CORDIS - EU research results

The Application of Modern Proteomic and Metabolomic Methodologies in the Assessment of High Added-Value Traditional Meat Products

Final Report Summary - HIGHVALFOOD (The Application of Modern Proteomic and Metabolomic Methodologies in the Assessment of High Added-Value Traditional Meat Products)

Food quality and safety are central to any society, having important economic, social and environmental implications. International comparisons have shown that the European Union is the world’s largest producer of food and drink products. It is not surprising therefore that the Agro-food sector has major importance/influence on the economy of Europe. The project is based on recent advances in mass spectrometry and data analysis to develop modern proteomic approaches suitable in the assessment of traditional foodstuffs.
To achieve this goal the following objectives were addressed: (i) Development of a label-free quantitative proteomic method and metabolomic approaches to identify and quantify novel biologically active peptides with the objective to increase the health value of traditional meat products and (ii) study of the peptides generated at different time intervals during the processing of traditional Spanish dry-cured ham to correlate with the time of processing and use as safety and quality markers of the final product.
The optimised approach has allowed the identification of antihypertensive, antioxidant and antimicrobial peptides naturally generated from the intense hydrolysis occurred during dry-curing of ham giving an extra value to this traditional product. The natural origin of the identified sequences may also represent a highly valuable alternative in human health or in future functional food uses. On the other hand, the developed label-free quantitative methodology has been used to prove the dependence of the proteolysis phenomena on both the enzymatic activity of endogenous enzymes which varies with process conditions and the genetics of the raw material which is directly related with the final quality of the product. A similar approach has also been used to differentiate between processing times, especially in the last stages of ripening, with the aim to identify potential markers to control the time of curing.
During the last decade ‘omics’ technologies have been successfully applied to the study of quality control in food production processes. Food safety and quality concepts represent funding values in the international community, which continuously strives for the valorisation of local products in each country, although the individuation of shared strict standards for production processes in the alimentary pipeline still remains mandatory.
The approaches developed will impact directly on the assessment of traditional foodstuffs advancing the present state of the art in the field. The project and its main outcomes are summarized in the following website: This website is active and updated periodically.
The socioeconomic impact is very relevant. Hypertension or elevated blood pressure (BP) is a global health concern, thought to affect up to 30 % of the adult population in developed and developing countries. Hypertension is a major risk factor concomitant with cardiovascular disease (CVD) states such as coronary heart disease, peripheral artery disease and stroke, and kidney disease. Hypertension represents a major burden on annual global healthcare costs. Across the European Union, the estimated cost of cardiovascular disease is in the neighbourhood of 169 billion Euros annually, with healthcare accounting for 62% of this amount. It is thought that prevention through lifestyle choices and early treatment for individuals with mild hypertension can significantly reduce global health-care costs as hypertension is defined as a controllable risk factor of CVD. At present there is a range of synthetic drugs on the market for treatment of hypertension including captopril and analpril but they are believed to have certain side effects such as cough, taste disturbances and skin rashes. Therefore, search for non-toxic ACE inhibitors or renin inhibitors as alternatives to synthetic drugs is of great interest among researchers and many natural ACE inhibitors have been isolated from functional food and natural bio-resources.
One of the most relevant challenges of the traditional meat products industry, or dry-cured ham in particular, consists of the high content in sodium chloride (5-6%) that makes many of those products non recommended for consumers having cardiovascular troubles, especially hypertension. The possibility to find peptides exerting antihypertensive, renin-inhibitory, opioid, or antioxidant activities would contribute to a hope for a better possibility of consumption by mild hypertensive consumers after more studies that would verify its possible salt-neutralising effect.
A standardised methodology to control the time of curing and so the final quality of traditional food products such as dry-cured ham is necessary to assure that fraudulent or accidental mislabelling does not arise. Previous studies have focused their attention on the identification of suitable biomarkers to be adopted as indicators of meat quality and, in particular, of meat tenderness. The newly introduced technical improvements in instrumentation have allowed the detection of differences in the naturally generated peptides among types of dry-cured ham Iberian (24 months of processing) and traditional Spanish dry-cured ham (14 months of curing).A better control of the processing chain of these traditional products would guarantee its safety and quality making them more appropriate for export trade as industries would be betting for the consumer protection.