The safety and quality of the chilled and frozen food supply chains look set to be improved through EU-funded research into cost-effective technology for monitoring and tracing products.
The euro 15.6M Chill-On project, funded under the Framework 6 programme, now in its last year, is using fish and poultry supply chains as models to test out the new technology. The project is developing new quantitative microbiological risk assessment (QMRA) software tools and hardware based on ‘smart labels’ using novel radio frequency time-temperature-indicators (RF-TTIs) to continuously monitor products.
Matthias Kück, the project co-ordinator from Technologie-Transfer-Zentrum in Bremerhaven, said the notion behind the project was to use novel concepts to improve traceability along the cold chain. He was speaking at the Food Science day in Brussels last week, organised by the CommNet - the communication managers in EU-funded food projects.
Kück reported that the QMRA system was currently being validated, although further work was required to reduce RF-TTIs to a more commercially practical size for use on product packaging. “We offer with our solutions real-time monitoring of temperature at every stage of the process - not only through our TTIs during transport and storage but also during processing.”
The project makes use of real-time quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) technology to determine growth of spoilage organisms and pathogens such as listeria, salmonella and E.Coli. The University of Kent is providing the expertise to the project in this area, Kück reported.
“I think our solutions can support the food quality and safety management of supply chains,” said Kück. “The next step is to validate the techniques by official certification bodies.” He admitted that most interest coming from the food industry was for the supply chain management software developed.