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REINFORCEMENT OF THE WBC RESEARCH CAPACITIES FOR FOOD QUALITY CHARACTERIZATION

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Food quality studies raise Balkan research status

With an increasing preference for healthy foods worldwide, researchers are turning their attention to food-quality characterisation. Fruit and fruit products, known for their healthy benefits and antioxidant potential, are at the top of the list.

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Western Balkan countries (WBC) tend to be mainly agricultural and, as such, present opportunities for study and development in the area of healthy food production. The ′Chromlab-Antioxidant′ project is reinforcing this, aiming to boost research capacity in food-quality characterisation. The project's efforts will secure equipment, improve human resources and set up a dynamic network across European borders. This will enable research into antioxidants in foods and provide the necessary knowledge, tools and methods needed to develop efficient, high-quality, and consumer-acceptable food production and quality in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) and Serbia. With the assistance of independent, foreign experts, a detailed analysis of the level of research and capability of the research entity was performed. This evaluation process is very important as regards the facility's positioning in the country and beyond, and will be used to develop an action plan for further development of research activities at the Institute of Chemistry at the Faculty of Sciences and Mathematics, University Ss. Cyril and Methodius, in Skopje, FYROM. As a coordinator of Chromlab-Antioxidant, the Institute of Chemistry is participating in the European Commission′s FOOD-Cluster initiative. It has also been nominated as a potential centre of excellence by the Ministry of Education and Science. In addition to activities focused on training young researchers in the use of scientific methodology and equipment for food-quality characterisation, achievements to date include national and international open day presentations, workshops on mass spectrometry applications, the setting up of a regional network of researchers, and a regional networking workshop in Skopje. The latter attracted participation of 14 research groups from across the Balkan peninsula, including Greece and Turkey. At the end of the day, these initiatives will contribute substantially to the country's visibility both in the region and in Europe, and to its strategy orientation in food research.

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