An EU-funded cooperation project between India and several EU countries could transform food processing by products into food ingredients and new food products by providing sustainability and competitiveness to the food industry.
© Namaste Project
Around 90 million tonnes of food is wasted in Europe annually. This works out to about 180 kg per capita per year. Much of this wastage could be avoided, which is why the European Commission has set a target of reducing food waste in Europe by half by 2020. Further, over than 150 million tons of by-products and waste are generated by the food processing industry.
The fruit and cereal processing sector is a prime example of where potentially valuable ingredients are not being fully exploited. By-products and waste it generates are only partially and poorly valorised (often used in animal feed) and mainly disposed of in landfills with remarkable costs and impacts on the environment.
The NAMASTE project believes that this 'waste’ is a wasted opportunity. Food processing by-products are sources of valuable food ingredients that could be exploited in the production of new food products and feeds. This is why the project has been examining ways of collecting and treating waste streams, which benefit the environment and the economy. NAMASTE, which includes partners from both the EU and India, is one of the first joint projects under a coordinated call between the Union and the Indian government. A wide variety of food chain stakeholders have been involved in order to maximise the potential for innovation.
The ultimate objective of the project has been to create new market opportunities for the food sector on both continents. It also aims to satisfy the ever-growing consumer demand for 'simple and ready-to-eat' foods with improved nutritive value, novel shapes and flavours, colour and texture.
NAMASTE, which ended in 2013, has succeeded in developing a number of approaches – biochemical, chemical and physical – for selectively extracting and modifying cell-wall and intracellular components of fruits and cereals. This has enabled viable functional ingredients to be extracted. These have to be properly collected to avoid contamination by environmental agents. Potentially high-value ingredients include nutritionally- and pharmacologically-functional biomolecules, which can be used in fields as diverse as medicine, cosmetics and packaging.
In the EU, the project focused in particular on citrus by-products and wheat bran processing. It developed and assessed procedures for the selection, stabilization and the physical/biological treatment of citrus and wheat processing by-products, the obtainment and recovery of some bioactive molecules and ingredients, like dietary fibres, prebiotics, fruit paste, and biovanillin, as well as the development of procedures for assessing the quality of the obtained ingredients for their exploitation in the preparation of new food products. Furthermore, laboratory-scale experimental protocols have been developed to exploit the ingredients obtained from such by-products into new fruit juice beverages and foods products with improved nutritional properties, including snacks, self-stable fillers for bakery products, fibre-enriched bakery products, and fibre rich instant desert, along with a new citrus/mango-based feed for aquaculture.
In India, meanwhile, the project focused specifically on mango and pomegranate by-products along with rice bran. Technologies and processes for turning such by-products into new foods and feeds have also been developed. Finally, a proactive EU-India cooperation plan has been adopted to ensure mutual benefit, both in terms of knowledge generation and market expansion for the global food and drink industries.