SHEALTHY: Non-thermal physical technologies to preServe HEALTHiness of fresh and minimallY processed fruit and vegetables
SHEALTHY project (2019-2023) aims to assess and develop an optimal combination of non-thermal sanitization, preservation and stabilization methods to improve the safety, while preserving the nutritional quality and prolonging the shelf-life of minimally processed fruit & vegetable products.
Fruit and vegetables (F&V) are key elements of a healthy and balanced diet providing humans with essential nutrients and bioactive compounds. The increased consumers’ attention to “healthy” food attributes and overall sustainability of production and processing methods has contributed to a growing demand for regional and locally produced/supplied and less processed food.
However, although minimal processing (MP) methods, such as washing, cutting and modified atmosphere packaging (MAP), have been demonstrated to preserve the freshness of the products, the shelf life of fruits and vegetables is still limited. Moreover, current available chemical sanitisers, besides being perceived negatively by consumers, are not considered as a solution since they are not efficient for microbial reduction and are harmful to human health and the environment.
The relatively high costs to procure minimal processing technologies require high innovation and investment capacity. While large food companies can afford significant capital and operational expenditure, traditional micro and small and medium enterprises (SMEs) cannot.
As a conclusion, the need for more effective and sustainable post-harvesting and processing techniques to improve safety and retain nutritional and sensory properties of fruits and vegetables with prolonged shelf life is urgent, and the SMEs require these technologies to improve their competitiveness.
Summary and objectives
SHEALTHY project aims to assess and develop an optimal combination of non-thermal sanitization, preservation and stabilization methods to improve the safety (inactivation of pathogens and spoilage microorganisms), while preserving the nutritional quality (up to 30%) and prolonging the shelf-life (up to 50%) of minimally processed F&V products.
By combining and modulating non-thermal technologies with minimally processing operation, we will respond to consumers’ demand for fresh, healthy, convenient, sustainable and locally produced and additive-free food. The combined and optimised mild technologies will be demonstrated and validated in 2 business cases: minimally processed fruits and vegetables and fruit and vegetable-based juices & smoothies.
The project will significantly advance the knowledge towards minimal processing technologies, demonstrating in an industry-relevant environment (11 pilot trials) combining 10 different mild technologies:
1) Ultrasounds (US)
2) Electrolysed water (EW)
3) Plasma activated water (PAW)
4) Light technologies (High Intensity Pulsed Light (HIPL) and Blue Light (BL)
5) Bioactive Coating (AC)
6) Active Packaging (AP)
7) Intelligent Packaging (IP)
8) High Pressure Processing (HPP)
9) Pulsed Electric Fields (PEF) and
10) Membrane Filtration (MF).
Sustainable and flexible processing methods will be transferred and adapted to the need of local F&V micro and SMEs, interconnecting primary producers through novel cooperative business models and new logistics systems, to enhance the traceability and authenticity of raw materials along the F&V value chain.
Commercial feasibility will be assessed, including consumer acceptance and regulatory, safety and environmental aspects. SHEALTHY will combine the technology trends and consumer needs to afford the business models, technology transfer and market orientation that will facilitate the transition towards a new collaborative agrifood ecosystem for traditional, local and rural SMEs around EU.
21 partners from 7 European countries
1. ENCO SRL (Italy)
2. UNIVERSITA DEGLI STUDI DI NAPOLI FEDERICO II (Italy)
3. WAGENINGEN UNIVERSITY (Netherlands)
4. LEIBNIZ-INSTITUT FUER AGRARTECHNIK UND BIOOEKONOMIE EV (Denmark)
5. THE UNIVERSITY COURT OF THE UNIVERSITY OF ABERTAY DUNDEE (United Kingdom)
6. UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHERN DENMARK (Denmark)
7. UNIVERSIDAD DE GRANADA (Spain)
8. IRIS TECHNOLOGY SOLUTIONS, SOCIEDAD LIMITADA (Spain)
9. ASOCIACION PARA LA INVESTIGACION DESARROLLO E INNOVACION DEL SECTOR AGROALIMENTARIO – AIDISA (Spain)
10. ASOCIACION CLUSTER FOOD+I (Spain)
11. INSTITUTO TECNOLÓGICO DEL EMBALAJE, TRANSPORTE Y LOGISTICA, ITENE (Spain)
12. CENTRO DI RICERCHE EUROPEO DI TECNOLOGIE DESIGN E MATERIALI (Italy)
13. BIO BASE EUROPE PILOT PLANT VZW (Belgium)
14. DO.DA.CO. S.r.l. (Italy)
15. AZIENDA AGRICOLA BRUNO SODANO (Italy)
16. COMMERCIALE EXPORT SRL (Italy)
17. BIOSENSE INSTITUTE – RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT INSTITUTE FOR INFORMATION TECHNOLOGIES IN BIOSYSTEMS (Serbia)
18. COLDPRESS OK (Serbia)
19. GOOD FOOD CONCEPTS B.V. (Netherlands)
20. ASSOCIAZIONE ITALIANA DIFESA CONSUMATORI ED AMBIENTE (Italy)
21. UNIVERSITY OF COPENHAGEN (Denmark)
ITENE will be involved in several tasks in Shealthy project. In WP (workpackage) 1, ITENE will lead subtask 1.1.3. aiming at the optimization of active packaging materials able to extend the quality and safety of fruits and vegetables for longer shelf-life. In WP3, ITENE will lead task 3.2. aiming at setting up new value chains, logistics chains and traceability systems. In addition, ITENE will lead subtask 3.3.2. aiming at the development of freshness indicator labels for fresh cut fruits that will monitor quality along shelf-life.
In WP4, ITENE will lead the pilot scale trials in task 4.2. regarding traceability and logistics in Spain, Italy, Serbia and The Netherlands. In WP5, ITENE will lead task 5.3. aiming at the evaluation of the impact of prototypes on food safety and public health. Finally, ITENE will be WP leader in WP6 aiming at assessing the environmental, economic and social sustainability of the developed processes and products. ITENE will also contribute in terms of dissemination, exploitation knowledge transfer and training activities in WP7.
The project has developed new non-thermal physical technologies for the sanitisation and preservation of fruit and vegetable products, both fresh and minimally processed, such as juices and smoothies. In addition, work has been carried out on the development of new sensor technologies to assess the freshness and authenticity of these products, as well as to monitor the conditions to which fruit and vegetable products are exposed during harvesting, processing, storage and distribution. Work has also been carried out in other areas, such as the incorporation of improvements in the logistics chains of companies in the sector, located in different geographical areas of Europe.
Additionally, the suitability for food contact of the prototypes developed in the project has been evaluated, as well as the environmental, economic and social impact of the technologies developed within the framework of the project, comparing the situation of the collaborating companies in pre- and post-pilot conditions. To this end, 11 technologies have been tested in pilot cases and have achieved an extension of the shelf life of the products by 30-50%. Furthermore, the nutritional quality has been maintained and the sustainability of the developed technologies has been ensured.
In the project, ITENE participated in the tasks related to the development of preservation methods, specifically in the development of active films from by-products and co-products extracted by other partners from fruit and vegetable product waste.
Secondly, it focused on the development of devices for monitoring environmental conditions during storage, transport and distribution of the products, as well as on the optimization of the logistics chains involved in the distribution of the products.
Thirdly, ITENE developed freshness indicators for fruit and vegetable products. Finally, ITENE worked on the evaluation of the safety of the materials developed from the point of view of food contact and the social and environmental impact of the technologies developed in the project.