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Food Quality and Safety in Europe



European consumers love ready-to-eat meals that are quick and easy to prepare and suit modern lifestyles. However, busy consumers are not prepared to eat just anything, and demand foods that are fresh, safe and healthy.

The overall objective of HEALTHY STRUCTURING is to answer public demands by improving the nutritional and structural quality of ready-to-eat fruit and vegetable products. Epidemiological studies have shown that fruit and vegetables are protective against a variety of diseases, particularly cancer and cardiovascular disease; however, most people do not eat enough fruit and vegetables to significantly reduce the health risks for these diseases. HEALTHY STRUCTURING aims to use new and innovative technologies and optimal mixtures of raw materials to ensure that ready-to-eat meals contribute to good health.

The end of over processing

HEALTHY STRUCTURING focuses on preserving the qualities of fruit and vegetables throughout the whole process of production of ready-to-eat meals. The project will use real food products containing tomatoes, carrots and broccoli as the focus of the study. The idea is to analyse plant characteristics from the early stages of production up until the moment they arrive on the consumer's table, as well as the impact during consumption. Ways of preserving the nutritional qualities of the raw materials as much as possible will be explored. The quality of foods is expected to improve, thereby ensuring that consumers who regularly enjoy ready-to-eat meals have intakes of around 600gr of fruit and vegetables daily.

The consortium will create a database of the composition, microbiology, mechanical properties and structure of plant tissue at all stages of growing and storage. After studying the effects of alternative mechanical and thermal pretreatment of ingredients, project participants will also create mathematical models for predicting nutritional and textural loss, as well as enzyme inactivation during processing. The observations and models will be used to develop optimal thermal processing of complex products.

The aim is to avoid over processing, which destroys natural qualities of fruit and vegetables, to decrease the use of stabilisers in processed foods, and to use plant cell material to preserve the texture and freshness character of the raw products. A further project step will be the evaluation and quantification of the structural and nutritional functionality of selected mixtures of fruit and vegetables.

A new generation of healthy ready -to -eat meals

AHEALTHY STRUCTURING will evaluate a series of parameters in in vitro models and in human subjects. For instance, biochemical parameters, as well as the nutritional bioavailability or bio-efficacy of meals, will be tested to provide evidence of potential beneficial effects of consumption of the ready-to-eat fruit and vegetable products. To this purpose, 88 people whose diets do not include fruit and vegetables will be studied. They will have their blood tested to determine whether consumption of the new products will have potential beneficial effects on people's health.

This project is not limited to establishing ways of increasing dietary intakes of fruit and vegetables to improve consumer health. It will also enhance the competitiveness of EU producers, who will benefit from improved agronomic conditions and from adjusting their production to incorporate the optimised or new processing methods. Better production and increased consumption will have a huge economical impact on the European economy, as will the patenting of new technologies. It will also impact on the environment, because it promotes the use of practices and methods that contribute to the quality of water, soil and landscape, and that encourage biodiversity.

Consumers today are looking to their food and diet to promote disease prevention, anti-ageing, immune system boosting and a feeling of general well-being. HEALTHY STRUCTURING will tap into this trend and help consumers enjoy the convenience of ready-to-eat foods while ensuring high fruit and vegetable intakes.

List of Partners

  • Swedish Institute for Food and Biotechnology (Sweden)
  • Institute of Food Research (UK)
  • Verein zur Förderung agrar - und stadtökologischer Projekte, ASP (Germany)
  • Chalmers University of Technology (Sweden)
  • Unilever (The Netherlands)
  • University of Murcia (Spain)
  • Tetra Pak Processing Systems (Sweden)
  • Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (Belgium)
Full title:
Nutritional and structural design of natural foods for health and vitality
Contract n°:
Project co-ordinator:
Maud Langton, SIK - The Swedish Institute for Food and Biotechnologyy,
EC Scientific Officer:
Dirk Pottier,
EU contribution:
€ 3.3M
Specific Targeted Research Project

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Last update: 06 December 2007 | Top