FOOD QUALITY AND TECHNOLOGY is an interdisciplinary group focused on analysis of food composition, development of novel foods and processing technologies, control of allergens, additives, chemical contaminants and adulterants, promoting sustainable foods with enhanced health and sensorial properties.
Chromatographic and spectroscopic methods for evaluation of nutrients, bioactive compounds, contaminants and DNA-based methods for species identification and adulterants detection in plant and animal matrices are among the main skills of the group. Other relevant areas of expertise are the improvement of dairy products, meat and fish quality by the development of animal feeding strategies; the optimization of food processing methods as well as novel methods based on high pressure and hyperbaric storage technology to enhance shelf life; test the activity of beneficial and harmful food compounds by using human cells in vitro and tissues; tailor-make the functionality of food macromolecules; and extraction of bioactive compounds from industrial by-products and agricultural wastes for novel technological applications.
Food composition and sensory properties
Genetically modified organisms, food authenticity and fraud fight
Allergens, additives and contaminants
Improvement of animal feeding and nutrition
Processing healthier, appealing and safer foods
Food and health
- New Safe Seafood Guides Available for Consumers, Industry Stakeholders and Policymakers
The EU-funded ECsafeSEAFOOD project has published three safe seafood guides that aim to help consumers, industry stakeholders and policymakers understand the benefits and risks associated with seafood consumption. Each guide includes recommendations to help reduce possible risks associated with seafood contamination from the specific stakeholder’s perspective.
- Antioxidant rich seasonings and marinades reduce formation of carcinogenic compounds in cooked meat
The consumption of grilled meat entails a high intake of carcinogenic compounds, namely polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and heterocyclic aromatic amines (HAs). Both form when meat like beef, pork or fish is cooked at high temperatures, especially coal fired barbecue that can get up to lofty temperatures of 300 degrees Celsius and produce lots of smoke. The formation of both contaminants can be highly reduced using antioxidant rich seasonings and beer marinades, which areefficient mitigation strategies.
- New anthocyanin-based colorants
Novel pyranoanthocyanin pigments with unique chromatic features and natural anthocyanins acylated with fatty acids were synthetized starting from food Industry by-products aiming to use them as colorants for new technological applications in lipid-based foods and in cosmetics. This approach allows to use natural pigments with appealing colours (from orange to bluish hues) in lipophilic matrices including dairy products, cosmetic oils and emulsions and skin care products.
- Improving the taste of healthy foods
The impact of different food polyphenols on food astringency and bitterness was correlated with their interaction with salivary proteins, bitter taste receptors and oral cells. Novel approaches have been made to better comprehend the molecular mechanisms responsible for the bitter taste of phenolic-containing foodstuffs. Hence, the bitter taste of foods containing health promoting nutraceuticals such as polyphenols could be modulated during processing aiming to improve their final acceptance by the consumer.
- DNA barcoding coupled with high resolution melting (HRM) analysis for food authentication
Bar-HRM analysis is a innovative, simple, fast, reliable, cost-effective and high throughput DNAbased approach for the authentication of highly valued seafood, spices, and herbal medicines. With the application of this technique, it was possible to distinguish Gadidae fish species and Penaeidae shrimps from its adulterants and the spice Crocus sativus (saffron) from closely related species. It was also applied to differentiate two medicinal plants Hypericum androsaemum (Hipericão do Gerês) and Hypericum perforatum.
- PCR assays for the quantitative analysis of food allergens are affected by matrix, gene marker and processing
The quantitative performance of real-time PCR approaches was studied and compared for soybean and wheat detection. The new models allowed the detection of wheat and soybean down to 5 and 10 mg/kg, respectively. Gene maker and matrix greatly affected the assay performance of wheat quantification. However, thermal processing did not affect the normalised quantitative performance of soybean. Normalised real-time PCR assays can be new alternative accurate and sensitive tools for allergen quantification.
- Quasi energetically costless extension of foods shelf life by hyperbaric storage
Whereas refrigeration (RF) increased the microbial loads of raw watermelon juice (a highly perishable food), hyperbaric storage (HS) at 62.5/ 75 MPa (15 ºC) not only was able to control microbial growth but showed additionally a reduction of initial microbial loads, by at least 2.5 log CFU/mL, while pH and color values did not change. Furthermore, the combination of a lower temperature with HS showed further beneficial effects to control microbial development, even for a lower pressure (50 MPa/10 ºC). Hyperbaric storage increased watermelon juice shelf-life for at least 58 days, compared to 3 to 5 days under refrigeration.
- Polysaccharide-based films for replacement of the use of sulphur dioxide in liquid foods
A novel approach using chitosan-genipin films was developed as a sustainable method for wine preservation at industrial scale with no additional costs. White wines were produced without addition of sulphur dioxide as preservative. The wines produced using the films had lower susceptibility to browning, with organoleptic characteristics comparable with those prepared using sulphur dioxide. The formation of iron-tartrate-chitosan complexes promotes the decrease of iron and other metal availability, minimizing oxidation reactions, as well as inhibiting microbial growth. The overall volatile character of the wines was maintained. The application of chitosan-genipin films was successfully extended to the production of vinegars.