Strengthening European food research

The food industry will face significant challenges in the future. However, an EU-funded project has created an international research network capable of confronting environmental threats as well as consumer demand for traceable, ethical ingredients.

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  Belarus
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  Bosnia and Herzegovina
  Brazil
  Bulgaria
  Burkina Faso
  Cambodia
  Cameroon
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Countries
Countries
  Algeria
  Argentina
  Australia
  Austria
  Bangladesh
  Belarus
  Belgium
  Benin
  Bolivia
  Bosnia and Herzegovina
  Brazil
  Bulgaria
  Burkina Faso
  Cambodia
  Cameroon
  Canada
  Cape Verde
  Chile
  China
  Colombia
  Costa Rica
  Croatia
  Cyprus
  Czechia
  Denmark
  Ecuador
  Egypt
  Estonia
  Ethiopia
  Faroe Islands
  Finland
  France
  French Polynesia
  Georgia


  Infocentre

Published: 30 October 2020  
Related theme(s) and subtheme(s)
Agriculture & foodFood safety & health risks
Innovation
International cooperation
Research policyHorizon 2020
SMEs
Countries involved in the project described in the article
Belgium  |  Czechia  |  Finland  |  France  |  Germany  |  Greece  |  Hungary  |  Italy  |  Netherlands  |  North Macedonia  |  Portugal  |  Romania  |  Slovenia  |  Spain  |  Switzerland  |  Turkey
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Strengthening European food research

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© Sebastian Duda #34194658 source:stock.adobe.com 2020

Food has become central to some of our era’s most divisive debates, from the role of agriculture in climate change to whether diet can help treat serious illness. Consumers are faced with huge amounts of conflicting information – and misinformation – leaving them confused about how to buy food that is healthy and affordable, ethically produced and environmentally friendly.

At the start of a new decade, the food sector is considering how it can adapt to changing consumer demands as well as looming environmental challenges. Difficult questions remain unanswered, such as how the industry can provide healthy food to a growing population while reducing water consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.

The team behind the EU-funded PRO-METROFOOD project believes the industry can only effectively evolve by working in close harmony with researchers in a system that is informed by better data. That is why the project has created an international network capable of confronting today’s scientific challenges associated with food quality, safety and traceability.

‘The PRO-METROFOOD project designed a new system to allow research groups from various European countries to collaborate,’ says project coordinator Giovanna Zappa of research and development agency ENEA in Italy. As a result, around 2 500 researchers from 18 European countries are now working together.

Empowering consumers

To help the industry align its measurement technologies, the PRO-METROFOOD team has created three new prototype ‘food reference materials’ or measurement standards. ‘Reference materials are very useful because they allow labs to compare their results,’ says Zappa. ‘These new measurement technologies and tools are vital for creating a transparent and traceable production chain, from field to fork.’

Better data will enable consumers to tell what is in their food and where it comes from. For Zappa, it is important that this information is free and easily available to the public. ‘Citizens are bombarded with messages that are often conflicting,’ she says. ‘A shared data platform that includes reliable information about complex issues related to health, animal welfare, social issues and environmental sustainability will limit the spread of fake news.’

PRO-METROFOOD has also united a variety of companies, associations and agencies within a stakeholder forum. ‘We wanted to enable representatives of all four types of food users – researchers, control agencies, producers, consumers – to work together,’ says Zappa.
She believes a newly united food sector will be capable of improving the way food laboratories measure nutrients and contaminants – a vital step towards achieving better and more reliable data.

Transparent production

PRO-METROFOOD’s achievements have created a launchpad for a new European research infrastructure called METROFOOD-RI which will provide resources and services to foster scientific excellence within the food quality and safety community. The preparatory phase of this initiative – METROFOOD PP – is currently being deployed and will run until 2022.

‘In the coming years, METROFOOD-RI will develop many tools for the benefit of the research system, the inspection and control system, the production system and consumers,’ says Zappa. ‘These tools will be realised both through the physical infrastructure – for example, a network of analytical laboratories – and through electronic infrastructure, including databases and other ICT facilitie for processing and sharing data.’

METROFOOD-RI’s future success will be traced back to the foundations laid by PRO-METROFOOD, a project that envisioned how food research could be made fit for the future. ‘By enabling better research, we wanted to make it possible for companies to make their production more transparent so that citizens can make careful and informed choices about the food they eat,’ says Zappa.

Project details

  • Project acronym: PRO-METROFOOD
  • Participants: Italy (Coordinator), Portugal, Romania, Germany, Spain, France, Greece, Czechia, Hungary, Finland, Netherlands, Slovenia, North Macedonia, Belgium, Turkey, Moldova, Switzerland
  • Project N°: 739568
  • Total costs: EUR 1 959 538
  • EU contribution: EUR 1 959 537
  • Duration: January 2017 to December 2017

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