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EU funds drive food sterilisation efforts

Researchers and industry actors have begun trials on a newly developed multilayered packaging applicable for high-pressure food sterilisation. The innovative packaging is an outcome of the EU-funded NOVELQ (Novel Processing Methods for the Production and Distribution of High-Q...

Researchers and industry actors have begun trials on a newly developed multilayered packaging applicable for high-pressure food sterilisation. The innovative packaging is an outcome of the EU-funded NOVELQ (Novel Processing Methods for the Production and Distribution of High-Quality and Safe Foods') project, which has received just over EUR 11 million under the 'Food quality and safety' Thematic area of the Sixth Framework Programme (FP6). Findings were recently presented at the facilities of Wageningen Universiteit en Researchcentrum (UR) Food and Biobased Research in the Netherlands. The 5-year project is being carried out by 32 partners from academic, research and industry organisations in Europe as well as Argentina and South Africa. NOVELQ is addressing incremental innovations in novel processing and packaging. The project partners believe that the industry has been able to use NOVELQ's initial results so quickly because early on funds were put aside to ensure that the scientific insights from the project could be translated into practical and commercially viable applications. The project was set up as an 'integrated interdisciplinary research, demonstration and dissemination project' to try to 'overcome current bottlenecks that exist across the entire research and development (R & D) chain', they said, adding that 'these bottlenecks inhibit the introduction of novel processing technologies in the European food industry and so limit its competitiveness'. In addition to providing more insight into the effects of high-pressure processing (HPP), the project has also helped fill the knowledge gap that exists in other fields of food technology. This includes the effects of pulsed electric field, cold plasma and advanced heating technologies on the quality and shelf life of foods. Newly developed applications and innovations that may benefit the food industry have been developed and proofs-of-principle have been demonstrated to show the potential of these technologies. The team said that five years ago the general opinion in the food industry regarding novel processing technologies was that it was highly interesting but too far from business opportunities, especially in Europe. However, there are now numerous applications, innovations, unforeseen and useful outcomes, as well as spin-off opportunities. 'Five years on, proofs-of-principle have been demonstrated to show the potential of these methods and there are now over 35 high-pressure pasteurisation-based installations in Europe and over 75 in use in the US, for fruit juices, meats, tapas and whole meals,' FoodProdutionDaily.com quoted NOVELQ project leader Ariette Matser of Wageningen UR. Moreover, a cold plasma demonstrator has been developed and sold worldwide. We have also been able to perform pilot scale research on the HPP sterilisation method, with pilot scale equipment developed by Dutch equipment supplier Resato allowing the partners to research the effect of HPP sterilisation on real food products and perform the first step towards upscaling to industrial units.' Due to end in 2011, NOVELQ brings together European experts from Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Slovenia, Sweden, Spain and the UK.

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