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Reinforcing research potential in the Laboratory for Chemical Contaminants at the Faculty of Technology towards the establishment of the Centar of Excellence in Food Safety and Emerging Risks

Final Report Summary - CEFSER (Reinforcing research potential ... towards the establishment of the centre of excellence in food safety and emerging risks)

Executive summary:

The concept of CEFSER was to reinforce the research capacities at the Laboratory for Chemical Contaminants in Food and the Environment (LabCHEMCONT) at the Faculty of Technology (FT) University of Novi Sad that has been already recognised internationally with its research in the field of food and environmental safety in order to become a unique WBC lab strongly linked with the top European Union (EU) research institutions capable to spread the excellence and raise awareness in the region contributing to the harmonisation of European Research Area (ERA). Thus, the main project objective was to add an extra value on the research potential of LabCHEMCONT in order to establish a Centre of Excellence in Food Safety and Emerging Risks (CEFSER) integrated with advanced EU institutions, optimising the scientific and financial resources within ERA and contributing to the general harmonisation of research and development (R&D) within the food safety sector.

The CEFSER objectives were as follows:

1. Exchange of know-how and scientific experience between CEFSER Centre of Excellence at FT and the networking partners: CHIRON AS, Norway; Institute for Environmental Studies (IVM), Vrije University (VU), The Netherlands; Institute of Environmental Assessment and Water Research (IIQAB-CSIC), Barcelona, Spain; and Institute of Chemical Technology (ICT), Czech Republic.
2. Hiring of researchers in order to widen the research team of LabCHEMCONT
3. Acquisition of the capital research equipment at the LabCHEMCONT
4. Knowledge transfer at national, regional and international level though trainings and events with invited EU scientists organised at FT and participation in international meetings due to disseminate and promote activities, which would ensure increased visibility of LabCHEMCONT and FT and enhance CEFSER efficiency.

With new analytical systems, research agenda of the CEFSER Lab has been broaden to whole range of the pollutants either of food commodities or the environment, including regulated contaminants and those new, emerging ones belonging to the issues that have never been investigated in Serbia or even wider in the WBC region. Hiring of early stage researchers added efficiency and flexibility to the team, including both its research and dissemination activities. The network with excellent EU researchers accelerated the involvement of FT into the main research streams contributing to the levelling up the ERA towards the less advanced regions. The lab members gained experience for organisation of trainings either as open-access events or for the partner researchers who express the interest to learn from the CEFSER team members. As the CEFSER dissemination activities have been oriented towards western Balkan countries' (WBCs) researchers, being a link between EU and regional research institutions, it also has facilitated communication between WBC research entities having similar scientific interests, bringing them closer to the recent advances in the food and environmental safety issues and accelerating the collaboration of local, regional and European scientists within partnerships under the EU projects.

Hence, capital investment in the material and human resources of FT led to creation of modern research environment capable to tackle the latest analytical challenges in food safety and environmental pollution, to spread the knowledge and attract the international partners, contributing to the Faculty's regional and international visibility in domain of food and environmental science, bridging the transitional gap in the enlarged EU.

Project context and objectives:

Food quality and safety are global challenges, too large to be met by countries acting alone. They are important for the consumer protection as well as for the food industry, which stands to gain and maintain consumer confidence. Food quality could not be separated from food safety as they are interdependent. In their very core, there is a strong need for reliable and validated analytical methods for the implementation of the relevant food legislation. There are many challenges in front of the food analysts. Analytical techniques must address an important number of problems providing information about processing, quality control, ensuring compliance with food and trade laws, adulteration, contamination and chemical composition of food. Analytical food science is demanding science that recently has advanced forcing the analysts to follow new discoveries in many fields. Unfortunately, developing countries or those with economies in transition are frequently at least one step behind the latest developments due to restrict access to finance new equipment, often being denied to perform joint international research, to be included in the research networks, etc.

EC recognised the existence of the transitional gaps that have occurred in the enlarged EU in the field of food science and through the REGPOT calls within the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7)-Capacities offered an opportunity to the less developed regions to significantly upgrade the resources, stimulating the realisation of the full research potentials of the enlarged EU and enabling them successful engagement in the main research streams. Only through increased level of collaboration and research synergies across the enlarged EU and the Candidate countries it is possible to bridge the gap in knowledge and experience in food science with the final contribution to a more competitive and safer European food supply.

CEFSER is the FP7-REGPOT-2008-1 project (GA 229629) dedicated to the reinforcement of research potential of the Laboratory for Chemical Contaminants in Food and the Environment (LabCHEMCONT) at the Faculty of Technology (FT), Novi Sad, towards the establishment of a unique Western Balkan Country (WBC) Centre of Excellence in Food Safety and Emerging Risks (CEFSER) with infrastructure and activities on food safety and emerging pollutants integrated with advanced and well experienced institutions from EU.

In fact, the concept of CEFSER was to reinforce the research capacities at LabCHEMCONT that have been already recognised internationally with its research in the field of food and environmental safety in order to become a unique WBC lab strongly linked with the top EU research institutions capable to spread the excellence and raise awareness in the region contributing to the harmonisation of European Research Area (ERA). Thus, the main project objective was to add an extra value on the research potential of LabCHEMCONT in order to establish the CEFSER Centre integrated with advanced EU institutions, optimising the scientific and financial resources within ERA and contributing to the general harmonisation of R&D within the food safety sector.

The project was designed to stimulate the realisation of the full research potential of LabCHEMCONT, by unlocking the research potential, including both human and material resources at the Lab. The purchase of the highly sophisticated instruments covering wide range of chemical contaminants analysis followed by intensive training of the lab staff members had a final goal to build a modern working environment attractive for research in the field of food safety and environmental protection, including the recently opened issue of emerging pollutants. Dissemination of the gained knowledge and experience to a variety of targeted audiences in WBCs was one of the main project activities contributing to regional capacity building and the visibility.

CEFSER concept and activities has been supported by excellent research centres like the Institute of Environmental Assessment and Water Research of the Spanish Council of Scientific Research from Barcelona, Institute of Chemical Technology from Prague, Czech Republic, CHIRON AS from Trondheim, Norway and Institute for Environmental Studies at Vrije University from Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Contacts with networking partners, joint investigations, publications and meetings, especially the opportunity that was given to the early stage researchers to work at the famous EU labs, improved our communication and managerial skills and abilities to successfully join international research activities and projects.

The CEFSER Centre has been established as an important centre for spreading the knowledge within WBCs that brings Serbia and WBCs closer to the main international research streams bridging the gap that exists between the regions and in that way contributing to the more harmonised research potential of the enlarged EU community.

The main objectives of the CEFSER project were:

1. Exchange of know-how and scientific experience between FT and the networking partners as well with other outstanding EU institutions through project meetings at FT or at the EU partner institutions; study visits of the CEFSER team members to the partner institutions and demo labs; trainings of the CEFSER members with the outstanding researchers at the CEFSER lab; joint publications and presentations of the results at the well established international scientific events
2. Hiring of researchers in order to widen the research team of LabCHEMCONT and to promote and stimulate new and modern working environment at FT
3. Acquisition of the capital research equipment at Lab CHEMCONT with supporting equipment to enable the analysis of wide range of pollutants: ultra high performance liquid chromatograph (UHPLC) with triple quadrupole mass spectrometer (MS/MS), UHPLC with high resolution mass spectrometer (HRMS) with Orbitrap technology and gas chromatograph with micro electron capture detector (GC-µECD)
4. Knowledge transfer at national, regional and international level though trainings and events with invited EU scientists organised at FT and participation in international meetings: training sessions for WBC participants; workshops and symposium organised by CEFSER; participation in well known international events held in EU dedicated to food safety, environmental protection and risk assessment
5. Dissemination and promotional activities to ensure increased visibility of LabCHEMCONT and FT and enhance CEFSER efficiency through creation and regular update of the bilingual project web site, including the data base on the regional state-of-the-art in food and environmental safety and emerging pollutants; events organised by CEFSER research team and FT; CEFSER promotional materials; presentations to the scientific community; participation in meetings of FOOD-CLUSTER initiative, WIRE Conferences, etc.

All these measures contributed to the establishment of the CEFSER as a modern research unit at FT able to meet the following requirements in future: scientific research in joint EU projects, knowledge transfer due to raising awareness on food and environmental safety, reference WBC point for chemical food safety networked with prestigious EU labs, training centre and attractive research lab for new PhD students, encouraging of two-way researchers mobility, etc.

Project results:

The main result of the CEFSER project is the capital investments in the human and material resources of the Laboratory for Chemical Contaminants at (and) the Faculty of Technology Novi Sad. This further led to the widening of the research agenda and activities, as well as to enhanced attractiveness of the Laboratory for international cooperation that has been already proved through seven projects contracted during the CEFSER lifetime and also numerous project proposals submitted to different EU calls. Eventually, all this led to creation of new knowledge and expertise at FT, including also the first information on some contaminants that have never been previously the subject of the research in Serbia.

The reinforcement of the human resources under the CEFSER project started from the very beginning of the project lifetime as the call was opened during March 2009 for employment of four early stage researchers. From the first day of the engagement, new employees have been introduced with the previous achievements of the Laboratory for Chemical Contaminants in the field of the food and environmental safety. They have been actively involved in the laboratory work and activities conducted in the Laboratory. More precisely, they were trained to perform sample preparation in order to extract the fraction of persistent organic pollutants from the environmental matrices and from food of vegetable and animal origin; and to analyze the obtained extracts by different instrumental techniques (e.g. GC-FID) available at that time at the Lab. They were also trained in digestion and analytical methods for the heavy elements determination in various matrices including the plant-based food, water and soil. In parallel with these laboratory works, they were introduced into the liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry technique in order to gain the adequate theoretical knowledge before the installation of the planned instruments.

Two outstanding instruments, UHPLC coupled to MS/MS (Accela-TSQ Vantage, Thermo Fisher Scientific) and UHPLC with HRMS with Orbitrap technology (Accela-Exactive, Thermo Fisher Scientific) were installed at the CEFSER Lab in the beginning of 2010, representing unique instruments for the whole WBCs region, due to their mass spectrometers with features that separate them from similar instruments available in the region. They are equipped with four ionisation sources (electrospray-ESI, heated electrospray-HESI, atmospheric pressure chemical ionisation-APCI and atompsheric pressure photoionisation-APPI), which application scope differ with respect to the polarity of the analyzed compounds. The third instrument purchased through the CEFSER project - gas chromatograph with micro electron capture detector (GC-µECD; Agilent 7890A) - was installed in the very beginning of 2011. The procurement of the instruments was performed in line to the suggestions of the CEFSER Advisory Committee (AC) that gathers the key personnel of four supporting institutions from EU and it considered the CEFSER sustainability and attractiveness for the future international research activities.

With these new analytical systems the research agenda of the CEFSER lab has been broaden and the team has been ready to tackle with new analytical challenges in food safety area, such as screening of multicomponent mixture of mycotoxins and pesticides by high resolution MS, development of the advanced method (UHPLC-APPI-MS/MS) for analysis of PAHs in sub-ppb levels; etc. Such issues are new and have never been investigated in Serbia or even wider in the WBC region. Laboratory with all these new systems together with those previously existed and used (atomic absorption spectrometer with graphite tube, gas chromatograph with flame ionisation detector and high performance liquid chromatograph with UV and diode array detector) is equipped for wide range of targeted analysis of organic and inorganic contaminants, as well for the screening of unknowns, both very important aspects in the food safety analysis.

Visits of the researchers from the outstanding EU institutions at the CEFSER Lab were taken as a chance for advanced training of the CEFSER researchers, including the early stage researchers employed through the CEFSER project. Namely, during the visits of Dr. Michal Godula, food safety specialist from Thermo Fisher Scientific, Prague, Czech Republic, who visited the Lab several times and who was also the lecturer during the first and third CEFSER Training Courses, the CEFSER team members had an opportunity to learn more about the advanced options of Thermo Fisher Scientific instruments purchased within the CEFSER (UHPLC-MS/MS and UHPLC-HRMS). Furthermore, during the first and the second CEFSER Workshops, Prof. Dr. Mira Petrovic, a key person of the CEFSER supporting institution ? Institute of Environmental Assessment and Water Research, Barcelona, Spain, held the advanced training course on determination of different classes of pollutants like pesticides, perfluorinated compounds and pharmaceutical compounds by UHPLC-MS/MS to the early stage researchers. Similarly, participation of Dr. Philippe Verlinde from EC-JRC-Institute of Reference Materials and Measurements, Geel, Belgium and Franciska Perez from Institute for Environmental Assessment and Water Research, Spanish Council for Scientific Research, Barcelona, Spain, during the 5th CEFSER Training Course was taken to further advance the knowledge on application of APPI for UHPLC-MS/MS analysis of PAHs and on UHPLC-MS/MS analysis of perfluorinated compounds, respectively.

After the trainings of the CEFSER team members, work at the CEFSER lab targeted the application of the installed instruments, particularly the following issues:

1. application of ultra UHPLC-HESI-MS/MS for the multimatrix multitoxin analysis;
2. application of UHPLC-APPI-MS/MS for analysis of selected polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs);
3. application of UHPLC-HESI-MS/MS for analysis of selected pesticides and their metabolites;
4. application of UHPLC-ESI-HRMS for analysis of selected pesticides and their metabolites;
5. application of GC-µECD for simultaneous analysis of organochlorine pesticides, polychlorinated biphenyls and pyrethroids;
6. application of atomic absorption spectrometer with graphite furnace for analysis of heavy elements in different kind of food commodities;
7. validation of applied methods.

The results obtained were evaluated and compared with the data available in the relevant literature, as well as the existing Serbian and European regulations. The data have been presented in a form of posters and/or oral presentations by the CEFSER team members and also published in journals and books of meetings.

In meanwhile, methods for analysis of mycotoxins by UHPLC-HESI-MS/MS, organochlorine compounds and heavy elements in food have been accredited and incorporated into the list of analyses performed by the accredited Laboratory for Food Products of FT. In this way, sustainability of the CEFSER Lab has been reached.

There are two papers prepared jointly with partners from the EU institutions, supporting the CEFSER project and/or events and published in well known international journal of Food Control:

1. B. Skrbic, J. ?ivancev, N. Duri?ic-Mladenovic, M. Godula, Principal mycotoxins in wheat flour from the Serbian market: levels and assessment of the exposure by wheat-based products, Food Control, 25, 389-396, 2012.
2. B. Skrbic, A. Malachova, J. ?ivancev, Z. Veprikova, J. Haj?lova, Fusarium mycotoxins in wheat samples harvested in Serbia: A preliminary survey, Food Control, 22, 1261-1267, 2011.

Two manuscripts have been also submitted to peer-reviewed journals during 2012:

1. B. Skrbic, S. Koprivica, M. Godula, Validation of a method for determination of mycotoxins subjected to the EU regulations in spices: the UHPLC-HESI-MS/MS analysis of the crude extracts, Food Control and
2. B. Skrbic, A. Tjapkin, Lj. Petrovic, S. ?kaljac, Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in smoked dry fermented sausages with protected designation of origin (Petrovská Klobása) from Serbia, Food Control.

Moreover, the CEFSER team members visited the outstanding supporting institutions from EU (Institute of Environmental Assessment and Water Research, Barcelona, Spain, Institute of Chemical Technology, Prague, Czech Republic, CHIRON, Tronheim, Norway) and learned more about their research, results, international collaboration and managerial structure. During these meetings possibilities for future collaboration and open calls for research projects were also discussed.

During the study visits to the EU institutions, joint activities under the ongoing national and international projects was discussed and arranged. Such efforts gave some of the first results ever regarding the food safety of the Serbian products. For instance, parallel analysis of heavy elements and emerging pollutants like perfluorinated compounds (PFCs) in samples of Spanish and Serbian food commodities, including infant and baby food, has been performed in Institute of Environmental Assessment and Water Research, Barcelona and in the CEFSER Lab. The results on PFCs in food from the Serbian market are the first of that kind obtained. Additionally, analysis of heavy elements in food from Spanish and Serbian market is going to be the first effort to assess comparatively the risks through dietary exposure of the Serbian population, including infants and children. The joint analysis with the Spanish partner has been even further expanded towards the issue of pharmaceutical compounds and their occurrence in the environmental water. Namely, pharmaceuticals represent an important group of emerging contaminants in the environment and consequently in food chain, attracting worldwide attention. The presence of pharmaceuticals in environment, especially in drinking water and waters used for food production must be considered an important issue in terms of human health safety. Water samples collected within the Vojvodina Province and prepared at the Faculty of Technology were analyzed for 80 pharamceutical compounds at Catalan Institute of Water Research, Girona, Spain, during the study visit of one of the CEFSER team members (Jelena ivancev) in order to cover wide range of therapeutic groups and their metabolites and to compare the status of the Serbian waters with the ones already analyzed at the Institute. This analysis gave the first insight into the occurrence and distribution of pharmaceutical compounds in the Serbian waters.

The reinforcement of the CEFSER human capacities was also conducted through participation in the well established and prestigious international scientific events, as well as in the training sessions organised in the EU institutions. The following events were attended by the CEFSER team members:

1. Congress 'Food research in support to science based regulation', Prague, April 21-22, 2009;
2. Waters Food Summit, Istanbul, April 29 -30, 2009;
3. Trace project workshop on 'Determining the geographical origin of food - trace elements and isotopic patterns in food verification', November 03, 2009, Prague, Czech Republic,
4. fourth symposium on 'Recent advances in food analysis', Prague, Czech Republic, November 04-06, 2009;
5. Training course in DART-TOF MS for authenticity and traceability purposes and profiling, organised by the Institute of Chemical Technology from Prague, the CEFSER supporting partner, November 25-27, 2009;
6. Pre10 Conference, Protection and Restoration of the Environment X, Corfu, Greece, July 05-09, 2010;
7. Second International Symposium on Green Chemistry for Environment and Health, Myconos, Greece, September 26-30, 2010;
8. Course 'Liquid Chromatography and Mass Spectrometry', Faculty of Technology and Metallurgy, University of Belgrade, Belgrade, Serbia, October 7-8, 2010
9. International school: 'Monitoring, fate and toxicity of toxic compounds in the terrestrial environment', held in Nova Gorica, Slovenia, November 29-December 11, 2010.
10. First FCUB ERA Workshop ?Food Safety and Health Effects of Food?, Belgrade, Serbia, January 31-February 1, 2011.
11. Conferentia Chemometrica, Sumeg, Hungary, September 18-21, 2011.
12. Fourth International Congress on Food and Nutrition and third SAFE Consortium International Congress on Food Safety, Istanbul, Turkey, October 12-14, 2011;
13. Second FCUB ERA Workshop 'Food chemistry and biotechnology', Belgrade, Serbia, October 18-19, 2011.
14. International conference ?Food/Feed Quality, Safety and Risks in Agriculture? (Flavoure Conference), October 25-28, 2011, Tallinn, Estonia;
15. International seminar of EU FP7 project FLAVOURE ?New methods in assessment of food/feed quality and safety?, Saku (Harjumaa), Estonia, January 17-18, 2012.
16. Twelfth Eurasia Conference on Chemical Sciences, Corfu, Greece, April 16-21, 2012.
17. XIII Chemometrics in Analytical Chemistry, Budapest, Hungary, June 25-29, 2012. Course in the Direct Analysis in Real Time (DART), Catalan Institute of Water Research, Girona, Spain, June 26, 2012.

Participation of the CEFSER team members in all these events was a chance to be exposed to a more international environment and direct contacts with the outstanding researchers and to be familiar with the latest developments in the field of food and environmental safety. During the events, CEFSER foreground, including the developed methods, results, project outcomes and activities, lab capacity, etc. were presented and promoted.

All the gained knowledge and expertise have been shared during the open-access CEFSER training courses (five courses were organised; they are listed hereafter), as well as to researchers who express the interest to learn more about advanced analytical techniques. For instance, Mrs. Eline Akk, a researcher from FP7 project FLAVOURE of the Estonian Research Institute of Agriculture, visited the Laboratory for Mass Spectrometry two times to gain expertise in mycotoxin analysis. First time, Mrs. Akk visited CEFSER Lab in the period 19-23 December 2011, gaining the introductory training on LC-MS, GC-ECD and AAS analysis. Mrs. Akk visited CEFSER lab for the second time in period 9-27 January 2012. During her secong study visit she learned and expertised in the advanced analysis of food contaminants like mycotoxins in more details. Similarly, Neboj?a Stilinovic and Sa?a Vukmirovic, two researchers from the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, Faculty of Medicine, University of Novi Sad, Novi Sad, visited also the CEFSER Lab for Mass Spectrometry for two weeks in order to expertise and widen the knowledge on the LC-MS analysis.

Attractiveness of the reinforced human and material resources of the CEFSER Lab could be seen in numerous projects of domestic or international origin, as well as in many collaborations with the institutions from abroad in the last three years (2009-2012), i.e. during the implementation of the CEFSER project. The available equipment offers possibility to deal with different aspects of the chemical contaminants, either in food quality, food safety or environmental protection domains. Namely, 2 Hungarian-Serbian projects within the IPA Cross-border Co-operation programme implemented within the 2007 to 2013 EU financial framework under the Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance (IPA) have been contracted, with main aim in the area of the environmental protection: to develop biological products for remediation of the soils and water polluted with pesticides. The involvement of the CEFSER Lab in these projects has been based on the knowledge and the capacities for the advanced analysis, as well as on the experience in promotional and dissemination activities. Similarly, the CEFSER resources were of crucial importance in five bilateral projects (with institutions from Hungary, Slovenia, Portugal, Croatia and Spain) dedicated to food safety, environmental pollution or risk assessment.

Potential impact:

Capital investment in the material and human resources of the Faculty of Technology led to creation of modern research environment capable to tackle the latest analytical challenges in food safety and environmental pollution, to spread the knowledge and attract the international partners, contributing to the Faculty's regional and international visibility in domain of food and environmental science, bridging the transitional gap in the enlarged EU.

More specifically, the CEFSER impact could be summarised as follows:

Upgrading the RTD capacities and capabilities of FT:

Direct result of the CEFSER project is the upgrade of the capacities of FT and consequently of national and regional research capacities and capabilities, including the material and human resources. With three instruments purchased through the CEFSER project, the resources of the Lab and the Faculty of Technology were significantly reinforced, representing modern research environment, attractive for international collaboration. The ultra high performance liquid chromatographs coupled to mass spectrometers (UHPLC-MS/MS and UHPLC-HRMS with Orbitrap), equipped with four ionisation sources (ESI, HESI, APCI and APPI) represent analytical systems with complementary scopes of application, unique for the whole WBCs region and even wider for now, due to their mass spectrometers with features that separate them from the similar instruments available in the region.

It should be emphasised that through few projects contracted during the CEFSER lifetime and which were based on the CEFSER resources, several sample prep systems were purchased (microwave digestion unit, accelerated solvent extractor, sample concentrator, ultra pure water system, etc.). Thus, it could be said that the CEFSER upgrade of the material resources influenced domino effect on the further reinforcement of the lab capacities.

New analytical systems enabled broadening of the CEFSER research agenda to a wide range of the pollutants either of food commodities or the environment, including regulated contaminants and those new, emerging ones belonging to the issues that have never been investigated in Serbia or even wider in the WBC region. Activities based on the CEFSER capacities conducted within national and international projects in which some of senior CEFSER team members have been engaged, has brought the first insight into the presence of some contaminants in the food commodities from the Serbian market and in the environment, which is very important for the risk assessment. For instance, in ?twin? study performed within bilateral project of the CEFSER lab and the Spanish partner (CEFSER supporting institution - Institute of Environmental Assessment and Water Research, Barcelona) the first results on the occurrence of perfluorinated compounds (PFCs) in the Serbian food, including baby food, were obtained.

Employment of early stage researchers at the CEFSER lab added efficiency and flexibility to the team, including both its research and dissemination activities. The intensive trainings on new analytical systems and knowledge sharing with the outstanding EU researchers gradually enhanced skills and experience of the team members, concerning different aspects of the reliable application of the new instrument for the monitoring of pollutants in food and the environment. Interactive dialogs with the prestigious EU scientists during meetings, trainings and study visits, opened the access to the latest results and developments, improving the quality of future research at FT. Visits and work at the labs of the prestigious EU institutions highly recognised within the scientific community for their competence regarding the chemical contaminants safety of food and the environment gave an extra value to the reinforcement of our capabilities. These visits influenced further build up of the LabCHEMCONT as the modern laboratory capable to deal with the latest requirements in the food safety research and strengthen the established relationships with our networking partners.

Applied analytical methods in the CEFSER lab have been accredited and included in the Faculty's Laboratory for Food Products, the central lab certified to perform the analysis for the third parties. In this way, the sustainability of CEFSER Lab has been gained.

Through several courses taught at FT with laboratory practice carrying out in CEFSER labs by key personnel involved in the project, excellent theoretical knowledge to our students and young scientists have been provided, including information on the latest analytical methods.

The significant experience of the CEFSER members in organisation of open-access events or trainings for researchers who express the interest to learn from the CEFSER team members contributes to the CEFSER sustainability, added an extra value to the CEFSER, representing also the place for spreading the advanced knowledge in domain of food and environmental chemical contaminants.

Better integration of FT in ERA as a whole:

Reinforcement of the capacities and establishment of the Centre of Excellence for Food Safety and Emerging Risks certainly has had an impact on the optimisation of human and material resources in the enlarged Europe contributing to the more harmonised research efforts within the areas of food and environmental safety. The network with excellent EU researchers accelerated the involvement of FT into the main research streams contributing to the levelling up the ERA towards the less advanced regions. The attractiveness of the established CEFSER Lab within the ERA is already evident through the numberous international projects contracted during the CEFSER lifetime (two Hungary-Serbia IPA projects, five bilateral projects with Hungary, Slovenia, Croatia, Portugal, Spain) and of multipartner project proposals jointly prepared with the CEFSER supporting partners and other outstanding EU institutions (four FP7 proposals, one for South East Europe Transnational Cooperation Program and one for IPA Cross-border Cooperation Programme Croatia-Serbia). In two more proposals under FP7-REGPOT calls in 2010 and 2011, the CEFSER lab was included among the partnering institutions as the excellent research entity helping the reinforcement of the capacities of the Bulgarian coordinator.

Participation of the CEFSER team members in the important international meetings with long stand tradition is another dimension of the FT integration in ERA, influencing the communicating skills of the researchers, their access to the latest findings and also being an additional chance to make the research efforts in the CEFSER (FT) Lab more visible to the EU scientific community for future joint research.

The permanent structure of the CEFSER Centre has potential to maximize the networking of WBC and EU research centres, creating a clear link among the needs of the end-users and policy makers and research agenda; and accelerating the collaboration of local, regional and European scientists and develop partnerships in the EU FP projects.

A communication with the top researchers from MSs, who have gained appreciable experience through coordination and participation in many multipartner EU projects, has introduced CEFSER members with the research management.

FT contribution to regional capacity building:

CEFSER events (five training courses, two workshops, symposium, closing event) with guest lecturers from the outstanding EU institutions were very important from the aspect of the FT contribution to the regional capacity building. As the CEFSER dissemination activities have been oriented towards WBCs researchers, being a link between EU and regional research institutions, it also has facilitated communication between WBC research entities having similar scientific interests, bringing them closer to the recent advances in the food and environmental safety issues and accelerating the collaboration of local, regional and European scientists.

CEFSER opened a possibility for networking and clustering of the research groups and for initiating joint research activities in different areas of food quality and safety, as well as in the environmental protection, optimising further human and material resources in the enlarged Europe. One of the examples of the CEFSER (and FT) contribution to the regional capacity building could be also seen in the employment of Sanja Koprivica, one of the CEFSER early stage researcher, at the Croatian research institute (?Ruder Bo?kovic?, Zagreb) after the CEFSER end, representing, in one way, further spreading of the gained knowledge within the region and also levelling of the regional human resources. The creation of ChemContDATABASE, available online through the CEFSER website, has aimed to network and make the WBC researchers and institutions more visible to the wider scientific community.

Through involvement in the activities of Food Cluster initiative (FCI), information gained on regional clustering, links between principal stakeholders in food domain, funding schemes for support the capacity building efforts, etc., were obtained. In FCI, CEFSER team members learned about the creation of the regional strategies and through intensive contacts with stakeholders in food industry tried to elucidate weakness and strengths, opportunities and threats in front of the Serbian food industry.

And last but not least, through enabling the links within the regional research efforts (from Albania, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Republic of Macedonia) peaceful cooperation between the countries in the region was promoted, defining common areas of stability and contributing to the wider social integration (not just scientific) of the Western Balkan area that could be regarded as one of the most heterogeneous area of Europe, where the cultural and religious differences still divide the populations living across the newly drawn borderlines.

Improvement of the FT potential to participate in FP7 projects:

The attractiveness of the CEFSER capacities and evidence for the improved capabilities could be already seen in number of contracted international projects, which are listed in Appendix B of the second Periodic Report. Moreover, the efforts to further participate in the FP7 projects could be seen through the list of proposals submitted jointly with partners from EU:

FP7-KBBE-2010-4 call:

1. 'Food safety Europe Research', coordinator Institute of Chemical Technology (Vysoka skola chemicko-technologicka v Praze), Prague, Czech Republic (proposal acronym FOSTER, no. 266467, evaluated with 12.50/15); Institute of Chemical Technology is the partnering organisation of the CEFSER project and it invited the CEFSER Laboratory to participate in the collaborative project proposal;
2. 'Adding value to the integral animal traceability system through an innovated and intelligent livestock management, based on animal feeding quality control', coordinator Ovino del Suroeste S.C.L. Spain (proposal acronym TRA-FEED, no.266162 evaluated with 10/15); the invitation to the Faculty of Technology, i.e. the CEFSER lab, to be a partner of TRA-FEED consortium followed promotion of the CEFSER capacities and research agenda during the FP7 Brokerage Event 2010 dedicated to the KBBE-2010-4 call, held in Lisbon, Portugal, 20 October 2009. Namely, the coordinator of the CEFSER project, Prof. Biljana ?Skrbic and the project communication coordinator, Nata?a Duri?ic-Mladenovic, expressed the interest of the CEFSER lab for collaboration under the KBBE topics, giving two oral presentations entitled 'Research synergies towards a safer food for European consumers' and 'Relationships between the quality and safety of feed and food' during the Brokerage Event.

FP7-REGPOT-2010-1 call

1. Establishment of the Regional Centre for the Advanced Food Analysis, coordinator Faculty of Technology, Novi Sad, (proposal acronym ADVANCED, no. 264134, evaluated with 11.5/15); supporting partners: RIKILT-Institute of Food Safety (RIKILT), part of the Stichting Dienst Landbouwkundig Onderzoek (DLO), Wageningen, The Netherlands, Institute of Chemical Technology (ICT), Prague, Czech Republic, Institute of Agri-Food and Land Use (IAFLU), Queen's University, Belfast, Northern Ireland, CHIRON AS, Trondheim, Norway, Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Water Management, Beograd, Serbia, Provincial Secretariat For Agriculture, Water Management And Forestry, Novi Sad, Vojvodina Province, Serbia and five Serbian small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) in food industry;

FP7-REGPOT-2011-1 call

1. Strengthening of food science in Serbia by unlocking and developing the research potential of the Faculty of Technology, University of Novi Sad?, coordinator Faculty of Technology, Novi Sad, (proposal acronym SerbFOODSCI, no. 286142, evaluated with 12/15); partnering organisations: Institute of Food Research UK, Institute of Agri-food and Land Use, Queen?s University, UK, University of Ioannina, Greece, Facultad de Ciencias Químicas, Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Spain, School of Chemical Engineering of the National Technical University of Athens, Greece, European Commission Joint Research Centre Institute for Reference Materials and Measurements, Belgium, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine Technical University of Lisbon, Portugal
2. Food Innovation and Technology Centre?, coordinator Food Research and Development Institute, Plovdiv, Bulgaria (proposal acronym FOODITC, no. 285961, evaluated with 11/15); CEFSER Lab was involved as partnering institution.

FP7-REGPOT-2012-2013 call

1. Food Innovation and Technology Centre?, coordinator Food Research and Development Institute, Plovdiv, Bulgaria (proposal acronym FoodITC, no. 316019); CEFSER Lab was involved as partnering institution.

Furthermore, CEFSER project coordinator has been actively involved in preparation of the proposal for the opened FP7-KBBE-2013 call (closing time 05 February 2013) under the topic KBBE.2013.2.4-01: Assuring quality and authenticity in the food chain, with the Institute of Environmental Assessment and Water Research, Barcelona, Spain and University of Valencia, Valencia, Spain. Several institutions from EU, which have been linked to the CEFSER and FT through past and running projects, previous project proposals, etc., have been included in the consortium based on the preposition given by the Prof. Skrbic.

Besides this call, the involvement in the FP7-ENV-2013-two stage call (closing time for the first stage 16 October 2012) has been also discussed with partnering institutions from Spain and Hungary.

Impact on specific problems faced by Serbia

In total, five early stage researchers were engaged in the CEFSER lab during the project lifetime (three in the period from third-4second project month, one from third to 36th project month and one from the 37th-4second project month). For four of them this was the first employment, while only one researcher had previous working experience. After the project end four of them got new positions: two prolonged the contracts with FT, while two found new positions elsewhere based on the gained experience in the CEFSER Lab.

Giving the opportunity to the promising early stage researchers to work in conditions equivalent to those existing in the advanced international labs, a broader influence on their future decisions about the carriers in the country were made, contributing also to combating the 'brain drain' trend Serbia faces.

Through their involvement in the established CEFSER Lab that has been networked with the outstanding EU institutions, the early stage researchers have been exposed to the more international environment (through contacts with outstanding researchers during the training sessions, meetings and study visits, participating in international events, etc.); thus, better career opportunities could be expected. This will also be very valuable for the early stage researchers offering them the links for future international cooperation.

The project dissemination activities were articulated around four main axes:

1.organisation of the events
2. web based activities, including establishment and maintenance of ChemContDATABASE
3. written (paper and/or electronic) project documentations
4. participation in the international events with oral and poster presentations.

Combined approach of awareness-raising and disseminating activities was used to:

1. disseminate the project results,
2. promote the CEFSER infrastructure and capabilities,
3. enhance the communication skills of the domestic researchers,
4. contribute to the visibility of the WBC region and the regional researchers,
5. raise awareness on the latest developments in the food safety sector, especially about the emerging risks,
6. raise consumer awareness on appropriateness of research funding and building a confidence in the research activities,
7. to build linkages with Member States' scientific community and promote CEFSER lab as an attractive partner for future FP projects,
8. spread the gained knowledge on the research management to the Serbian and WBC colleagues and encouraging them to participate in FP projects.

The first project event organised by the CEFSER team members was the CEFSER Symposium ?Communicating research to the public? held on November 30, 2009. In the preparation and the organisation of the Symposium all the CEFSER team members were actively involved. The concept of all oral presentations were prepared by Prof. Biljana ?Skrbic, the CEFSER coordinator and Nata?a Duri?ic-Mladenovic, the CEFSER communication coordinator, who both have certificates on the successful participation in the training courses on communicating sciences and risks held by the FP6 Network of Excellence CASCADE. There were 32 participants from different institutions from Novi Sad and Belgrade. The project coordinator gave an interview regarding the purpose of the Symposium and general project description.

Then, two CEFSER Workshops were organised:

1. The first CEFSER Workshop 'Regional perspectives in food safety', 14 to 15 September 2010, Faculty of Technology, Novi Sad
2. The second CEFSER Workshop 'Persistent organic pollutants in food and the environment', 8 to 10 September 2011, Faculty of Technology, Novi Sad.

Moreover, five open-access training course were realised within the CEFSER:

1. The first CEFSER Training Course - Capabilities of UPLC-MS/MS in Analysis of Contaminants and Pharmaceutical Compounds in Food and the Environment, Faculty of Technology, Novi Sad, 6 to 8 April 2010
2. The second CEFSER Training Course - Quality Assurance (QA) and Quality Control (QC) Procedures in Analysis of Contaminants and Pharmaceutical Compounds in Food and the Environment, Faculty of Technology, Novi Sad, 9 April 2010
3. The third CEFSER Training Course - High Resolution Mass Spectometry in Quantitative Analysis and Screening of Organic Contaminants in Food and Environment, Faculty of Technology, Novi Sad, 16 and 17 September 2010
4. The fourth CEFSER Training Course - Persistent Organic Pollutants in Food and Environment: Risk Assessment, Faculty of Technology, Novi Sad, 14 and 15 November 2011, Novi Sad
5. The fifth CEFSER Training Course - Analysis of Chemical Contaminants in Food and the Environment, Faculty of Technology, Novi Sad, 7 to 11 May 2012.

And finally, CEFSER was closed with CEFSER Closing Event and Final Training organised on the very end of the project lifetime on July 30, 2012. This event was also devoted to demonstration of the analytical expertise gained through project activities like the reinforcement of human and material resources.

All the events were announced on the project web site, web site of the University of Novi Sad, or some other web pages (e.g. web page of FP7 project WBC-INCO.NET and Food Cluster initiative). Representatives of local radio and TV stations were invited to these events, resulting in several press releases and TV/radio interviews.

Prestigious researchers from the EU Member States, including the CEFSER supporting institutions, as well as the researchers from the WBCs with outstanding publication records, contributed to all CEFSER events through invited lectures, recognising the importance of the CEFSER Lab in the region as well as for the ERA:

1. Prof. Dr. Jana Haj?lová, Department of Food Chemistry & Analysis at Institute of Chemical Technology, Prague, Czech Republic
2. Prof. Mira Petrovic, Institute of Environmental Assessment and Water Research, Barcelona, Spain
3. Dr Stefan van Leeuwen, Institute for Environmental Studies, Free University, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
4. Dr Jon E. Johansen, CHIRON AS, Trondheim, Norway
5. Prof. Dr Karl-Werner Schramm from Helmholtz Zentrum Munchen, German Research Centre for Environmental Health, Institute of Ecological Chemistry, Neuherberg, Germany
6. Prof. Dr Karoly Heberger, Chemical Research Centre, Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Budapest, Hungary
7. Prof. Dr Ivan Holoubek, RECETOX (Research Centre for Toxic Compounds in the Environment), Masaryk University, Brno, Czech Republic
8. Prof. Dr Carmen Cámara, Dr. Jon Sanz-Landaluze, Faculty of Chemistry, Complutense University of Madrid, Madrid, Spain
9. Dr Michal Godula, Food Safety Specialist, Thermo Fisher Scientific, Prague, Czech Republic
10. Dr Philippe Verlinde, Institute of Reference Materials and Measurements, Geel, Belgium
11. Dr Paula Alvito, Instituto Nacional de Saúde Dr. Ricardo Jorge, Lisbon, Portugal
12. Prof. Dr. Trajce Stafilov, Institute of Chemistry, Faculty of Science and Mathematics, Sts. Cyril and Methodius University, Republic of Macedonia,
13. Prof. Dr Csaba Vagvolgyi, Department of Microbiology, Faculty of Science and Informatics, University of Szeged, Szeged, Hungary.

During each of the project events, CEFSER objectives, outcomes and impacts were presented through oral presentations given by the project coordinator, while project posters and roll-up banner were displayed in order to clearly point out the project aims and the beneficiary, as well as FP7 programme and EC as the funding source.

In total there were about 175 participants/researchers of the CEFSER Workshops coming from WBCs and elsewhere. There were oral and poster Workshop sections. The first CEFSER Workshop also emphasised the regional perspectives in food sector of the WBCs region illustrated through the presentations of other FP7 projects running in the region. During the second Workshop, important contribution came also from the Serbian SMEs involved in the distribution of the analytical equipment; they presented the latest advances of world manufacturers of the analytical supplies and/or equipment, introducing the participants with the recent trends and strategies for advanced food quality/safety and environmental control.

The training courses were aimed at researchers, laboratory managers and all other practitioners in analytical laboratories from Western Balkan Countries (WBCs) who are involved in the analysis of chemical contaminants and pharmaceuticals in food and the environment. Training sessions were organised by the CEFSER team members together with the colleagues from the prestigious institutions from the EU Member States and Associated Countries, with whom they shared the knowledge. There were theoretical and practical sessions during each of the courses. Theoretical sessions comprised of the lectures of the outstanding researchers, either from the CEFSER supporting institutions or elsewhere. Practical sessions were prepared by the CEFSER team members alone or jointly with guest lecturers. In total there were about 225 participants of the trainings coming from Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Albania and Serbia.

The reports on the workshops and the trainings were published immediately after the event on the CEFSER web site.

The CEFSER web site with the link at the official site of the Faculty of Technology http://www.tf.uns.ac.rs/CEFSERweb/CEFSERindex.html has been launched during 2009 and it has been regularly updated with the latest information on the CEFSER activities, announcements of the project events, reports on the accomplished activities and the promotional materials, etc. The web site is set up within the FT official site in order to have a clear link between CEFSER and in this way to promote the Faculty itself. The English and Serbian pages are provided. The web site opens with the NEWS page, listing the latest news on the project activities. It contains the following pages:

1. Home, with the basic details on the project (name, acronym, FP7 call identifier, grant agreement number, project duration, coordinator)
2. Project, describing the main project objectives and the project plan
3. Project support, containing the information on four CEFSER supporting institutions (with links to their web pages) and the key personnel
4. Work packages, with the objectives and milestones listed for each WP, containing also the links to the respective CEFSER reports and other documents
5. Project beneficiary, with main information about the Faculty of Technology and project coordinator with links to the coordinator bibliographic and biographic data
6. Project impacts, describes the expected impact of the project
7. Food cluster, introducing the web visitors with the Food Cluster initiative (FCI) of European Commission, its concept and activities, with links to the FCI web site and the FCI Impact Assessment Report.
8. FS&ER: This is 'popular science' page containing the intro into the problems of food safety and emerging risks, which are also illustrated through the incorporated pdf presentations ('Food safety as a global challenge', 'Chemical contaminants in food') prepared and presented by the project coordinator during the CEFSER events
9. News, listing all the updates of the web sites, including the CEFSER event announcements, reports, etc.
10. ChemContDATABASE page that contains details on the researchers and institutions in WBCs relevant in domains of food quality and safety and environmental protection (with the institutional links), as well as the overview of the food and environmental contaminants characteristics, sources, analysis and relevant regulation. Database consists of details provided by the researchers (solely responsible for given information), responding to the CEFSER Questionnaire distributed previously by email and through the net of Western Balkan Countries (WBCs) FP7 National Contact Points.
11. Contact page with contact details of the project coordinator and the EC supervising officer
12. Links lists the links of the important regional and EU institutions/programme, like of the Faculty of Technology, University of Novi Sad, Ministry of Education and Science of the Republic of Serbia, FP7 programme and Food Cluster initiative of European Commission.

Different written promotional materials have been prepared and distributed either in the electronic or printed version:

1. General brochure on the CEFSER project
2. Brochure on the CEFSER capabilities entitled 'CEFSER - Unique and Modern WBC Centre for Joint Research on the Chemical Contaminants in Food and the Environment'
3. Newsletter no. one, 'After the first year: CEFSER in 2009', published in February 2010
4. Newsletter no. two 'CEFSER in 2010', published in August 2010,
5. Newsletter no. three 'After the second year: CEFSER in 2010', published in February 2011,
6. Newsletter no. four 'CEFSER research', published in August 2011 and
7. Monograph 'FP7 Centre of Excellence in Food Safety and Emerging Risks, Laboratory for Chemical Contaminants ? Laboratory for Mass Spectrometry', published in July 2012.

All the newsletters and the brochures were distributed during CEFSER events, as well as during meeting elsewhere attended by the CEFSER team members. The electronic versions of the newsletters and brochures are available at the CEFSER web site.

Bilingual (Serbian-English) CEFSER monograph (67 pages in color) entitled 'FP7 Centre of Excellence on Food Safety and Emerging Risks, Laboratory for Chemical Contaminants, Laboratory for Mass Spectrometry' summarises all the achieved during the CEFSER lifetime. It was published in July 2012, just prior the CEFSER Closing Event and Final Training, when it was distributed to the attendees. The electronic presentation of the monograph in a form of the slide show is incorporated in the CEFSER web site.

CEFSER USB flash memory sticks were prepared as promotional gifts distributed during the CEFSER events and other meetings attended by the CEFSER team members. It was designed in a way to clearly indicate the funding body and programme (EC and FP7 Programme), the beneficiary institution (Faculty of Technology Novi Sad), the project name and grant agreement number, as well as the project web site address. Before USB distribution during the CEFSER Closing Event and Final Training, the electronic version of the CEFSER promotional materials, like newsletters, project brochures and posters, etc. were saved on the USB sticks.

The results of investigations conducted in the CEFSER lab have been presented during regional meetings as well as during the well established and prestigious international scientific events, in the form of oral or poster presentations. All events attended by CEFSER team members presented valuable contact points with regional researchers in order to promote the wide range of our research interest and to attract interest of international stakeholders to the CEFSER. Important point for promotion and dissemination of the CEFSER activities was also membership in the Food Cluster initiative (FCI) of EC, being incorporated in FCI promotion, while FCI meetings, as well as WIRE (Week of Innovative Regions) Conferences of EC, opened possibilities to learn more about the clusters, new funding schemes, etc. and to transfer knowledge gained there to the regional audience at the CEFSER events. There are four articles in international peer-reviewed journals and 31 abstracts or papers in book of meetings; two manuscripts with the research results based solely on the CEFSER capacities have been submitted to the peer reviewed journals during 2012.

List of websites:

http://www.tf.uns.ac.rs/CEFSERweb/CEFSERindex.html

Project Coordinator: Prof. Dr Biljana Skrbic

Faculty of Technology Novi Sad

University of Novi Sad

Bulevar cara Lazara 1

21000 Novi Sad, Serbia

Telephone: +38-121-4853746, Fax: +38-121-450413

Email: biljana@tf.uns.ac.rs