Processing contaminants

Processing contaminants are food-born molecules that are formed during the heat process of foods when temperature reaches high values. Such molecules exhibit in vitro toxic activity, so that mitigation is needed to prevent any possible negative long-term impact on the consumer. PROMETHEUS will investigate the impact of processing on the outbreak of six main neo-formed contaminants: (1) acrylamide, (2) furan, (3) HMF (5-hydroxymethylfurfural), (4) 3-MCPD esters, (5) glycidol esters and (6) N -(carboxymethyl) lysine (CML). Four different food models will be studied: infant formulas, biscuits, baby food puree and canned fish.

Four mitigation strategies

Vacuum baking

Applying vacuum during baking contributes to reduce the temperature compared to conventional baking systems. In the project, this technology will be used on biscuits to reducing the possible formation of processing contaminants such as acrylamide and HMF.
Contact: Vural Gokmen, Hacettepe University (Turkey)

High hydrostatic pressure
Using high pressure is another possibility to control the formation of Maillard reaction products. With this technology, the products are introduced in their final package into a vessel and subjected to a high level of isostatic pressure (between 300-600 MPa), transmitted by water. Here again, high pressure allows decreasing the sterilization temperature. The treatment will be tested on baby food puree and canned fish.
Contact: Kai Reineke, Technische Universitat Berlin (Germany)

Ohmic heating
Ohmic heating technology is an innovative thermal technology based on High Temperature Short Time treatment: unlike conventional treatments, ohmic processing heats products internally by passing an electric current through the product, rather than relying on heat transfer from a heated vessel. Ohmic heating will be applied to infant formulas and baby food puree.
Contact: Magali Wagner, CTCPA (France)

Ingredient microencapsulation
Protecting by microencapsulation the nutrients involved in the formation of processing contaminants is a promising technique to mitigate contamination. The project will investigate the possibility to microencapsulate Vitamin C, iron, polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) and sodium chloride in biscuits and infant formula.
Contact: Samira El Mafadi Jian, Capsulae (France) and Vincenzo Fogliano, University of Napoli (Italy)
Three innovative monitoring strategies

Front face fluorescence analysis to monitor food process contaminants

Fluorescence spectroscopy is a sensitive analytical technique particularly suitable for monitoring the impact of processing and storage on food quality parameters, especially on heat-derived undesirable compounds: the method is rapid, non-destructive and simple to apply. In the framework of Prometheus, an online sensor will be developed to control the heat charge absorbed by food products and monitor the main heat-influenced quality indicators. Software allowing prediction in real time will also be elaborated for an on-line follow-up of processing contaminant formation.
Contact: Ines Birlouez, Spectralys Innovation (France)

Ambient mass spectrometry
Direct analysis in real time (DART) is a novel ambient desorption ionization technique. It enables quantification of processing contaminants and their precursors very specifically and with high sensitivity, and it has the possibility to induce thermal changes in the matrix: changes of temperature can be monitored directly on line. In the project, DART mass spectrometry will be used to investigate the reaction intermediates leading to processing contaminant precursors.
Contact: Jana Hajslova, VSCHT (Czech Republic)

Computer vision based image analysis
Computer vision-based image analysis can be used as a tool to predict the browning phenomenon associated to food severe heat treatment. This rapid and non-destructive technique will be used to monitor browning of biscuits during baking as well as formation of acrylamide that is strongly correlated with browning.
Contact: Vural Gokmen, Hacettepe University (Turkey)


The data collected in the project will be analysed, and empirical as well as mechanistical models will be developed for a better understanding of the reactions mechanisms leading to the formation of processing contaminants and quantification of the kinetic parameters. Such modelling will make it possible to identify optimal processing parameters and formulation to mitigate process contaminants
Contact: Ine van der Fels-Klerx, RIKILT (The Netherlands)
This project has received funding from the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme for research, technological development and demonstration under grant agreement No. 265558
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