“QAPP” is a three-year research project on ‘A Model Smart Quality Assurance and Safety System for Fresh Poultry Products’ aimed at creating scientific knowledge, understanding of processes and providing solutions to the challenges faced by the food industry in ensuring the quality and safety of products.
The current practice for ensuring the quality and safety of products in Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs), is based on the HACCP application and, based on EU community legislations, requires very frequent chemical-microbiological analyses. Its absolute implementation SMEs is problematic from a techno-economic point of view, since it requires a large volume of data, both in industrial production and throughout the supply chain.
This is the reason the food industry is on the lookout for rapid analytical methods, which could either be integrated into the HACCP production process or be used in the maintenance, handling and marketing of the products, allowing the industry to take proactive corrective actions in terms of safety, quality and stability.
The aim of the “QAPP” research proposal is the creation of scientific knowledge that will lead to an understanding of processes (biochemical, microbiological changes) that exist at all stages of the production chain: production, standardization, maintenance and distribution of the products under evaluation. The vision of the QAPP project is to develop an Intelligent Framework for Quality and Safety Management of poultry based products, supported by an integrated Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) platform that incorporates methods, data and decision support tools for those active in this market.
The “Intelligent” Management System for Product-specific Quality and Safety of QAPP will include a novel cloud-enabled data and model storage system, which will allow the integration of heterogeneous information derived from food microbial ecosystem throughout its production and distribution chain. These heterogeneous data will consist of:
- conventional microbiological analyses
- advanced signal analysis; more specifically, spectroscopic profiling data (vibrational spectroscopy) and surface chemistry spectra will be compiled using non-invasive analytical sensor devices
- data mining methods and prediction of microbial population or quality.
In particular, chicken-based products (minced meat / burgers etc.) will be studied and will be used as model systems to validate the approach. This approach will lead to a holistic picture of the evaluated products, contributing to a long-term vision for widening the application of the new technologies to other food products. The targeted scientific breakthrough is the joined utilization of conventional microbial data, ‘omics’ (through spectroscopic signals) and measurements in the context of an ICT-based Tracking System.
The ultimate goal of the holistic approach of the proposal is to establish a next-generation monitoring reference system for food safety & quality (open software architectures/web services, Machine2Machine/Internet of Things, Data Analytics/Machine Learning), through the integration and analysis of complex structured or non-information data (Big data), that enables real time predictions for safety and freshness profiling.
This integration will provide comprehensive maps of important food traits, as well as predictive models of the contribution of individual microorganisms to aid in decision-making on food quality and safety.
In other words, product profiling will be based on massive and systematic collection of information on storage times and temperatures, and sensor-based fingerprints of food products at any given time point.
Through the QAPP project applications, the following benefits will be provided:
- predictions of the freshness /safety profile of perishable products throughout the production & supply chain
- effective control and reduction of food losses
- improved compliance with EU Regulations (e.g. EC Reg. No 2073/2005) on microbiological criteria for foodstuff.
The “Intelligent” Management System for Product-specific Quality and Safety of QAPP will promptly ensure poultry quality and safety with a longer-term vision of expanding to additional food sectors. Thus, commercial exploitation appears to be very promising and benefits for participating SMEs are expected to be extremely high.