Organic fruits and vegetables account for an important share in the total consumption of organic products. A major driver for present market growth is an increasing distribution. Delivery of safe food is a key priority, where packaging plays a crucial role. Use of natural compounds and biopolymers in packaging seem to be an innovative and safe solution for achieving appropriate preservation of fresh organic vegetables. Biopolymers may be appropriate materials for the development of designed surfaces to deliver natural components into the packaging system. The project includes selection of natural compounds, their incorporation into biopolymers and introduction in biodegradable packaging system. The project aims at assuring the safety and quality of organic vegetable along the whole supply chain from producer to consumer by developing innovative eco-sustainable technology which ensure the quality and meet consumer, cost and environmental demands.
International Centre for Advanced Mediterranean Agronomic Studies/ Mediterranean Agronomic Institute of Bari - ItalyLead applicant
The Mediterranean Agronomic Institute of Bari (MAIB) is a Centre for post-graduate training, applied scientific research and design of in-loco partnership actions in the framework of the international cooperation programmes. It works in four thematic areas:
Farm San Michele - ItalyInitiative partner
Group San Michelle is small medium enterprise that has 200 ha under organic vegetables cultivation. They produce, harvest, pack and distribute organic vegetable on national and international markets.
Università degli Studi di Bari Aldo Moro - ItalyInitiative partner
Smart packaging can improve overall quality of organic food - Green technology based on renewable resources can help in greening organic sector - New innovation can reduce food waste
The project will:
- support the image that organic food is of high quality and safety.
- develop new standards for organic food packaging
- brand the organic sector as a “green industry”
There is evidence that consumers of organic products have specific expectations not only with respect to quality characteristics of processed food but also in social and environmental aspects of food production. Ethical consumption or green consumerism relies on the assumption that consumers will actually demand climate and environmentally friendly products like food packaging materials that are more natural, disposable, potentially biodegradable, as well as recyclable.
The food safety concerns in respect to vegetables since they are often produced by irrigation, and are minimally processed before consumption. Enterobacteriace are important food safety hazards in raw and minimally processed vegetables. Packaging is one important technological step for food preservation and development of new and improved packaging concepts that extend shelf-life while maintaining food safety and quality is a challenge. The project includes selection of natural active/antimicrobial compounds; implementation of these compounds into biopolymer based packaging; testing the effectiveness of the new packages developed in a small scale organic vegetable packaging house. The project aims at assuring the safety and quality of foodstuffs along the whole supply chain, from producer to consumer by developing an innovative packaging technology with the current focus on exploring a new generation of biopolymers with possible applications in organic food packaging.
At the moment main results achieved are published in national and international congresses as:
Wieczynska et al, 2014. Natural biopolimers in organic food packaging. Geophysical Research Abstracts Vol. 16, EGU2014-11263-1
Cavoski et al., 2014. SOLUZIONI ECO-INNOVATIVE PER IL PACKAGING DELLA ORTOFRUTTA BIOLOGICA. 8° Congresso Europeo sul Bio. X Convegno Nazionale sulla Biodiversità. Roma, 03-05 settembre 2014.
ECO_P4 will provide recommendations for packaging processing, will fulfill the gaps between consumer expectation and the given rules, and will influence the attitudes of the organic consumer towards new packaging technology. Real beneficiaries from the project are food producers, processors, distributors and retailers of all sizes. ECO_P4 satisfies also consumers expectations towards excellent quality and satisfy of organic food. Beneficiaries from the project results are all actors involved in food chain from farm to fork.
ECO_P4 activities are under supervision and coordination of Dr Biagio Di Terlizzi, Principle administrator and Responsible for project and cooperation office at CIHEAM-MAIB. Under his management particularly are involved professor, researchers, technician, PhD and master students. Executive Director and technicians from organic packaging house (San Michelle) as reported in Scheme bellow.
Antimicrobial-loaded biopolymer prototype production of is an important part in the project. Commercially available biopolymers are used and main focus was given on natural compounds incorporation and releasing from them. From the very beginning, big efforts was done on selection of proper natural antimicrobials to ensure that the chosen compounds have the right compatibility with biopolymers. Use of seasonal vegetables and therefore their limited availability during the season was he factor that obliged us to develop a model packaging system applicable to vast kind of vegetables. However, risks associated with scaling-up and real-scale demonstration of the innovative solutions are still challenges.
Organic production comprehends the whole food chain from field to fork. Next to the sustainability and food safety in food processing, the quality aspect is becoming more and more important. Organic food with no preservatives are accelerating the need to use and evaluate active packaging solutions, especially those enriched with natural antimicrobials. Concerns on environmental and waste problems caused by use of non-biodegradable and non-renewable based plastic packaging have caused an increase interest in developing biodegradable packaging using renewable natural biopolymers. Recyclable or biodegradable packaging material in organic processing standards is preferable, where possible but specific principles of packaging are not precisely defined and standards have to be assessed. Eco-innovative solutions in sustainable novel food packaging should satisfy European organic farming regulations and European food safety policies and consumer demands.
Project started with selection of natural antimicrobials from plant origin. Based on in vitro bioassay, from several natural compounds, were selected for packaging systems development. Two types of polymers based pellets, synthetic and natural (biopolymer) were activated with natural compounds, and in the form of sachets were introduced into packaging systems. Biodegradable and non-biodegradable packaging systems were tested firstly on laboratory scale experiments and later on in packaging house experiments on organic vegetables. Packaging system based on natural compounds and biopolymers showed promising results comparing with classical one. Next step will be to test their performance in different conditions focusing on real-scale demonstration of innovative solutions.
In order to guarantee a successfully transmission of knowledge obtained during the project dissemination plan is implemented aiming to spread acquired knowledge, scientific research results and gained experience, which are obtained during the execution of the project, to the scientific community, industry and public entities, and to the public in general. Scientific dissemination is in the form of scientific publications in the peer review journals and Proceedings in connection to international and national conferences.