6th Veg-i-Trade Consortium meeting at University of Pretoria in South Africa

In the week of March 18th 2014, Veg-i-Trade partners gathered in South Africa for the 6th and final Consortium meeting. The Consortium meeting was preceded by a public Food Sovereignty Conference discussing global perspectives in the fresh produce supply chain co-organized by Veg-i-Trade and the University of Pretoria. The actual Veg-i-Trade Consortium meeting took place in the confererence Center in Kruger Park. Partners discussed final achievements of research work undertaken and lessons learnt.





EFSA assesses the risk of Salmonella and Norovirus in leafy greens

Rainfall, use of contaminated water for irrigation or contaminated equipment are among the factors that cause contamination of leafy greens with Salmonella and Norovirus. These are some of the findings of EFSA’s latest opinion on risk factors that contribute to the contamination of leafy greens at different stages of the food chain. The BIOHAZ Panel has recommended that producers use good agricultural, hygiene and manufacturing practices to reduce contamination. The Panel has also proposed specific microbiological criteria at primary production.



Welcome to the Veg-i-Trade Closing Event: “Taking the Safety of Fresh produce to the Next Level” (Brussels, 11-12 June 2014)

The EU FP7 Veg-i-Trade project is running to an end. A 2-days closing event is organized in June in Brussels in collaboration with the Belgian Food Safety Agency and Fresh Trade Belgium to present the major outcomes of the Veg-i-Trade research.
On June 11th the expected impact of climate change on the safety of fresh produce is discussed including topics on bacterial pathogens, mycotoxins, pesticide residues and potential adaptation scenarios.
On June 12th risk factors impacting on the quality and safety of fresh produce are discussed, the output of risk assessment studies presented and some recommendations provided on quality assurance and control measures to take safety of fresh produce to the next level.
Apart from Veg-i-Trade speakers we are also happy to welcome some presentations from EFSA and the South Korean Climate-Food.net project.



Veg-i-Trade organizes Mini-Symposium on Water Quality and Water Treatment in Brussels on April 24th

Water, both in pre- and post-harvest setting, is a potential source for microbial contamination of fresh produce. Various water sources and water treatment systems are in use in Europe. EU FP7 Veg-i-Trade partners at AUGent in Belgium, CEBAS-CSIC in Spain and NVI, NIVA in Norway have made considerable effort in comparing various water desinfection technologies. The mini-Symposium, in collaboration with FreshFel, will present the impact of water use and water quality on the safety and quality of fresh produce and discuss the various approaches for water management and water treatment based upon experience from the EU FP7 Veg-i-Trade project partners.



Veg-i-Trade partner Ghent University visits Universitade Federal do Rio Grande do Sol in Porto Alegre, Brazil

In the week of February 1st 2014, both Prof. Mieke Uyttendaele, Prof. Liesbeth Jacxsens & Ph.D Student Stefanie Delbeke from UGent visited the Brazilian partner within Veg-i-Trade. Prof Tondo & Prof. Bender looked after a warm (37°C!) welcome and enabled us to interact and discuss with local farmers, fresh-cut processing industries, public health services. This helped to see to which extent “global” recommendations on best practices are needed/ can apply locally to govern safety and quality of fresh produce for all. Also a discussion session with Master and Ph.D students at UFRGS was on the program to stimulate collaboration and exchange in present and future research.

Veg-i-Trade first research results published on screening of moulds and mycotoxins in fresh produce and derived products

PhD student Evelien Van de Perre of the Department of Food Safety & Food Quality, Ghent University published two papers on the screening of moulds and mycotoxins in tomatoes, bell peppers, onions, soft red fruits and derived tomato products. On tomatoes, onions and soft red fruits, Alternaria spp. and their associated mycotoxins were detected. Derived tomato products were also screened and six out of 173 samples and four out of 173 samples were positive for alternariol and alternariol monomethyl ether, respectively. Patulin was present in 11% of the sweet bell peppers and in 8% of the soft red fruits, but not in onions. Patulin was also found in tomatoes, but could not be detected in derived tomato products.



Veg-i-Trade shares its results via a webinar

Coordindator Mieke Uyttendaele presented the Veg-i-Trade project via a Webinar to a broad public. This Webinar was organized by CommNet, a network making EU funded Bioeconomy Research accessible to teachers, children, politicians, industry and the media.

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The presentation contained insights on various micro-organisms such as Salmonella, Escherichia coli and Norovirus that have been linked to fresh produce food borne outbreaks. Another topic that was addressed is how food safety can be controlled in a globalized world thanks to the implementation of control measures and legislation. Climate change and its impact on food safety was explained as well. The presentation ended with an appeal to the youngsters to become a scientist as well, together with their important role to safeguard food safety at home.

CommNet also developed a toolkit to providing information about food and food safety for teachers and students of different age groups.





Veg-i-Trade participates to openAIRE supporting dissemination of research

Open Aire is an Open Access Infrastructure for Research in Europe. The Veg-i-Trade researchers from Ghent University decided to collect their Veg-i-Trade publications in the OpenAIRE compliant repository Biblio. This is a good example of how OpenAIRE can support projects to make research output available in Open Access and accessible to a wider audience.

Veg-i-Trade disseminates its results to stakeholders!

Through interviews, publications and presentations Veg-i-Trade informs about its approach and the results achieved so far. Recently, some Veg-i-Trade interviews have contributed to the debate on food safety of fresh produce on various websites. A publication in New Food talks about fresh produce border rejections. Furthermore, the opportunities Veg-i-Trade identified for further improvement of the Codes of Good Practice will be shared with the fresh produce industry at a "Global Gap" event and presented to the scientific community at the 1st BacFooDNet conference in November 2013.

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Inagro organized theme day on Water in Agriculture and Horticulture

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Inagro organised its annual theme day covering various uses and treatments of water in agriculture and horticulture. Different aspects were shown such as the possibilities of reuse of water, water treatment and the use of the watertool. The water tool is an on-line application that can be used by farmers to assist them in the choice of water treatment depending on the initial quality of the water and the type of application.

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Furthermore demonstrations of water irrigation and drainage techniques were given. Also demonstrations in the laboratory were organized. The interest of the visitors in the activities of the Inagro laboratory and in particular how analyses on water and also soil are performed was high. Demonstrations of the different steps of microbiological analysis of water were shown such as filtration of large amounts of water to concentrate the pathogenic bacteria, incubation; isolation of the bacteria and confirmation. Visitors were impressed by the huge labor intensity these types of analyses require. The take home message was clear : ‘reliable microbiological results with these techniques cannot not be expected before 24 hours after receipt of the water sample !’
Despite the large rainfall the day before the theme day, demonstration of water irrigation devices was useful to the visitors, mainly farmers.


Veg-i-Trade edits a Special Issue on “Climate Change and Food Safety” in Food Research International

We would like to invite you to submit relevant papers to the high-impact journal Food Research International for the special issue on "Impacts of Climate Change on Food Safety". Submission opens the 1st of December 2013 and the final submission deadline is the 1st of April 2014. Feel free to forward this call in your network. We are very much looking forward to your contributions!

Nynke Hofstra, Environmental Systems Analysis Group, Wageningen University, the Nethl. & Mieke Uyttendaele, Dept. Food Safety & Food Quality, Ghent University, Belgium

Veg-i-Trade & ILSI toured to discuss on Water Safety and Quality

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Both at the IAFP Europe Meeting in Marseille, France in May 2013, at the IAFP Annual meeting in Charlotte, US in July 2013 and also at the SAAFOST meeting in Pretoria, South Africa, Veg-i-Trade in collaboration with ILSI organized a Mini-Symposium on Water Safety and Quality. This showed to be hot topic on an international scale, as water resources are under increasing pressure and concerns on the use of water in fresh produce production have raised. Speakers discussed on microbial hazards in fresh produce and water including bacterial pathogens, parasites, viruses. Some preliminary results of the Veg-i-Trade project on water use and quality at primary production were shared. Approaches in assessing water quality and water treatment procedures in the fresh produce supply chain were addressed and data gaps identified. These sessions stimulated open discussions on the way forward and can be used to guide the risk management direction to efficient pathogen control and to select the most appropriate control measures. It also helps to focus research on the areas where important pieces of information are missing.



Veg-i-Trade signs Memorandum of Understanding with South Korean Climate-Foodnet project

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Veg-i-trade presented its work on Climate change and Food safety of Fresh Produce at the the Conference “Impacts of Climate Change on Food Security, Safety, and Nutrition in Our Future ”, May 29th 2013 at the Millenium Hilton, Seoul, South Korea. This event was organised by the South Korean Research Group on Food Safety against Climate Change. On this occassion, also a Memorandum of Understanding was signed between the European EU FP7 funded Veg-i-Trade project (coordinator Prof. Mieke Uyttendaele, UGent) and the South Korean KFDA funded Climate-Food.net project (Professor Ki Hwan Park, Chung-Ang University). This stresses the interest for a close collaboration between the two research teams.

Veg-i-Trade publishes articles on “Assessment of Food Safety Management Systems in the Global Fresh Produce Chain”

WUR and UGent researchers developed a self-assessment tool to measure the status of food safety management systems in the fresh supply chain. The self-assessment tool consists of 64 to 69 indicators addressing core activities in prevention and control of microbiological, mycotoxin and pesticide residue contamination (e.g. sanitation programme), the context of the company (e.g. product characteristics) and its system’s output (e.g. complaints). The schemes are useful to farms, processors or traders as an internal audit system to track the “maturity” of their implemented food safety management systems in place. It gives the participants insight in the generic status of “best practices” or level of “management systems” apart from from their specific implemented guidelines and quality assurance standards. The details of this self-assessment tool has recently been published in a set of 2 articles in Food Research International and Trends in Food Science and Technology.


A Veg-i-Trade member goes to the Belgian edition of the Risk & Crisis Management Masterclass in Fall 2013.

Thanks to her work carried out within the Veg-i-Trade Project, Ghent University researcher Melanie De Vocht is awarded with the student wildcard for the Belgian edition of the Risk & Crisis Management Masterclass in Fall 2013 organized by PM, Inconnect and CIP Institute.

This extensive 3 ½ day programme, worked out in cooperation with several international academic partners, will cover the latest developments with respect to risk, crisis and change management/communication. A large number of cases, practical applications and methods will be discussed in detail.

Night of researchers - Science in Motion for Friday Night Commotion

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Ghent University along with University of Belgrade took part to an important promotion event presenting running FP7 projects in Serbia. This event has been organized within Science in Motion for Friday Night Commotion – SCIMFONICOM FP7-PEOPLE-2012-Night, 609724.
With posters, flyers and sort of food safety demonstration the Veg-i-Trade and Aquavalens project were presented to the general public and the attending media.

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Veg-i-Trade shares science with children on the street

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Veg-i-Trade participated to the UGent initiative to bring science to the street. Researchers from Ghent University, Hogeschool Ghent and Arteveldehogeschool toured Ghent to increase the declining motivation to study exact sciences. Carrying cuddly toy bacteria and a microscope, Veg-i-Trade was represented during 2 days on this event.

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The UGent Science on the Street initiative is especially targeted to children who live in a working-class area. In collaboration with the non-profit organization “vzw Jong” working in several different popular neighbour¬hoods in Ghent, the children were invited during “Jong’s” summer activities. Science on the Street presented a real mobile laboratory to the kids and gave them the opportunity to talk to “real” scientists, some of which were Veg-i-Trade scientists.
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At the stand of Veg-i-Trade, the children could become a microbiologist by completing a test about microorganisms and climate change. Afterwards, they had the opportunity to set up their own science project with yeast, sugar and water in a small bottle, which resulted in an inflated balloon. Other stands gave the children the opportunity to create their own electricity network to turn on a lamp, or they learned to assess the amount of vitamin C in different fruit juices.
The children were excited, and the parents got the opportunity to gain more information about higher education. We spent two successful and fun afternoons, together with motivated and happy children.


Veg-i-Trade feedback sessions

Veg-i-Trade organized a series of international workshops addressing fresh produce chain actors and other stakeholders in five partner countries (Belgium, Brazil, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain). These workshops were organized as feedback sessions for all stakeholders who used a diagnostic tool developed by Veg-i-Trade for the assessment of the status of their food safety management systems, good agricultural practices and microbiological results.

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Some 150 persons including stakeholders, fresh produce chain and/or farmers, processing or trading companies, participated in the seven workshops organised so far. Each workshop was tailored to the needs of the audience and regional bottlenecks were discussed.

On the one hand, the quality of the diagnostic tool and the usefulness in practice was discussed. Veg-i-Trade will adapt the tool to these findings and address also regional differences.

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On the other hand, Veg-i-Trade members discussed the results of the diagnostic tool with the respondents, aiming at:
- improving agricultural practices and addressing strong and weak points in their implementation
- identifying microbiological contaminations and risk factors towards the fresh produce chain
- evaluating water treatment, water disinfection and potential re-use of water
- detecting Norovirus and prevalence

For more specific information or dissemination material, please contact Liesbeth Jacxsens (UGent, liesbeth.jacxsens@ugent.be).

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Veg-i-Trade goes on the streets

On Europe Day “HAPpening” on May 26, 2013 in Roeselare in Belgium, the European project Veg-i-Trade was presented to the (wo)man of the street via an activity: “Meet the little friends and culprits in our food chain” and posters demonstrating the work done in WP5 “Water treatment”. Water plays an important role in the primary production and processing of fresh vegetables.
Washing fresh (cut) lettuce consists of sequential washing steps of heads of and lettuce leaves in different washing baths, while the water is systematically refreshed during the process. A head of lettuce always contains a certain amount of spoilage micro-organisms. Also, sometimes pathogenic bacteria are present from soil, fertilizer, water ... The types of water and the requirements around microbiological and chemical quality of the water that (can) be used depends on the place in the food chain. Water use in the production of fresh (cut) vegetables has some challenges and this is the focus in WP5. Veg-i-Trade generates knowledge that can be used for the scientific substantiation of food safety policy in the European Union and that can help the producers in their water management.
Through the interactive quiz using cuddly "toys" people got a chance to learn some bacteria, viruses and fungi that can occur in the food chain.
The people (as consumers) were asked to participate in a survey to determine how they feel with respect to the use of disinfectants when washing fruits and vegetables. Of all the participants were eventually five people chosen at random winning a water carafe: Marian Le Clef (Wenduine), Rita Depreytere (Roeselare), Katrien Ingelbeen (Roeselare), Frieda Vanlauwe (Roeselare), Jenny Devolder (Roeselare).




VTEC strains: EFSA looks at public health risks

EFSA’s scientific experts say that it is currently not possible to identify which VTEC bacteria strains have the potential to cause human diseases. In order to help risk managers to identify human health risks, EFSA has proposed a scheme to categorise VTEC strains according to their potential to cause disease. This work has been carried out in response to a request of the Austrian Federal Ministry of Health.