project Quafety took place in Athens (Greece) at the Agricultural University of Athens.

On the 11th of July, the state of each work package (WP) was presented. All partners presented the data collected, the results reached within each task, and the expected work for the next months. On the 12th of July, the steering committee met to discuss the critical issues relating to the smooth running of the project. There was then a session relating to the preparation of scientific and financial reports. In the afternoon, individual work package meetings were scheduled to define and better manage the activities that will have to be done.

Both days were chaired by Giancarlo Colelli (University of Foggia, Italy), the coordinator of the Quafety Project.

Click here to enlarge the picture.

A brief report of oral communications follows.

The day started with WP1, whose leader is Antonio Ferrante (University of Milano, Italy) and the other partners involved are the University of Athens and the University of Foggia. WP1 is focused on the development of diagnostic kits for the evaluation of microbial contamination and of quality degradation. Dr. Ferrante described the deliverables reached, he said: "The optimization of DNA extraction, MPN-Q-PCR protocols have been defined; the evaluation of prevalence of Listeria monocytogenes in ready to eat fresh products has been performed."

Anna Spinardi (University of Milano) showed data on the physiological and biochemical characterization of the fresh-cut produce used to identify molecular markers of postharvest stress. The research activity was carried out on melon and rocket. She explained that the potential markers correlated with physiological determinations are ethylene biosynthesis, sugar content, ascorbic acid content, TBARS, lipid peroxidation, and chlorophyll a fluorescence; she also described the trend of each marker during the postharvest life of rocket and melon.

Marina Cavaiuolo (University of Milano) showed the results on the detection of pathogens in ready to eat fresh products by the isolation of bacteria from contaminated vegetable products (cucumber, rocket) and by use of an indirect ELISA method for the detection of L. monocytogenes and E. coli O157:H7.

Spyridon Paramythiotis (University of Athens) described his work dividing it in three parts: 1) prevalence of L. monocytogenes in ready to eat fresh products; 2) genotypic diversity of L. monocytogenes strains isolated from ready to eat fresh products (serotype, genotype, gene content); 3) effect of storage conditions on the transcription rate of key genes at ecosystem level.

Luciano Beneduce (University of Foggia) described a bacterial DNA extraction protocol from vegetables: "We evaluated three different procedures for bacterial DNA extraction from leafy vegetables; we assessed a strategy for bacterial cell recovery and DNA extraction from vegetable tissue that allows optimal yield of bacterial nucleic acids of suitable quality for PCR analysis, our protocol requires about 5.0 Euro per reaction, less than 90 min, doesn't rely upon the use of toxic substances and doesn't require highly skilled personnel to be performed."

WP2 was chaired by Hilary Rogers (University of Cardiff, UK) and aims to develop process control aids based on non-destructive and rapid evaluation, aimed to enhance the final quality of the product. WP2 partners are the Universidade Catolica Portuguesa, Cardiff University, the University of Foggia, Markes International and 80g.

Maria Luisa Amodio (University of Foggia) said that her group was conducting experiments to predict internal quality of fresh-cut melons and rocket salads, based on degradation rate of external attributes. To this aim, they conducted several experiments in isothermal conditions both in AIR, in Controlled Atmospheres and in Modified Atmosphere Packaging, obtaining the kinetic degradation of many quality attributes, in different conditions (temperature, and gas composition). She explained that mathematical relationships between external and internal parameters showing significant kinetics, are now being calculated. More experiments are planned in order to complete the study and to further validate the prediction models.

Manuela Pintado (Catholic University of Porto, Portugal, also representing 80G) described the objectives of the work that are 1) identification of markers for nutritional and functional quality of strawberry, melon and rocket leaves and 2) a nutritional and functional audit to the process of fresh-cut fruits and vegetables. Dr. Pintado explained that the objectives were achieved through four activities; each one representing experiments relating to post-harvest quality after processing and during storage. She said: "We study the effect of cutting size on phytochemical quality of fresh-cut melon; the functional quality of rocket leaves as affected by passive modified atmosphere packaging; the effect of processing and storage on nutritional and functional quality of strawberry; and the nutritional and functional audit to the process of fresh-cut strawberry." Pintado concluded: "Regarding cantaloupe melon, specific compounds were selected as good markers namely β-carotene, catechin, cinnamic and abcisic acid. The experiments carried out with ready-to-eat rocket leaves indicated that total phenolics, total anthocyanins and (consequently antioxidant capacity) are good markers of storage conditions and time. In the strawberry process audit, the total phenolics and anthocyanins (and consequently antioxidant capacity) were affected by processing phases, but more specific selected markers were pelargonidin-3-glucoside and epicatechin, rutin and ellagic acid."

Hilary Rogers (also representing Markes) explained that their work entails of the evaluation of VOC collection methods for non-destructive analysis of post-harvest quality. VOC collection and evaluation of baseline data for both rocket and melon were completed. Then, she showed the work on melon and said: "Cut size and time of storage affect VOC profiles indicating that the sensorial value of different cut sizes should be further investigated. Our future work will be 1) to verify the identity of the 21 VOCs that are associated with cut size and storage by comparison to pure compounds, and 2) to assess the 21 VOCs for their use as marker indicators relating to storage parameters." Work on rocket, where VOC concentrations are much lower, shows that the TD-GC-MS approach was also useful for analysis of processing damage in this product.

WP3 was chaired by Manuela Pintado (Catholic University of Porto, Portugal) who said: "The objectives of this WP is to provide tools for the industry operator to support decisions at critical points in the fresh-cut processing chain from raw genotype selection to planning economic strategy for investments."

Victor Rodov (Volcani Center, Israel, also representing Einat Food Industries, Israel) compared the performance of various melon genotypes as raw materials for fresh-cut processing and showed that non-climacteric melons of inodorous group allow longer product shelf life as compared to climacteric melons of reticulates group. He further presented the Sorbeto cv (pink-flesh inodorous melon, Catom Seeds, Israel) as a promising cultivar selected by EFI for their processing operations. Rodov presented also the collaboration of ARO and EFI on development and implementation of microperforated active modified atmosphere (MAMA) packaging, a new approach to control spoilage and flavor deterioration in fresh-cut produce.

Ana Amaro (representing the 80g Company, Portugal) showed the first results of the effect of cutting size on phytochemical quality of fresh-cut melon, and the effect of passive modified atmosphere packaging on functional quality of fresh-cut rocket leaves.

Amara Anyogu (London Metropolitan University) said: "The objective of the work is to examine the effect of sub-lethal heat treatment and subsequent initiation of growth at sub-optimal pH values on the lag time of single bacterial cells (VT E. coli and L. monocytogenes). A number of heating regimes were trialled for E. coli and L. monocytogenes and final decisions regarding sub-lethal time-temperature were made after analysis of results. A protocol to obtain healthy (i.e. undamaged) single cells using the dilution method has been developed and verified mathematically."

Antonio Stasi (DARe Puglia, Italy) worked on the evaluation of the economic viability and sustainability of the applied technologies and has listed the following aims for the activity:

1. Planning a common strategy for investments concerning the implementation of the studied technologies according to management and stake-holders' needs and expectations;

2. Providing a multi-attribute model as decisional support for technological innovation for the RTE fresh product industry;

3. Providing a multi-attribute model that sets the prioritization level according to the specific needs of stakeholders and management.

WP4 was chaired by Victor Rodov, who explained that the main objective of WP4 is to develop innovative processes to improve quality and safety of the final product, looking at the whole farm-to-fork chain, as shown in the figure below.

Click here to enlarge the picture.

Germano Profeta (Agronomia Company, Italy) explained the implementation of a chlorine-alternative method for water and product disinfection, he has said: "To date first results indicate that Chlorine dioxide and Ultrafiltration (hollow fiber) are the two best techniques for process water treatment." Then, he also showed a passive refrigeration system (PRS) to ensure the farm-to-fork cold chain. Currently, the PRS is at prototype level.

Victor Rodov presented 1) a novel sustainable physical method based on thermal treatment for melon surface decontamination and 2) the activities on developing an automatic system for hands-off fresh-cut processing of melons and watermelons.

Luciano Beneduce showed how to inhibit biofilm formation by Listeria monocytogenes by using combinations of different oxidizing biocides and the kinetics of L. monocytogenes development in biofilms by laser-scanning confocal microscopy (LSCM) under two different environmental conditions; i.e., static and flowing systems.

Maria Grzegorzewska (Research Institute of Horticulture, Skierniewice, Poland) said that the work regards the effect of hot water treatment on durability of fresh-cut vegetables. She said: "We study the effect of dipping rocket, melon and Chinese cabbage in water bath with a temperature ranging from 38 to 55 °C. As regards the marketable value of fresh-cut vegetables, the water temperature at 53 for 5 sec or at 55°C for 3 sec resulted good treatments to preserve rocket stored at 10°C up to 9 days and Chinese cabbage stored at 5°C up to 12 days. The study will go on to assess the microbiological safety, chemical value, sensory evaluation and the tissue structure of the products."

WP5 was presented by Maria Luisa Amodio, she explained that the main objective of WP5 was the demonstration of efficacy and the technical viability of the developed technologies. Demonstration activities consist in the application of new technologies directly in SMEs involved in the fresh vegetable production, and processing will be assessed. The technology developed will be evaluated at the harvest time, during storage or on the retail market shelves before selling. Efficacy of studied solutions to increase quality and safety of fresh-cut products will be evaluated, especially the following issues:

1. benefits of soilless cultivation protocols applied to leafy vegetables will be underlined;

2. the effectiveness of the developed waste water sanitization system, and of selected biofilm inhibitors will be tested by microbial reduction;

3. a prototype melon decontamination device and a hands-off automatic melon cutting/peeling device will be developed;

4. the effect of UV treatment on product sensory and antioxidant properties will be assessed;

5. the effect of developed active and intelligent packaging and of the use of Passive Refrigerated Containers on shelf-life products will be evaluated;

6. the use of proper mathematical models available in the literature will allow fitting experimental data and calculating quantitative parameters to be used as microbiological, chemical and sensorial indices.

WP6 was presented by Antonio Stasi who showed the work performed on measuring the consumers' response to the quality attributes deriving from new technologies and packaging in order to evaluate the impact on the market of the innovations tested in the project. The attributes evaluated were price, convenience, shelf-life, type (monotype or mixed type product), stabilization (inert gases or natural preservatives added to the product) and safety. Stasi said: "The first results highlight that a mixed type of product with safety information and guarantee indicators could effectively increase consumers' acceptability of products as well as cost saving technologies that could allow the launch of products on market with a lower price. On the other hand, other innovations could generate consumers' aversion. Stabilization information on the label and increased shelf life, in fact, could be perceived negatively because consumers could think the product is sophisticated/ engineered or the products are not as fresh as those with limited shelf life."

WP7 was presented by Eleftherios Drosinos (Agricultural University of Athens) whose research team has developed an initial operational diagnostic instrument for the assessment of a QMS (Quality Management System)/FSMS (Food Safety Management System). The diagnostic instrument consists of a comprehensive list of selected indicators and a questionnaire related to these indicators. The questionnaire will be used as a diagnostic instrument for the evaluation of the food quality and safety management systems in SMEs. This is divided in 3 parts: the 1st part refers to good agricultural practices (gap) during agricultural production; the 2nd to pre - requisites for processing, and the 3rd part to manufacturing controls during the processing. The questionnaire is currently under validation.

WP8 was presented by Emanuela Fontana (Freshplaza BV, The Netherlands) who showed the dissemination activity carried out from the beginning of the project. The dissemination work is currently divided into the following activities:

1) Creating and managing of the official website (www.quafety.eu)

2) Creating a dedicated subsection, named Quafety, on all 3 of Freshplaza's websites (International, Spanish and Italian websites)

3) Collecting material from the researchers, organizing the content, writing articles and translating them within the "Fresh-cut Management" sections.

Dr. Fontana reported that the articles on the fresh-cut sector published on the International, Spanish and Italian Freshplaza websites within the Quafety subsection were 57, 78 and 70 (data updated to 9 July 2013), respectively. Fontana has said: "From the high viewing numbers of published articles, we can confirm that fresh-cut sector is quite interesting for our readers who have shown appreciation for our scientific work and dissemination. In addition, comparing the articles on fresh-cut quality to those on fresh-cut safety we have noticed that our readers prefer the articles on safety, confirming that food safety is the first concern for people."

After two days of hard work, we give an appointment for next October with the EU Commission.

Publication date: 7/24/2013
Author: Emanuela Fontana
Copyright: www.freshplaza.com


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