The food industry is a major water consuming sector, namely the vegetable processing, dairy, meat and the seafood sectors. About 70% of the water consumption in these sectors is for cleaning and decontamination processes. The strategic importance of environmental technologies and the necessity of preventing water pollution and promoting sustainable water use has been highlighted in many regulatory frameworks of the EC. There is a need to introduce novel disinfection processes not only water treatment but also for the protection of surfaces such as membranes and packaging materials, which are able to provide reliable microbial control while avoiding harmful disinfection byproducts (DBP) formed by conventional disinfection techniques. On the other hand, some pathogens are refractory to conventional chemical disinfectants at practical dosages. Research is needed including nanotechnology solutions in water treatment schemes, in particular in connection with membrane operations, so they can replace conventional disinfection methods.
Also polymer nanomaterials for food packaging (PNFP) applications constitute a strategic field because of potential innovative applications. One important function of food packaging is to prevent food deterioration, extending shelf-life, and to maintain and increase the quality and safety of the packaged foods. Polymer packaging provides many properties including strength and stiffness, barrier to oxygen and moisture, resistance to food component attack and flexibility. Novel and efficient PNFP can provide innovative solutions to increase the performance of the polymers further adding safety, economical and environmental advantages.
The CEREAL project is one of the nine projects funded, in the 1st Joint Call for Proposals of the FP7-ERA-Net SUSFOOD. It proposes solution for the reduction of inputs in the process chain of fresh-cut fruits and vegetables while achieving high standards for chemical and microbiological safety. The project redefines key concepts concerning resource efficiency by reducing the use of water and energy and the amount of wastes generated during the whole food chain.
Para más detalles y el estado actual del proyecto, por favor visite el sitio web Cereal Project: www.cereal-era.net
The ultimate goal is to enlarge the market size for fresh fruit and vegetables thanks to the increase of the capacity of the EU industry to provide safer and more durable produces by means of improvements in produce washing and packaging technologies. These objectives are to be achieved by the combination of the following nanotechnology-driven innovative solutions for fresh-cut products:
1.- Washing & disinfection:
- Introduction of new membranes with biocidal functionality to allow operating in closed loop and the reduction or elimination of chemical disinfectants.
- Development of a hybrid technology in which the use of ozone combined with ultrafiltration using ceramic membranes with (eventually) active surface.
2.- Shelf-life improvement:
- Production of new active packaging components for fresh produces, which are expected to increase shelf life and to reduce wastes.
Technological innovation proposed in CEREAL project is to reduce energy and water use in the whole production chain from raw material to consumption. Sustainability is not only addressed by ensuring a lower impact in terms of water and energy consumption, but particularly in terms of chemical safety. One relevant criticism that can be formulated against the implementation of new treatment processes in the food sector is the lack of knowledge not only on the elimination of potential harmful contaminants but also the potential generation of toxic by-products. Development of innovative and efficient systems in CEREAL gives additional value to fresh-cut products which critically depend on packaging technology, within a context of eco-efficiency production, as the amount of raw polymers as well as wastage will be reduced and residues from food processing will be exploited to produce by-products (nanocellulose).
- New treatment processes
- food safety
- Packaging technology
- Post-harvest chain
- Fresh-cut fruits/vegetables
- Agricultural industry sustainability