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Keyword 1 - Safety of Fresh Produce and derived food products

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As dietary guidelines recommend the consumption of at least five portions of fruits or vegetables per day and the consumers’ demand for convenient, healthy and tasty food has grown, the demand for diversified fresh foods and derived food products has increased. International and European concerns have emerged with regard to safety of fresh produce in response to recent outbreaks, alerts and identified emerging microbiological and chemical hazards linked to fresh produce and derived food products. Enteric bacteria such as Salmonella spp. and E. coli 0157:H7 and more recent, but no less relevant, also enteric viruses such as Norovirus and protozoa such as Cryptosporidium have been identified as concern in fresh produce. Although mycotoxins are often perceived to be mainly a problem of cereals, dried nuts, beans and herbs, mycotoxins may become an issue of importance also in fresh vegetables and fruit and derived processed products. Finally, although results of national monitoring programs for pesticides in fruit and vegetables show that in more than 97% levels were below the Maximum Residue Level, pesticide residues remain a concern for many consumers.

Veg-i-Trade approach

In Veg-i-Trade, food safety focuses both on microbiological (enteric bacteria, viruses and protozoa) and chemical hazards (mycotoxins and pesticide residues) in the supply chain of fresh produce from farm to fork.
The systematic assessment of performance of current farm/company Horticulture Safety Management Systems (HSMS) using a diagnostic instrument will provide input on the variability in product and process characteristics, organizational and contextual aspects in various climate regions in Europe (Spain, Belgium/ Netherlands, Norway and Serbia) and EU trade partners (Egypt, South Africa, Brazil, India). The measurement of the set-up and performance of HSMS will lead to roadmaps for improvement of the safety of fresh produce. Furthermore field studies are undertaken to elaborate relationships between on the one hand pre- and postharvesting technological interventions such as production practices, water treatment, decontamination technologies and packaging concepts and on the other hand its impact on plant physiology, microbial ecology and related food safety issues.
Risk assessment will be undertaken for selected combinations of food products and hazards (microbial and chemical). Pro-active model development and integration of logistic, sensorial and pathogen growth models will be undertaken and constitute with knowledge on trade flows and climate change the basis for simulation of adaptation scenarios.
Overall, Veg-i-Trade encompasses knowledge based modeling to support on development of management strategies, science-based recommendations on quality assurance and food safety standards and seeks to provide problem solving by applied research.
Last but not least, exchange of information and capacity building between trade partners in fresh produce in a global food market is foreseen.