The project Bio-protective cultures and bioactive extracts as sustainable combined strategies to improve the shelf-life of perishable Mediterranean food (BioProMedFood) uses multidisciplinary approach to contribute the food sector in the sustainability and safety challenges that lay ahead. The global projections predict an increase of food demand by 35% in the next decade, thus food safety and quality, prolongation of shelf life and reduction of waste of fresh and lightly processed foods are becoming a global strategy to guarantee sustainability of agro-food systems. BioProMedFood aims to enhance mentioned aspects by using natural compounds with antioxidant and antimicrobial potential and bio-protective or functional Lactic Acid Bacteria (LAB) strains. The first approach involves the extraction, purification and use of bioactive compounds from low-cost sources, characterized by a great biodiversity potential such as agro-food by-products or seaweeds. Using green extraction technologies, bioactives will be tested for antimicrobial and antioxidation properties combined both with consolidated strategies (MAP) and novel approaches, with their addition to active food packaging. The second approach aims to valorise the biodiversity and genetic bacterial heritage represented by traditional meat products, isolating and selecting autochthonous LAB strains. With regard to their technological properties, these microbial resources will be tested as bio-protective cultures/starters providing an important tool to reduce the safety risks. Besides, the two sustainable strategies are of fundamental importance in attempts to reduce and valorise the waste from the agri-food sector and food supply chain. The food safety is crucial to pursue production efficiency, promoting economic development and maintaining constant the prices even of high quality healthy food, especially in small-scale production. Since the foodborne diseases challenge the national health care systems and economies, BioProMedFood will contribute by generating the knowledge on new potential antimicrobials/antioxidants and provide new biotechnological tools to meet consumer demand for safe functional foods.
The goal of BioProMedFood project is improvement of sustainability, safety and quality of perishable Mediterranean foods through two innovative approaches evaluated individually and in combination. The use of antioxidant and antimicrobial compounds from agri-food by-products and other sustainable sources, and screening and application of bio-protective LAB strains are the two strategies that will be used to improve the competitiveness and the quality of Mediterranean products with the aim of: i) increasing the economic value of the food system through the valorisation of processing by-products, ii) valorising low cost and sustainably raw materials (such as macro algae) as source of bioactive compounds, iii) valorising the Mediterranean microbial genetic biodiversity. Besides, the goal is to prolong the shelf life of fresh and minimally processed foods as crucial aspect of sustainability of the Mediterranean food chain and assurance of high food safety level and sustainable diet habits. The BioProMedFood aims to contribute to reduction of food losses and waste generation. Moreover, our goal is to demonstrate the efficacy of natural antimicrobials and bacterial strains from the Mediterranean biodiversity (bio-preservation) to guarantee food stability and reduce incidence of foodborne pathogens. In this context, the project will assure most stringent safety parameters, permitting to reduce the incidence of possible outbreaks of pathogens associated to fruit, vegetables, meat, and seafood consumption. The built-up of a bio-protective and/or starter bacteria collection will safeguard the recognizability and differentiation of traditional products, promoting local food producers and distributors’ competitiveness, providing social benefits such as environmentally more sustainable production, re-linkages between rural and urban areas, and local economic and new employment improvement. The production of new foods with active ingredients and known health benefits (antioxidant, antimicrobial) will strengthen a positive perception of Mediterranean food as a healthy choice for overall wellbeing.
The objectives of the BioProMedFood project are: 1. Improvement and strengthening of the research capabilities and assurance that state of the innovative concepts and state of the art knowledge is transferred into real-sector food practices; 2. Screening for sustainable source of compounds with strong bioactive potential among brown macro algae and agro-food by-products (berry by-products, olive pomace and leaves, grape pomace), developing efficient green extraction protocol for the recovery of bioactives, and determining their in vitro antimicrobial and antioxidant potential. 3. Development of active packaging films with incorporated bioactive compounds aimed to inhibit microbial and chemical spoilage of food, thus enhancing product safety and quality during storage, commercialization and household handle of the products. 4. Exploitation of the genetic microbial biodiversity of artisanal and traditional products of Med area through isolation of autochthonous LAB strains from spontaneously fermented foods and screening for their potential as bio-protective (inhibiting activity against food borne pathogens and spoilage microorganisms) and starter cultures. Characterization of the technological properties of the strains. Use of selected bio-protective strains for the shelf life prolongation and safety enhancement of different food models by limiting spoilage or pathogen microbiota growth and activities, in addition to maintain the sensorial and organoleptic characteristics to allow the recognisability of traditional productions. 5. Evaluation of the possible synergic effects between the bio-protective strain and the bioactive molecules and the combined effects of active packaging and bio-protective cultures against food borne pathogens and aminobiogenic strains in in vitro systems. 6. Pilot scale trials for testing the new concepts at relevant environment (TRL5).
Project impact other than academic: - Including the students and young researchers into the work and using the media we will help educate the consumers and (future) food producers on alternative and innovative concepts in food safety and production. - Adding value to foods by reducing synthetic additives and adding natural compounds that have a functional value beyond nutritive one. - Finding new foods with active ingredients and known health benefits (antioxidant, antimicrobial) to promote the Mediterranean foods as a healthy choice for improvement quality of life. - Contributing the knowledge of food waste reduction thus reducing the environment impact of the food waste and adding more value to the reuse of by-products to obtaining high-value compounds. - Opening the idea for new markets and local supply chains for the extraction, purification and formulation of new natural antimicrobials and antioxidants, while reducing the environment influencing wastes or employing new raw material that, currently, have no market or commercial value.
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