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Development of new food additives extracted from the solid residue of tomatoes

Continuing with its line of research for evaluating food subproducts, AZTI is participating in the European project TOM (2003-2004), together with a consortium of European R&D companies and technological centres, to obtain natural food additives.

In Europe, 8.5 million tons of tomatoes are cultivated annually. 1.5 million tons are sold directly to the consumer and 7 million are processed for products such as ketchup, sauces, etc. During this processing, some 40% of the tomato raw material ends up as residue mainly skin and seeds. The seeds, considered by the processing industry simply as waste or used as animal feed, is still an excellent source of nutrients such as carotenoids, proteins, sugars, fibre, wax and oils, these oils being nutritionally very valuable for their high unsaturated fats content. The fundamental aim of the European TOM project is the evaluation of this residue for obtaining and purification of these high-value nutritional compounds and their use as ingredients in the formulation and manufacture of functional foods or of foodstuffs the consumption of which provides additional health benefits, i.e. other than those nutrients provided by their intrinsic composition. The extraction of these substances will provide additional benefits and a significant reduction in the tomato residue generated in the tomato processing industry, up to 30%. The purified compounds will be free of those solvents commonly used in other methods and possible remains of pesticides due to the peculiarities of this process, based on the technology known as affinity chromatography, which is to be applied on an industrial scale. In order to obtain the first crude extracts, conventional and "clean" environmental methods such as the extraction with water and supercritical CO2. The component extracted will be subsequently purified with affinity chromatography to a level of purity greater than ninety-eight per cent, given the low cost of the raw material and the special features of this process, a significant reduction in production costs is expected and, therefore, a lower price for the products obtained in comparison to similar or less pure products currently in the market.

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