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NOvel Vegetal-based Extracts Additives for CHEMical-Free FOOD

Final Report Summary - NOCHEMFOOD (NOvel Vegetal-based Extracts Additives for CHEMical-Free FOOD)

Additives have long been used with major foodstuffs; early seamen in particular used salt and vinegar to preserve meats and add flavour to their food. However, the nature and scale of modern food production means manufacturers rely on both natural and artificial additives to a far greater degree than ever before, and their prevalence in the average diet has real health implications. Indeed, some chemical substances are even linked to a heightened risk of cancer, leading to a concerted research focus on developing a novel class of additives, as illustrated by the NOCHEMFOOD project.

The NOCHEMFOOD project endeavoured to develop a novel class of food additives based on plant sources. These new vegetal-based extracts were tested with a view to replacing currently used classes of chemicals. Keeping in mind the economic importance of the food additive industry, attempts were made to fully exploit the market potential of the innovative technologies that emerged from NOCHEMFOOD.

NOCHEMFOOD employed a host of biotechnological, genomic and biochemical techniques to extract and process vegetal-based substances and study their applicability in the food industry. One of the project's goals was to develop and scale-up appropriate extraction methods, which are not only friendly to the environment but also capable of meeting industrial demands. Characterising and potentially optimising the extracted substances is an important part of the project's overall strategy. These efforts include a variety of tests aimed at examining the effect of these substances, not only on food preservation but also on taste and overall quality.

Following EC decisions to reduce authorised levels of nitrates and nitrites in meat products, NOCHEMFOOD offers alternative additives that result in food products with improved quality and safety. These vegetal-based bioorganic additives could eventually replace chemicals such as nitrites and nitrates throughout the food industry. The first industry to be included in this initiative is meat processing. Sausages rank high among European consumers' preferences and as such offer a viable market diffusion tool for any new class of food additives developed within the NOCHEMFOOD consortium. The sausage / pork meat market is particularly sensitive to pathogens; therefore the economic benefits of NOCHEMFOOD could be significant indeed.

NOCHEMFOOD worked with two SMEs from the sausage industry as potential end user partners, Salumificio F. Ili Spiezia from Italy and Embutidos Dany from Spain. The Italian company, a family-run business founded in 1907, took a welcoming approach to the use of this novel technology.

While NOCHEMFOOD's focus was on fermented sausages, the study has a much broader relevance across a number of other food groups. This wide array of applications opens up even more opportunity for companies to expand their production, size and product range.

The NOCHEMFOOD project was a success for its results but also for its collaboration. The partnership, which was formed solely through networking events and prior contacts, worked very well. The project paved the way for further commercialisation of these search results.

Evidence of the successful collaboration is clear from the patent, which will be in everyone's name and shared across all partners to recognise everyone's efforts in this rewarding project.