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7th newsletter

ISO-FOOD newsletter 7th


Welcome to the seventh ISO-FOOD newsletter.
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Dear reader, we are happy to send you the ISO-FOOD winter/spring Newsletter. Here you can find an update of all that has been happening over the winter/spring 2018 period and our plans for the summer. Once again, this has been a busy period for ISO-FOOD. In February, the ISO FOOD project had its midterm evaluation, which was performed on behalf of the EC by Prof Borislav Kobiljski from the Institute of Field and Vegetable Crops Novi Sad, Serbia. The latest newsletter gives me is the perfect opportunity to thank all who helped in preparing for the visit. I would also like to acknowledge those researchers who presented their work, which, together with the poster presentations, were the highlight of the two-day visit. The meeting provided ISO-FOOD with the opportunity to take an introspective look at our accomplishments to date and a chance to begin to think about how ISO‑FOOD will continue its work in the future. In April, ISO-FOOD held a two-day Workshop and three‑day Spring School on “Nanoparticles in Food”here at the Jožef Stefan Institute. Both the Spring School and the Workshop were organised by the Departments of Nanostructured Materials and Condensed Matter Physics. For further details read on. In other news, we are happy to welcome Maja Šukarov to the ISO‑FOOD team who will replace Mrs Vanaja Usenik as our new project technical officer. Welcome, Maja.Finally, preparations for the ISO-FOOD conference (April 1-3 2019) in Piran are now in full swing. More updates and details will follow in the coming days and weeks.

Dr. David Heath,
ERA Chair holder

Success for Staša Gregorčič at the Jožef Stefan International Postgraduate School Conference 2018 Piran, Slovenia

This year ISO-FOOD Poster Jury awarded the ISO-FOOD Best Poster Prize 2018 to Staša Hamzić Gregorčič for her poster “Optimisation of the method for Sr isolation from the matrix for the reliable determination of 87Sr/86Sr isotope ratios by MC-ICP-MS in milk”. Staša is a PhD student in the Organic biogeochemistry group in the Department of Environmental Sciences at the Jožef Stefan Institute in Ljubljana, Slovenia. Her work focuses on developing isotopic methods for verifying the geographical origin of foods. Determining geographic origin and authenticity is currently one of the most important issues facing the food sector, especially since producers are using geographic origin as a differentiating factor and as a mark of brand superiority. Food products in the EU registered with a geographical indication label, such as Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) and Protected Geographical Indication (PGI), are worth more than 50 billion euro, which is about 5.7% of the total food and drink sector. The dark side is that, according to EUIPO (European Union Intellectual Property Office), the misuse and counterfeiting of geographical indication products continue to be a significant issue for EU food producers, and in 2014, an estimated nine per cent of GI products on the EU market were counterfeit – representing a total value of 4.3 billion euro. Overall, food fraud costs the EU 8-12 billion euro annually.
Increasing food fraud means there is a real need for research such as Staša’s that can support claims of geographical origin. Staša is exploring the use of strontium isotopes to determine the geographical origin of milk. Fraudsters have long targeted milk and dairy products, which are made profitable because the demand for dairy is increasing, it is a staple in people’s diet, and fraudsters are aided by the complexity of the supply chain and a lack of a robust traceability system.
Why Strontium? Strontium has four stable, naturally occurring isotopes (84Sr, 86Sr, 87Sr and 88Sr) and because 87Sr/86Sr values in rocks and minerals vary this creates a unique fingerprint that can be passed on to soil and plants and the animals that feed on them. The result is that the Sr isotopic composition of a sample yields information about provenance, unobscured by local climate variations or biological processes. Also, Strontium isotope ratios are less susceptible to seasonal variations during a year than other elements like hydrogen (H) and oxygen (O), and importantly, strontium undergoes minimal isotopic fractionation, that is, how the abundance ratio of two isotopes changes during a chemical reaction or a physical process.

             Proud winner of the ISO-FOOD prize for best poster.
Multi-collector inductively coupled plasma mass spectroscopy (MC-ICP-MS) is, nowadays considered by many, the method of choice for isotopic analysis of heavier elements, but despite its numerous inherent advantages the removal of spectral interferences is still a concern for some applications, especially in environmental samples. One issue is the isobaric overlap of 87Rb with 87Sr, while the second is that food samples like dairy, for example, are characterised by having a complex matrix. Especially in the case where MC-ICP-MS is used for isotope ratio analysis, it is necessary to isolate the analyte from its concomitant matrix before isotopic analysis in order to obtain accurate and precise isotope ratio results. To resolve this means having to remove the Rb from the sample before analysis by mass spectrometry. For separation of Rb and Sr, different separation methods may be used, but the isolation of Sr from the matrix remains a challenge. Milk is a complex matrix, which, besides water, contains a variety of components, inorganic as well as organic. In order to achieve the practical separation of Sr from impurities and interferences, the organic matter must first be eliminated by complete oxidation. In general, the analytical method for 87Sr/86Sr ratio determination consists of several steps from sample pre-treatment, separation of Sr from the matrix and measurement of the isotopic composition. Staša aims to optimise the method of isolating Sr from milk using Eichrom columns filled with a Sr specific resin. So far, Staša has been able to achieve extraction efficiencies of between 86 and 104% for all samples, regardless of the sample preparation method used. Her preliminary findings suggest that the successful separation of Sr and Rb using exchange chromatography is possible under the right conditions and remove virtually all of the interfering Rb. Staša hopes that her work will result in a fast, sensitive, cost-effective and reliable method for the separation and measurement of 87Sr from different food sample matrices, especially dairy. Establishing relation between a food and its provenance area represents a problem that might have multiple analytical, technical approaches, but strictly speaking, the only way to state a link between the territory of provenance and the food is the geochemical approach.

Spring School and Workshop on nanoparticles in food

Nanotechnology offers potential solutions to many of the problems facing modern society. Engineering at the nanoscale and the use of nanomaterials brings beneficial improvements in material properties in many fields, including the food and beverage sector. An example is developing innovative food-packaging systems (food contact materials) that can improve quality, shelf life, safety and healthiness of foods, novel functionalised ingredients, and other areas of food and nutrition science and technology. We expect that nanotechnology will deliver benefits at all stages of the food value chain. Running counter to this is the need to understand better the environmental and human health implications of nanomaterials entering the food chain. To address this, the ERA Chair ISO-FOOD organised a joint Spring School and Workshop on “nanoparticles in food”. Nanoparticles may appear in food during production, packaging or cooking, or as an ingredient to enrich taste, colour or consistency. Because of the size and nature of nanoscale, they are not easy to detect in food and require special techniques to characterise and analyse their interaction with the human body and possible effect on human health. 
     Participants at the ISO-FOOD Nanoparticles in Food Spring School.
More than twenty participants from academia, industry, non-profit organisations, professional associations and regulatory agencies attended the events consisting of lectures and practical demonstrations. The focus of the three-day Spring School was to provide participants with the basic knowledge of the topic. Examples included lectures on the properties of nanoparticles, nanostructure material for use in advanced food packaging applications, colloidal chemistry of nanoparticles, applications of magnetic nanoparticles in the beverage industry, uptake and translocation of nanoparticles in plants, cyto- and genotoxicity of nanoparticles and interactions of nanoparticles with the immune system. Also, Dr Nahtigal, the EFSA focal point representative for Slovenia, bought the audience up to date with current EU legislation. The two days of the Workshop were about gaining hands-on experience and knowledge about selected techniques for nanoparticle detection and characterisation. The events not only provided participants with the opportunity learn from and meet experts from various fields but also provided an opportunity to gather informally and enjoy the city of Ljubljana by boat and to taste the Slovenian cuisine. ISO-FOOD is especially thankful to the Department for Nanostructured Materials and Department of Condensed Matter Physics at the Jožef Stefan Institute, who organised the event, all the speakers and the participants. The full programme and report will be available through the website.
             Learning to operate the Jeol JEM-2100TEM microscope.

ISO-FOOD in Antwerp

ISO-FOOD’s sister project MASSTWIN held a special three-day exploratory workshop at University of Antwerp, Antwerp, Belgium, between April 18 and 20 2018. The Workshop titled “Mass spectrometry and support of the environment, food, and health interaction and disease” was organised by Prof Adrian Covaci (University of Antwerp) and Prof Ester Heath (Jožef Stefan Institute, Ljubljana, Slovenia) in the historic Elzenveld Conference centre in Antwerp (Belgium). The underlying theme of the workshop, the third in a series of such workshops organised within MASSTWIN, was to exchange experiences and knowledge from various fields of analytical chemistry, where mass spectrometry techniques are used. 
                           Delegates gather in the quadrangle.
The workshop was held at the Elzenveld Hotel in Antwerp and comprised of a series of seventeen lectures and eleven scientific poster presentations. The event was divided into three sections relating to health, food and environment. Over fifty participants attended the workshop representing institutions, not just from the five MASSTWIN consortium members, but from all over Europe. All the lectures in the first section were dedicated to the environment were perfectly complementary, as they included the circulation of organic and inorganic substances in the environment as well as the purification of water, where various conventional and advanced cleaning techniques were presented. Different analytical approaches were presented including target, ‘suspect’ and non-trivial analysis. Session two, chaired by ISO-FOOD, was devoted to food and drink. The audience was acquainted with the latest advances in analytical techniques for identifying known and unknown pollutants in food and contaminants originating from food contact materials. This section also discussed the challenges faced by analytical chemists determining food traceability and authenticity. In the afternoon, there was a special session devoted to brewing, a craft that has long been identified with Belgium and Antwerp particularly. The talks were dedicated to the process of fermentation in beer production, with an emphasis on analytical techniques used for controlling the quality of finished products (beer). The session was concluded with a visit to the historic De Koninck Antwerp City Brewery. The final day was dedicated to health and included the assessment of the exposure of the population to various pollutants using appropriate analytical procedures based on mass spectrometry.

ISO-FOOD researcher profile: Dr Andrija Ćirić

ISO-FOOD’s new postdoc Andrija Ćirićjoined the group of Prof Dr Nives Ogrinc in October 2017 as a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Environmental Sciences here at the Jožef Stefan Institute. Andrija finished his PhD in 2014 at University of Kragujevac, Faculty of Science, Department of Chemistry, Serbia, in analytical chemistry. His research will focus on the development, optimisation and validation of analytical methods (UV-Vis, HPLC, LC-MS, GC-MS) and optimisation of extraction methods using the chemometric approach for determining bioactive compounds in food samples. 

Andrija, what brought you to Jožef Stefan Institute and ISO-FOOD project?
During my PhD I started my research in the field of food samples and recognized the wide potential and importance of controlling food quality. I was working at the Faculty of Science at the University of Kragujevac mainly with students. Having the opportunity to come to the Jožef Stefan Institute will allow me to spread my knowledge and laboratory experience in authenticity, traceability and food safety. Already, I have been introduced to new methods such as GC-IRMS (gas chromatography coupled with isotope ratio mass spectrometry), which is a very important instrument for preventing food fraud, improve agriculture and to better manage natural resources.

What do you think are your biggest scientific achievement to date?
I have published several articles in well recognized scientific journals (Talanta, Journal of Pharmaceutical and Bioanalytical analysis, Biomedical chromatography) and one book chapter (“Metal complex of Kaempferol and their speciation in human plasma in “Kaempferol Chemistry natural occurrence and health benefits”). Optimization and validation of fast, reliable, robust UV-Vis and chromatographic methods for determination of bioflavonoids in different food samples as well as optimized methods for extracting bioflavonoids from different food matrices are described in my papers. My work is well recognized in Europe and I was awarded with two scholarships. During my PhD in 2009, I received the BASILEUS scholarship for 10 months, which I spent at the Faculty of Chemistry and Chemical Technology, University of Ljubljana, Slovenia, under the mentorship of Prof Helena Prosen where I studied the influence of the matrix effect on the determination of analytes in food samples. After finishing my PhD in 2015, I got the SIGMA AGILE scholarship for 6 months, which I spent, at the Faculty of Chemistry, University of Warsaw, Poland, under the mentorship of Dr Magdalena Biesaga and where I synthesised molecular imprinted polymers for the separation and concentration of caffeic acid from coffee.

What are you enjoying most about working at IJS?
The Jožef Stefan Institute is one of the ten most renowned institutes in Europe. The Institute is well organized and people who work here are full of enthusiasm. People want to work on topics that they feel are important, and feel valued for doing so. They give all of themselves to their work, so that the Institute can attain a high-level in education and research. The work at the Institute also plays an important role in research and development (R&D) and in scientific analysis and investigation. At the Institute, there is the highest level of safety, quality and environmental practice. The topics being investigated are at the cutting-edge of research developments and because of that, the Institute is involved in many important European and international projects.


     Celebrating science at Stefan’s Days at the Jožef Stefan Institute.

What is challenging about working on the ISO-FOOD project?
Working on the ISO-FOOD project is a challenge, especially in a state-of-the-art research facility, and because the work involves tackling important issues relating to food. Consumers around the world are increasingly demanding more information and reassurance about the origin and content of what they eat and drink. Protecting consumer rights and preventing fraudulent or deceptive practices, such as food adulteration, are important and challenging issues facing the food industry. Determining the authenticity of foods can prevent false description, substitution with cheaper ingredients, and adulteration, as well as incorrect origin labelling, while improving traceability and transparency. Because of this, ISO-FOOD will bring new solutions for everyday problems.

What do you enjoy in your leisure time?
Walking, despite the obvious cardiovascular benefits, is a great way to clear your head, let off some steam and enjoy the outdoors. In winter, I go skiing in the nearby mountains and I spend summer by the sea. I also dedicate a lot of my free time to taking part in the many events organized in Ljubljana with new and old friends.

First ISO-FOOD International Symposium on Isotopic and Other Techniques in Food Safety and Quality

We have begun preparations for the first ISO-FOOD on isotopic and other techniques in early April 2019. The symposium will be a three-day event and will cover all the main themes of ISO-FOOD research, such as food authenticity and traceability, food databases and semantics, food safety and quality, nanomaterials and nanotechnologies, foodomics and metrology. We plan to bring together researchers, scientists, policy makers, and stakeholders to discuss and exchange ideas about the latest developments and future challenges in isotopic and chemical methods in food research. We plan to hold the event at the  Grand Hotel Portorož, Portorož, Slovenia. All the details can be found on the ISO-FOOD website or our dedicated Symposium website: http://iso-food.academicevent.net. Please keep checking the website for details and confirmation of our speakers.
We look forward to seeing you there!
Deadlines and Key Dates
Registration opens: 28th November 2018, Abstract deadline: 1st February 2019


Call for papers: Special Issue in Food Chemistry

We are excited to announce a new call for papers. This special virtual issue in Food Chemistry will be on the use of Isotopic and other techniques in food safety, quality and traceability. It will cover a range of diverse topics from the use of isotopes for determining food authenticity and traceability as well as chemical food safety, including the presence of nanoparticles in food. We are also accepting papers metrology in food and on the exploitation of big data for food safety and nutrition, and both original research and review articles are welcome. The guest editors of the issue are Nives Ogrinc, Milena Horvat and David Heath. The call for papers can be found here. The deadline for manuscript submission is June 15, 2018



ERA Chair holder
Dr David Heath
Phone: (+386 1) 4773194
Project Coordinator
Prof Milena Horvat
Phone: (+386 1) 5885389
Project officer
Vanja Usenik
Phone: (+386 1) 4773746

ISO-FOOD ERA Chair for isotope techniques in food quality safety, and traceability is a FP7 project funded by the EC under Contract No. 621329 (2014–19).

Foto: Shutterstock; TIC Ljubljana, Stane Jeršič; Marjan Verč, JSI

Copyright © 2014-19, ERA Chair, All rights reserved.
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