Providing healthy, safe and high quality food to the consumer is a big challenge for the manufacturers involved in the complete food chain. To prevent food from degradation through environmental factors, today nearly every product is packaged. Problems with off-odours or off-tastes of packaged food occur, when undesired components like residual solvents, additives or monomers from raw, feed or packaging materials are present. Foodstuff as an organic material tend to form breakdown or conversion products from bacteriological, thermal, atmospheric (oxygen) or light induced processes which can lead to a sensory degradation or even a food spoilage. These effects can lead to a bad quality (smell, taste, texture, appearance, security, health) of the product and hence to a bad consumer acceptance as well as a bad reputation of the product and the manufacturing company. Additionally, it causes an enormous waste of resources, manpower and this creates a substantial financial loss. Keeping in mind that sensors and sensor technology is a growing field with a strong penetration in nearly all application areas such as consumer goods up to food industry and their potentials, it is only logical to apply this type of technology in this field in order to allow the establishment of a cost effective and time efficient food quality control system to solve such difficulties and guarantee consumer safety.
The objectives of this project are:
- to develop application driven sensor systems and sampling instruments
- to integrate them in a new instrumentation allowing to make on-line measurements
- to monitor the quality of packaging materials by measuring the amount of out-gassing analytes
These novel applications have a direct industrial interest since the real-life tests can only be performed at the production sites. ESCAPE assures a quick transformation of the obtained prototypes into the manufacturing process. Moreover, classical and time-consuming quality evaluation methods like human sensory panels or analytical investigations by means of gas chromatography/mass spectrometry can be reduced to a minimum.
- Milestone (MS) 1, month (M) 4: technology roadmap for the packaging application.
- MS2, M8: 1st laboratory test database.
- MS3, M17: pre-prototype instrument.
- MS4, M21: 2nd laboratory test database.
- MS5, M28: exploitation and technology implementation plan.
- MS6, M34: 3rd real life test database.
This will lead to a novel on-and/or at-line quality control system based on integrated chemical sensor arrays, application driven sampling, and specific data evaluation algorithms.
The EQCS (ESCAPE Quality Control System) will give the European packaging industry a rapid monitoring tool. The ultimate goal is to establish an on-line test which will replace spot checks. Thus, the processes in the food chain can be controlled at an early stage to save time, manpower and resources.