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Food Quality and Safety in Europe



Scientific studies have shown that dietary intake of flavonoids and related phenolics can reduce incidence of cardiovascular disease (Europe's leading cause of death), certain types of cancer, stroke, allergies, hepatic disease and inflammation. However, no one knows exactly which phenolics promote health (some have harmful effects), or what quantities are bio-available from dietary sources. The Specific Targeted Research Project FLORA brings together 11 participants from six countries, including Turkey, to improve scientific understanding of how flavonoids and related phenolics affect human health having been absorbed from the intestines. As part of the European Union's broad-based food safety initiatives, the four-year project, which complements the work of another STREP - FLAVO - will examine the beneficial health effects of these bioactive nutrients and provide European recommendations for daily intake.


Flavonoids and related phenolics are historically part of the basic human diet. The loss of such protective bio active nutrients due to reduced fruit and vegetable intake may have contributed to the current high incidence of age-related diseases. Lack of understanding of these differences in bio-availability of these nutrients and their levels in different foods has stymied progress in determining their health effects. In addition, much of the research in this area is sponsored by food companies looking to promote their products, so it sometimes lacks critical evaluation. FLORA has assembled an interdisciplinary team of nutritionists, medical researchers and plant geneticists to analyse systematically the health-promoting effects of plant flavonoids and related phenolics.


Major advances in genetics, molecular science and genomic projects in the last ten years have made it possible to produce plants that are isogenic except for variations in the quantity and type of phenolics they accumulate. Taking advantage of this new technology, FLORA will develop three foods - corn, tomato and Arabidopsis - for use in controlled studies to assess the impact of dietary flavonoids and related bioactive nutrients in mice that model specific human diseases. It will use oranges with varying flavonoid contents for parallel human intervention trials, to determine the ability of these bio active nutrients to protect against cardiovascular disease and stroke. A key goal is to identify the mechanisms by which bioactive nutrients protect against disease, at the cellular level. FLORA will also evaluate the impact of post-harvest treatment and food processing on bio-availability of flavonoids and related phenolics.

The project will make a significant contribution to improving the health of European consumers. It will promote consumption of foods with beneficial health effects, emphasising traditional production methods and agriculture. It will provide a directory of foods that are dependable sources of flavonoids. FLORA will disseminate results through scientific publications, posters, conferences, and a dedicated website. It will establish contacts with food producers and the food industry through the Plant Industrial Platform (PIP), which includes many members with strong interests in bio active nutrients. Since several members of FLORA are active in teaching, throughout the project their students will be exposed to cutting-edge research of applied relevance. This, in turn, will contribute to making Europe a knowledge-based society.

List of Partners

  • John Innes Centre (UK)
  • University of Milan (Italy)
  • Institute of Plant Genetics and Crop Plant Research (Germany)
  • UniversitÓ Cattolica del Sacro Cuore (Italy)
  • Plant Research International (The Netherlands)
  • UniversitÚ Joseph Fourier (France)
  • Istanbul Technical University (Turkey)
  • Congenia (Italy)
  • Ortogel (Italy)
  • Biopolo c/o IFOM (Italy)
  • Istituto Sperimentale per l'Agrumicoltura (Italy)
Full title:
Flavonoids and related phenolics for healthy living using orally recommended antioxidants
Contract n░:
Project co-ordinator:
Cathie Martin, John Innes Centre,
EC Scientific Officer:
Isabelle de Froidmont-G÷rtz,
EU contribution:
€ 3.3M
Specific Targeted Research Project

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Last update: 06 December 2007 | Top