Unusual microbial contamination sources in confiscated food are being investigated
Cristina G. Pedraz/DICYT Researchers at the Department of Food Technology of the Universidad de Burgos are involved in a project of the Seventh Framework Programme of the European Union called Promise-NET aimed to investigate the uncommon sources of microbial contamination of food confiscated at European borders (airports, ports, etc.). This is a three year project (2012-2014) and has a three million Euros budget; 157,000 are granted to the Universidad de Burgos, the only Spanish partner in the project.
As DiCYT was told by Jordi Rovira, researcher at the Department of Food Technology, the main purpose of the project is to study sources of unusual pathogen contamination in food. In order to do so, they are assessing, on one hand, “confiscated food entering the EU” and, on the other hand, a specific pathogen (Listeria), “in food processing facilities such as dairy processing plants”.
Specifically, the Universidad de Burgos is working on these two aspects: “analyzing food confiscated at the Bilbao Airport and products by companies from various food sectors in Castile y León, Spain”. The ultimate goal is to take samples and analyze them is order to detect food pathogens, to determine whether their strains are resistant to antibiotics or not, and so forth.
Moreover, as the researcher states, the project is peculiar in that it encompasses the six traditional members of the European Union, six countries that have recently joined and two candidates for near-future incorporation. “The objective is that the more established countries in the EU would be able to pass on our ideas on food control in the EU to candidates and to those newly incorporated”, he explains.
Consequently, one of the chief objectives of Promise-NET is to assess common food security threats to protect consumers. The project focuses on microbiological risks and their migration, because border controls (airports, border checkpoints, etc.) seem to be ineffective barriers to prevent the importation of potential contaminated food within food chains.
Meeting in Burgos
Forty researchers involved in Promise-NET (coordinated by an Austrian professor called Martin Wagner) met in November 2012 at the Science School of the Universidad de Burgos. Attendants were from Croatia, Romania, Turkey, Hungary, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Austria, Germany, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Greece and Spain.