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Food Quality and Safety in Europe



The EU faces growing challenges linked to its ageing population, including an increasing prevalence of cardiovascular diseases (CVD) and cancer. Consequently, the Union wants to exploit the preventative potential of food, which, in turn, could help improve social well-being and cut health costs. One way to do this is to improve the flavonoid content of fruits, vegetables and derived foods. Flavonoids are a group of natural, plant-derived compounds with antioxidant properties.
Many studies point to the potential flavonoids have to prevent chronic diseases, as well as inflammatory, arthritic, and allergic and immune responses. However, there are many gaps in our scientific knowledge. FLAVO brings together 18 research teams (public and private) from nine European countries, which will work to improve knowledge about flavonoids. In particular, it will develop advanced methods of improving the flavonoid content and composition of various foodstuffs.


Data from in vitro studies indicate that flavonoids are potentially biologically active, impeding oxidative damage to biomolecules, such as DNA, lipids and proteins by scavenging various oxidising species. Many flavonoids outperform vitamins C and E in antioxidant assays. They can inhibit enzyme activities, or viral, and bacterial proliferation. Numerous flavonoids reduce proliferation or induce apoptosis in a variety of cell lines in vitro, some of which originate from the gastrointestinal lining.

However, available nutritional data only provide correlations between health benefits and different classes of dietary flavonoids. The validity of epidemiological studies is still limited by the paucity of available data on the composition of flavonoids in food. Furthermore, little information is available on their targets and mechanisms, and there have been no studies involving human-grade food rich in specific flavonoids.

The project will focus on flavan-3-ols and proanthocyanidins (PAs or condensed tannins), as there is clinical evidence that they maintain cardiovascular function and decrease CVD risk. Previous trials have used PA-rich extracts including pine bark, grape seed, cocoa and fruit juices, such as cranberry, blueberry and purple grape. Since these are sold in low volumes in Europe, FLAVO will use European plant-based foods like grape, apple and strawberry juices, as well as wine and cider. In addition, a model plant (Arabidopsis thaliana) will be used to better understand the flavonoid metabolism in plants. FLAVO will develop approaches for selecting and processing plant raw materials to optimise flavonoid composition and quality. FLAVO will conduct surveys in three countries in northern, central and southern Europe to ascertain whether accumulating flavonoids in fruit and vegetable products will increase their acceptability and perceived healthiness, how different production and processing methods can influence willingness to use these products, and what kind of products are most appropriate for enhanced flavonoid content.


FLAVO will produce regularly updated websites to disseminate public information about project results, as well as flavonoids and health. The project will help increase the competitiveness of the European agri-food sector by identifying foods with healthpromoting activity. SMEs will find new opportunities to market healthy natural products based on European agriculture.

List of Partners

  • Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique (France)
  • Laboratoire de Biologie des Semences, Versailles
  • Unité mixte de Recherches Sciences Pour L'Oenologie, Montpellier
  • Unité de Recherche Cidricole, Rennes
  • Métaboliques et Micronutriments, Clermont-Ferrand
  • Plant Research International BV, Wageningen (The Netherlands)
  • Stichting Dienst Landbouwkundig Onderzoek, RIKILT
  • Food Bioactives Group, Wageningen (The Netherlands)
  • Università di Firenze, Dipartimento di Farmacologia (Italy)
  • Wageningen Universiteit META, Centrum voor Methodische Ethiek & Technology Assessment (The Netherlands)
  • Nestec S.A. - Lausanne (Switzerland)
  • Institute of Food Research - Nutrition Division, Norwich (UK)
  • VTT Technical Research Centre, Espoo (Finland)
  • Consumer and Sensory Studies
  • Plant Biotechnology
  • Philipps Universität Marburg, Institut für Pharmazeutische Biologie (Germany)
  • Akademia Rolnicza Wroclaw - Fruit, Vegetable and Cereal Technology Department (Poland)
  • Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas
  • CEBAS Espinardo (Spain)
  • INTER-RHONE/Avignon (France)
  • Universität Bielefeld
  • Lehrstuhl für Genomforschung (Germany)
  • Ente per le Nuove Tecnologie, l'Energia e l'Ambiente, Trisaia (Italy)
Full title:
Flavonoids in fruits and vegetables: their impact on food quality, nutrition and human health
Contract n°:
Consumer information website:
Project e-mail:
Project co-ordinator:
Loic Lepiniec, Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique,
EC Scientific Officer:
Valérie Rolland,
EU contribution:
€ 4M
Specific Targeted Research Project

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Last update: 06 December 2007 | Top