Horizon2020 NanoPack project to improve food safety and reduce food waste

News | 17 January 2017

The European Union (EU) has awarded the international NanoPack consortium €7.7 million to develop and demonstrate a solution for extending food shelf life by using novel antimicrobial surfaces.

The three-year project is aimed at demonstrating, validating and testing food-packaging products with antimicrobial surfaces based upon natural materials. NanoPack will address scientific, technological, economic, safety and regulatory challenges to ensure that consumers eventually will be able to benefit from this novel packaging.

NanoPack, which is led by the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, is funded as part of HORIZON 2020, the EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation.

“NanoPack will demonstrate a solution for extending food shelf life by using novel smart antimicrobial surfaces, applied in active food packaging products,” said Dr. Ester Segal, NanoPack’s coordinator and associate professor at the Technion. “NanoPack will enhance food safety for consumers by significant growth inhibition of food-borne microbes, which in turn will prevent food-borne illness outbreaks and early spoilage.”

She added that NanoPack would help reduce the staggering 1.3 billion tonnes of food wasted each year, which cause major economic loss and significant harm to the world’s natural resources.

“We intend to present better performing, safer and smarter products that will position Europe as the leader in food nanotechnology and smart antimicrobial packaging while increasing competitiveness and growth,” Dr. Segal added.

The active polymer films developed by NanoPack exhibit broad-spectrum antimicrobial properties unmet by existing state-of-the-art materials, which include currently used nanomaterials such as silver particles, which have raised health concerns of toxicity and microbial resistance.

Applying the power of nanotechnology, the project will employ polymer composites based on natural Halloysite Nanotubes (HNTs) as reliable and safe carriers, capable of tailored release of bioactive payloads. Due to their size, HNTs are unable to migrate from the food packaging into food. Maximizing safety, NHTs slowly release minute amounts of potent, volatile and broad-spectrum, natural and EU-approved essential oils into the packaging headspace.

The NanoPack food packaging will release bioactive compounds which are natural potent essential oils that exhibit both antimicrobial and anti-fungal properties.

NanoPack is comprised of 18 partner organizations – leading industrial and research institutes – from Belgium, Austria, Norway, Spain, Israel, Ireland, Denmark, Portugal, France, Germany and the Netherlands.

NanoPack will hold its opening conference at the facilities of Bio Base Europe (BBEU) in Ghent, Belgium on January 23–25, 2017.

The NanoPack consortium consists of the following partners: Technion – Israel Institute of Technology (Israel), Bio Base Europe Pilot Plant (Belgium), Carmel Olefins Ltd (Israel), Constantia Flexibles International (Austria), Tommen Gram (Norway), AIDISA (Spain), Dawn Meats (Ireland), Arla Foods (Denmark), Pão de Gimonde (Portugal), Vertech Group (France), Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft (Germany), DHI (Denmark), National Research Centre for the Working Environment (Denmark), Active & Intelligent Packaging Association (Netherlands), European Food Information Council (Belgium), European Federation of Food Science and Technology (Netherlands), Aarhus University MAPP Center (Denmark), Agora Partners (Israel).

Contact Person

Simon van Dam
E: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
T: +972-2-678 6120

This project has received funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 720815.

Food processing technologies recommended to reduce the levels of mycotoxin contamination in food

News | 07 November 2016

Food processing steps that reduce mycotoxin levels should be integrated wherever possible in food production recommends a paper commissioned by ILSI Europe’s Process-Related Compounds and Natural Toxins Task Force. Mycotoxins, naturally-occurring toxins produced by certain fungi or moulds can be present in a wide range of food commodities (e.g. dairy, corn, cereals, dried fruits, nuts, coffee and spices). Reducing mycotoxin levels in food products would significantly lower the potential health risks to consumers and can also help to reduce significant economic losses for industry. Nowadays, food processing technologies are required to both mitigate mycotoxin contamination while also maintaining the nutritional composition and quality of food.

Food processing techniques that can reduce levels of mycotoxin contamination include physical, chemical, enzymatic and microbial methods. Physical processing methods (such as sieve-cleaning, flotation density sorting, heating and washing) are well established and efficient. Manual and automatic sorting, milling, steeping and extrusion can also significantly lower mycotoxin content in food. Heat treatment at specific time/temperature combinations is one of the most important physical treatments, by which to reduce the mycotoxin content in a finished product.

Chemical methods can be used to transform mycotoxins into less or non-toxic compounds (also known as detoxification). Physical and chemical processes can be combined to increase the efficiency of mycotoxin removal.

Detoxification of mycotoxins can also be achieved enzymatically or microbiologically, since certain enzymes and microorganisms can transform mycotoxins into less or non-toxic compounds. However, these approaches need further development before they can be used on a widespread scale.

Pre-harvest prevention measures following the principles of good agricultural practices (e.g. growing resistant crop, varieties, soil tillage, crop rotation, plant diseases management, insect control, etc.) as well as post-harvest measures (such as adequate storage and transportation) still play a key role in mitigating mycotoxin contamination. Yet, effective as they are, at present these measures cannot guarantee complete mycotoxin absence. Therefore, food processing techniques like the ones described above are an essential element of a comprehensive strategy to reduce mycotoxin levels in food products.

Currently, mostly physical treatments are used in food production in the EU. A few chemical and biotechnological techniques are approved for use in animal feed production. Novel technologies (such as e.g. cold plasma treatment, possibly in combination with novel detoxification agents) show promise as tools to reduce mycotoxin contamination but need further research and development before they can be approved for use by European regulators.

The authors recommend that research into developing detoxification techniques suitable for the highest-risk products should be a priority. Prioritization should be based on criteria such as consumption of the contaminated commodity (staple foods that are consumed in the highest quantities and commodities consumed by sensitive population groups like young children), occurrence of mycotoxin at high levels in such commodities and level of toxicity of specific mycotoxin contaminants. Different geographical regions require different prioritizations.

They also note that further research is needed to better understand mechanisms of mycotoxin degradation and to identify resulting mycotoxin transformation products and their biological activity.

For further information: 
Karlovsky P, Suman M, Berthiller F et al. (2016) Impact of food processing and detoxification treatments on mycotoxin contamination. Mycotoxin Res 32:179.