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ISO-FOOD Report Summary

Project ID: 621329
Funded under: FP7-REGPOT
Country: Slovenia


Project Context and Objectives:
1.1 Summary description of project context

The European Research Area (ERA) Chair in ISOTOPE TECHNIQUES IN FOOD QUALITY, SAFETY AND TRACEABILITY is in answer to the EU FP7 Call (H2020-WIDESPREAD-2014-2) “Spreading Excellence and Widening Participation”. This interim report details the progress made during the period 1.7.2014 – 31.12.2014. The idea of an ERA Chair in isotope techniques in food quality and traceability was conceived at the Jožef Štefan Institute, Slovenia and incorporates the scientific expertise and infrastructure of the following four departments: Environmental Science Condensed Matter Physics, Computer Systems, Nano structured Materials and of two Slovenian Centres of Excellence: Nanocentre and NAMASTE. Access to this knowledge and state-of-the-art equipment will allow the staff of the ERA Chair to work at the cutting-edge of food science. The EU has provide sufficient funding through FP7 for the first five 5 years after which time it will become a self-funding entity within the institute. The project that establishes the ERA Chair is named ISO-FOOD.

Why ISO-FOOD? Ensuring high quality, safety, authenticity, traceability of food requires not only strict regulatory control but also robust analytical methodologies. The ERA Chair, will combine expertise in the fields of organic and inorganic analytical chemistry, radiochemistry, materials science, and nanoscience, and computer science and data management to perform cutting-edge scientific research in the following fields:

Isotope fingerprinting: An independent and universally applicable analytical strategy to verify the declared country of origin of food can be an invaluable tool to enable regulatory authorities to trace contaminated foods back to their source. The chair will develop isotopic traceability methodologies (light and heavy elements) and systems to facilitate the rapid tracking of contaminated products and gain a deeper understanding of how meteorological and geochemical signatures are transferred into food systems. Comparative databases constructed from these data can then be used as benchmarks in on-going scientific developments of the future.

Element speciation: Element concentration and speciation analysis to control the main route of exposure to major and trace elements (e.g. in Cr, Se, I, Al, As, Hg....) into the human body through food consumption. The challenge to overcome in speciation analysis of essential and/or toxic trace elements in foodstuffs are their low concentration levels, which require application of highly sensitive, selective advanced analytical methods.

Radionuclides: The activity concentration of particular radionuclides in food and water is important to be able to study cumulative radiation effects on human health especially since some of them have the tendency to bio-magnify up the food chain. We will attempt to develop methods that allow rapid detection and identification radionuclides at low levels normally occurring in foodstuffs.

New and emerging contaminants: The ERA Chair characterise organic compounds in food posing a potential health risk and developed validated of methods for determining new emerging contaminants e.g. selected pharmaceuticals, steroids and newly developed pesticides that are yet to be regulated.
Nanoparticles: nanoparticles are starting to enter the food chain through food additives, food processing and packaging. Development in nanotechnologies for food production is faster than the relevant legislation and regulation activities and majority of food producers remain unaware of possible health risks originated from consumption of nanomaterials. The main challenge will be development of methods for determination of nanoparticles in food and in the food processing environment with the aim to help in creation of regulations in the field of nanotechnologies in relation to food.

Metrology: Analytical procedures in the field of food analysis (isotopic measurements) are in many cases not standardized and certified reference materials are lacking. This is in particular evident in samples most commonly analysed in food processing industry where the compounds of interest often occur in highly complex matrices, while the available certified reference materials are rather simple compounds where the conversion into measurable compounds is less demanding. ISO-FOOD will attempt to overcome these challenges by developing and implementing truly metrological analytical methods.

Data management: Development of the ISO-FOOD repository for data and knowledge about food and feed composition and region-, species- and practice-specific fingerprints. To support diverse ERA Chair academic and research activities, Through ISO-FOOD the ERA Chair will develop a database, tools and services for data and knowledge management, exploration and exploitation.

1.2 Objectives

The main objective of the ERA chair is to unlock the capacities of the Jožef Stefan Institute (JSI) to establish, by becoming a dedicated research and education group fully integrated into the European Research Area, a critical mass of knowledge and capacities to respond to the needs of society through innovation and development of new solutions in the field of advanced analytical techniques in food characterisation, safety, and traceability. This we will achieve by merging the capacities of four departments: Environmental sciences, condensed Matter Physics, Computer Systems, Nano Structured Materials and two Slovene Centres of Excellence: Nanocentre and NAMASTE.

Project Results:
During this period, ISO-FOOD continued to expand its research and outreach efforts. The following is a brief summary of the work of each WP 1 – 6.

WP1: Coordination and Management: The Executive Committee (EC) has met on four occasions, the ISO-FOOD study group twice and the Management Board (MB) met for the second time (D1.3). Besides deliverable D1.3 “2nd management board meeting report”, no other deliverables were foreseen during this reporting period. All project commitments for this period have been met.

WP2: Constitution: The appointment of Eva Kranjc and Anja Mahne-Opatić and two early stage researchers, Dr Kelly Peeters and Dr Martina Lorenzetti meant that MS12 was reached, while recruitment of Tome Eftimov (PhD student) and Dr Miha Trdin and the advertisement of the vacancy for a fourth early stage researcher fulfils MS13. The candidate selection process is currently in progress.

WP3: Research and Education: Progress has been made and MS22 - a list of national project proposals resulting from the interdisciplinary research activities” has been reached and D 3.1 “Scientific publications of PhD and Early stage researchers” uploaded. Progress has been satisfactory and ISO-FOOD along with the departments involved have been successful in obtaining research projects funded (MS22). For this WP, all milestones have been reached and deliverables uploaded.

WP4: Networking and Transfer of Knowledge: One of two deliverables were published (D4.1) and three of four milestones reached: MS26, MS33 and MS38, meaning that WP4 has not met all of its objectives for this period. Milestones reached include an exploratory workshop courses/summer schools entitled “Quality assurance for Hg measurements in food and environmental samples” 25-27th November 2015 (MS26, D4.1),” and a Summer School on “Radionuclides in Food” 6-10th June 2016,” (MS33). Preparation for the next Summer school on “Authentication of Food by Isotope and Elemental Fingerprinting” (MS32) is in preparation planned for Autumn. The summer school was delayed because of major refurbishment of the laboratories, which meant that practical laboratory classes, a key component of the course, were not possible. In its place we prepared a workshop on “Mercury speciation in food and the global mercury cycle”, 4-6th April 2016. The workshop report D4.2 has been already uploaded. The exchange of these events has had no impact on the project and having access to the laboratories will greatly enhance future summer schools. e-Learning material and modules are under development and initial results have been presented at the ISO-FOOD student group meeting (MS38).

WP5: Outreach and Dissemination: WP5 had two milestones (MS43 & MS44) and three deliverables (D5.2, D5.6 and D5.8). MS43 was a workshop for stakeholders “Recent Advances in Mass Spectrometry in Food, Environment and Health” 23th November 2015. A full report is published as D5.8. Also of significance is MS44 (D5.2) the publication of the ISO-FOOD brochure. This is a graphically rich booklet explaining the many applications of the use of isotopes in food research designed for the layperson. Finally, D5.3: participation at scientific conferences means WP5 has met all its commitments.

WP6: Sustainability: WP6 reached two major milestones: publication of the development strategy (MS46) and in obtaining research projects (MS47). The strategy document sets out a comprehensive research and funding strategy for ISO-FOOD for the period funded by EU and beyond. Efforts made by ISO-FOOD has resulted in a new Twinning action (call: H2020-TWINN-2015) called MASSTWIN project “Spreading excellence and widening participation in support of mass spectrometry and related techniques in health, the environment, and food”. Other successful project bids are presented in the core report. Deliverable (D6.1), a self-evaluation report for month 1-24 has also been uploaded. The outcomes of the self-evaluation are very positive for the new ERA Chair ISO-FOOD. WP6 has reached all its milestones and met of all its projects commitments.

In summary, the major milestones and deliverables for this period have been reached and delivered. The hard work already performed has proven to be a firm foundation for the project and the motivation of those entrusted to deliver the ISO-FOOD project remains high.

Potential Impact:
The main result of the project will be to a) established ERA Chair supported through independent funding and, in terms of infrastructure, by the four participating IJS departments and the two centres of excellence, representing a group of researchers and institute staff committed to performing high quality research and education in the field of food safety, quality and traceability, b) enhanced techniques for determining food authenticity, traceability and quality.

The impact of the ERA Chair beyond the scientific community will be assured through collaboration and networking with national stakeholders and Industry. The work of the ERA Chair will impact on the following:
• The Chair’s networking activities will strengthen and extend scientific research collaboration in Slovenia and in the ERA as a whole.
• The Chair will also have a profound impact on the lives of young researchers through training and education.
• Access to state-of-the-art available in different departments will allow research staff to work at the cutting-edge of food science.
• Bringing in excellent researchers will impact on the culture and performance of the Institute.
• Specific projects of the Chair, for example, nanoparticles in food and food production has the potential to significantly improve food safety, working conditions and human health e.g., the release of nanoparticles during food production and the leaching of engineered nanoparticles from food contact materials.
• Improvements in isotopic and fingerprinting methods in food traceability and authenticity will afford producers greater brand protection from fraudsters and provide regulating bodies new tools in the fight against food crime.
• New projects will bring the opportunity to upgrade existing capacities of the Institute.
• The continuation of the Chair will be a source of employment for staff and researchers
• The Chair will create new knowledge transferable to other research institutes, the food industry and wider society.
• Outreach and dissemination of the Chairs work will help increase awareness of the importance of food integrity.

List of Websites:


Jadran Lenarčič, (Director)
Tel.: +386 1 477 3212
Fax: +386 1 4773906
Record Number: 192379 / Last updated on: 2016-12-15
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