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QUAFETY develop mathematical models

The objective of this deliverable (N. 5.32) is to report on the availability of validated mathematical models for industrial application. Furthermore, it reports the feedback of companies concerning the use of the QUAFETY innovation-search software. This deliverable results from several demonstration activities occurred within the project thanks to the collaboration between research institutes and SME's both involved or not involved in Quafety.

The research institutes with SME's investigated different parameters that can be predicted by mathematical models and used by fresh-cut industry.

University of Foggia and Department of Food Science (UNIFG-Disa) investigated the best packaging conditions for fresh-cut melon (variety Piel de Sapo). Three steps were carried out at laboratory scale at the University of Foggia (team led by Dr Del Nobile). The results showed that an oriented polypropylene-based film with 40µm thickness (OPP-40) represented the best solution to assure a shelf life of about 10 days, without using MAP. The result was then scaled-up at industrial level to Nuvifruits. In addition, to demonstrate the validity of mathematical models developed in the Workpackage N. 3 (Task 3.3.1 and Task 3.3.2) by UNIFG-Disa (team led by Dr Del Nobile), a product different from that used for building the model was used. For developing the models, fresh-cut melon was used whereas the chosen product for validation was fresh-cut rocket.

Agricultural Research Organization (ARO), Volcani Center (Israel) demonstrated the application of the mathematical model of MA packaging for prediction and optimization of oxygen levels in fresh-cut melon packages in collaboration with the industrial partner EFI (Einat Food Industries). Steady-state oxygen concentrations in fresh-cut melon packages as affected by perforation level were predicted using the model of Fishman et al. (1996). The fresh-cut melons were packaged in active MA (flushing with 5% O2 and 10% CO2) or passive MA without flushing using the following perforation levels (per 100-g package): (a) non-perforated, (b) one micro-hole of 70 µm, (c) two micro-holes, (d) one pinhole, (e) two 2-mm macro-perforations. The products were stored for 2 weeks under cooled shelf-life conditions with weekly atmosphere analysis and quality evaluation.

London Metropolitan University (LMET) applied statistical methods to predict the lag phase duration of undamaged and sub-lethally damaged (using heat and acid) single cells of L. monocytogenes and E. coli on cut pieces of Cantaloupe melons. For the aim, the DmFit program (Institute of Food Research, Norwich, UK) was adopted. A proper validation of the statistical approach was also carried out.

DARe (Distretto Tecnologico Agroalimentare, Italy) scaled-up and proceeded to the evaluation phase of the software "QUAFETY Innovation MAP", on a selection of 17 food companies active in the fruit and vegetables sector.

The activities performed have demonstrated that mathematical modelling can serve an efficient decision-support tool for solving various problems of fresh-cut SME processor: choosing the best packaging solutions, optimizing decontamination means, and making decisions about the adoption of technological innovations.

UNIFG-Disa concluded that good model validation has been recorded allowing the prediction of respiration rate of packaged fresh-cut produce. The OPP40 was the most effective in controlling microbial and sensorial quality of fresh-cut melon up to 10 days of storage. At the same time, the use of active MAP (gas mix flushing) did not contribute significantly to preserving the products quality.

ARO and EFI demonstrated that using the mathematical model allowed predicting oxygen levels in fresh-cut melon packages and optimizing their perforation level in order to maintain the produce quality. Optimal packaging regime for the tested melon cultivar was determined as one micro-hole per 100-g passive MA package. This packaging allowed controlling both microbial spoilage of fresh-cut melons (prevalent in macroperforated packages) and the off-flavour development (prevalent in non-perforated packages) reaching the shelf-life duration of 2 weeks.

LMET calculated the population lag phase durations for undamaged cells of E. coli and L. monocytogenes on fresh cut melon stored at different temperatures. These results can provide a basis for prediction of pathogen proliferation kinetics on the product as affected by antimicrobial interventions (cold storage, low acidity, thermal treatment).

DARE concluded that overall the software "QUAFETY Innovation MAP" has shown positive results. Companies said the software was easy to use and it was useful to learn more about potential innovations and their researchers and inventors.

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