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Focus Areas

The ISO-FOOD focus areas are as follows

Element speciation

Element concentration and speciation analysis to control the main route of exposure to major and trace elements into the human body through food consumption.

To evaluate the bioavailability and biological effects on the human body, as well as the role that a particular element could have on the taste and the quality of foodstuffs, or to determine the potentially toxic chemical species of elements, speciation analysis is required (e.g. in Cr, Se, I, Al, As, Hg….). The main challenge in speciation analysis of essential and/or toxic trace elements in foodstuffs are their low concentration levels, which require application of highly sensitive, selective advanced analytical procedures combining high performance liquid chromatography or gas chromatography techniques hyphenated to element specific or molecular detectors. The main challenge will be application of isotope dilution techniques in development and validation of analytical methods for determination of chemical species of essential and toxic elements (Zn, Cr, Ni…), which will be accurately quantified in different foodstuffs after the chromatographic separation by ID-ICP-MS.


Determination of activity concentration of particular radionuclides in food and water is important to be able to study cumulative radiation effects on human health, since the dose coefficients are always related to specific radionuclides.

238U and 232Th decay series nuclides are known to have the highest values of dose coefficients and thus cause the highest effective doses and radiotoxicity. Radiotoxicity of a specific radionuclide is determined by a dose conversion factor, which is specific for each radionuclide in terms of its physical and chemical properties, as well as its metabolism in human body. Dose conversion factors are higher for adolescent population than for adult population and are defined by legislation. During food ingestion, natural radionuclides prevailingly contribute to the doze compared with artificial ones, and some of them have the tendency to biomagnification in the food chain. The main challenge will be the development of solutions that allow rapid detection and identification of alpha-particle emitting radionuclides, such as isotopes of polonium, radium, uranium, thorium radioisotopes and transuranium elements, such as plutonium, at low levels normally occurring in foodstuffs. 

New and emerging contaminants

Determination of organic compounds posing health hazard in foodstuffs – a need for this kind of research was demonstrated recently by the presence of the painkiller phenylbutazon in horsemeat offered in supermarkets, which has highlighted the need for good security control basing on validated analytical methods.

ISO-FOOD will concentrate on the development and validation of methods for determination of new emerging contaminants e.g. pharmaceuticals, steroids and possibly some recently developed pesticides that are yet to be regulated. For this purpose we will in the first step identify a list of compounds that match the above mentioned criteria and develop, optimize and validate analytical methods for their determination in different foodstuffs, where reliable and comparable chemical measurements will be ensured with the aid of stable isotope labelled compounds. 


Nanoparticles in food: nanoparticles are starting to enter the food chain through food additives, food processing and packaging.

Development in nanotechnologies for food production is faster than the relevant legislation and regulation activities, which lag behind for a decade. Beside intentionally added nanoparticles, food contains also nanopollutants from air polluted environment in the growth period, in the period of food processing and during food storage. Majority of food producers are not aware of possible health risks originated from consumption of nanomaterials. The reason might be recently reported nanotoxicological studies in scientific literature, which combine different scientific topics like material science, biology, chemistry, medicine, and are with a high complexity difficult to understand. Considering also contradictory data and intensive economic benefits promised by development of nanotechnology, eventual health risks was not addressed promptly. Food products and food supplements are positioned already on European market that makes implementation of any future regulation in direction of restrictions very difficult, but not impossible. Current situation needs urgent increase of awareness of public, stakeholders and regulatory bodies about possible health risks. The main challenge will be development of methods for determination of nanoparticles in food, and development of strategies for increased awareness of health concerns through education process, public dialogue and dialogue with public bodies and stakeholders with the aim to help in creation of regulations in the field of nanotechnologies in food industry.

Our relevant references:

SKOČAJ, Matej, FILIPIČ, Metka, PETKOVIĆ, Jana, NOVAK, Saša. Titanium dioxide in our everyday life : is it safe?. Radiol. oncol. (Ljubl.), 2011, Vol. 45, No. 4, pp. 227-247, doi: 10.2478/v10019-011-0037-0. 

PETKOVIĆ, Jana, KUEZMA, Tadeja, RADE, Katja, NOVAK, Saša, FILIPIČ, Metka. Pre-irradiation of anatase TiO2 particles with UV enhances their cytotoxic and genotoxic potential in human hepatoma HepG2 cells, Journal of Hazardous Materials, 2011.

PETKOVIĆ, Jana, ŽEGURA, Bojana, STEFANOVIĆ, Magdalena, DRNOVŠEK, Nataša, USKOKOVIĆ, Dragan, NOVAK, Saša, FILIPIČ, Metka. DNA damage and alterations in expression of DNA damage responsive genes induced by TiO2 nanoparticles in human hepatoma HepG2 cells. Nanotoxicology, Sept. 2011, Vol. 5, No. 3 , pp. 341-353.

Isotope fingerprinting

Food traceability and fingerprinting: An independent and universally applicable analytical strategy to verify the declared country of origin of food can be an invaluable tool to enable regulatory authorities to trace contaminated foods back to their source.

There are several methods suitable for species identification, however, at the moment none is accepted for the unequivocal determination of geographical origin. At present knowledge stable isotope and elemental fingerprinting looks one of the most powerful techniques to establish the geographical origin of food product. A common theme of food authentication and traceability studies is the requirement for a database of genuine samples to which the sample can be compared to establish its authenticity. The same database could be further used for geographical origin determination. Only a few databases covering wide regional distribution exist so far from which the wine database is the most developed in EU at the moment. Other main commodities of interest where elemental and stable isotope techniques were included comprise meat (beef and lamb), dairy products (milk, butter, and cheese), beverages (juices, coffee) and cereal crops (rice, wheat). The main challenge will be to develop isotopic traceability methodologies and systems to facilitate the rapid tracking of contaminated products and their removal from the market. The development of related stable and radio-isotope techniques that can be applied to detect and characterize emerging food safety hazards and assess and control the risks associated with those hazards is also envisioned. A deeper understanding of how meteorological and geochemical signatures are transferred into food systems would allow the generation of isotopic and multi-element maps for foods from different geographical locations, which could be incorporated into traceability systems. Comparative databases constructed from these data can then be used as benchmarks in on-going scientific developments of the future. Similar to stable isotopes of light elements, the so-called non-traditional isotopes of “heavy” elements will be used for fingerprinting and appointment of sources of (toxic) metals as pollutants in foods, due to the development of new technologies, such as multicollector ICP mass spectrometry. 

Our relevant references:

Knap, M., Ogrinc, N, Potočnik, K., Vidrih, R. 2014. Antioxidant activity in selected Slovenian organic and conventional crops. Acta Agriculturae Slovenica, 103, 281-289.

Bat, K., Vidrih, R., Nečemer, M., Mozetič Vodopivec, B., Mulič, I., Kump, P., Ogrinc, N. 2012. Characterization of Slovenian apples with respect to their botanical and geographical origin and agricultural production practice. Food Technology and Biotechnology 50, 107-116.

Kacjan-Maršić, N., Burnik Šturm, M., Zupanc, V., Lojen, S., Pintar, M. 2012. Quality of white cabbage yield and potential risk of ground water nitrogen pollution, as affected by nitrogen fertilisation and irrigation practices. Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture 92, 92-98.

Burnik Šturm, M., Kacjan-Maršić, N., Lojen, S. 2011. Can δ15N in lettuce tissues reveal the use of synthetic nitrogen fertiliser inorganic production? Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture 91, no. 2, str. 262-267.

Burnik Šturm, M., Lojen, S. 2011. Nitrogen isotopic signature of vegetables from the Slovenian market and its suitability as an indicator of organic production. Isotopes in Environmental and Health Studies 47, 214-220.

Bat, K., Mozetič Vodopivec, B., Ogrinc, N., Mulič, I. 2010. Metode iskanja potvorb v sadnih sokovih. Sad, 21, 4-5.

Burnik Šturm, M., Kacjan-Maršić, N., Zupanc, V., Bračič-Železnik, B., Lojen, S., Pintar., M. 2010. Effect of different fertilisation and irrigation practices on yield, nitrogen uptake and fertiliser use efficiency of white cabbage. Scientia Horticulturae, 125, 103-109.

Kropf, U., Golob, T., Nečemer, M., Kump, P., Korošec, M., Bertoncelj, J., Ogrinc, N. 2010. Carbon and nitrogen natural stable isotopes in Slovene honey: adulteration and botanical and geographical aspects. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 58, 12794-12803.

Kropf, U., Korošec, M., Bertoncelj, J., O.grinc, N., Nečemer, M., Kump, P., Golob, T. 2010. Determination of the geographical origin of Slovenian black locust, lime and chestnut honey. Food Chemistry 121, 839-846.

Hrastar, R., Gams Petrišič, M., Ogrinc, N., Košir, I. J. 2009. Fatty acid and stable carbon isotope characterization of Camelina sativa oil: implications for authentication. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 57, 579-585.

Kropf, U., Bertoncelj, J., Korošec, M., Nečemer, M., Kump, P., Ogrinc, N., Golob, T. 2009. Geographical origin of Slovenian multifloral and forest honey. Apiacta 44, 33-42.

Ogrinc, N., Bat, K., Košir, I. J., Golob, T., Kokkinofta Diogenous, R. 2009. Characterization of commercial Slovenian and Cypriot fruit juices using stable isotopes. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 57, 6764-6769.

Nečemer, M., Košir, I. J., Kump, P., Kropf, U., Korošec, Mo., Bertoncelj, J., Ogrinc, N., Golob, T. 2009. Application of total reflection X-ray spectrometry in combination with chemometric methods for determination of the botanical origin of Slovenian honey. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 57, 4409-441.

Sacco, D., Brescia, M., Sgaramella, A., Casiello, G., Buccolieri, N., Ogrinc, Nives, Sacco, A. 2009. Discrimination between Southern Italy and foreign milk samples using spectroscopic and analytical data. Food Chemistry 114, 1559-1563.

Ogrinc, N., Košir, I. J., Spangenberg, J. E., Kidrič, J. 2003. The application of NMR and MS methods for detection of adulteration of wine, fruit juices, and olive oil. A review. Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry 376, 424-430.

Košir, I. J., Kocjančič, M., Ogrinc, N., Kidrič, J. 2001. Use of SNIF-NMR and IRMS in combination with chemometric methods for the determination of chaptalisation and geographical origin of wines (the example of Slovenian wines). Analytica Chimica Acta 429, 195-206.

Ogrinc, N., Košir, I. J., Kocjančič, M., Kidrič, J. 2001. Determination of authenticy, regional origin, and vintage of Slovenian wines using a combination of IRMS and SNIF-NMR analyses. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 49, 1432-1440.

Spangenberg, J. E., Ogrinc, N. 2001. Authentication of vegetable oils by bulk and molecular carbon isotope analyses with emphasis on olive oil and pumpkin seed oil. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 49, 1534-1540.

Spangenberg, J. E., Ogrinc, N. 1999. Characterization of olive oils from Slovenia and Croatia by compound specific isotope analysis. Annales, Series Historia Naturalis 9, 1-4.

Guček, M., Marsel, J., Ogrinc, N., Lojen, S., 1998. Stable isotopes determinations in some fruit juices to detect added sugar. Acta Chimica Slovenica 45, 217-228.


The analytical capacity of the ISO-FOOD will support the national metrology system providing traceable and comparable measurement data, e.g. in the framework of European Metrology System (EURAMET).

Analytical procedures in many fields of analytical chemistry, such as the stable isotope analyses and nanoparticle determination and characterization, are in many cases not standardised at all and also certified reference materials are hardly available. The Chair will collaborate with the national Institute of Metrology and intensify the activities in the area of scientific and legal metrology (set-up of National Traceability Structure, improvement of national accredited calibration capacities etc.). As a consequence of high precisions of measurement techniques, one of the most important factors for improving the total uncertainty of the results is associated with the reference materials used for calibration which are extremely limited especially for compound specific measurements and isotope ratio determination in specific matrices (such as some foodstuffs). It is further extremely important to know the details of how the isotopic composition of the working reference was compared with the international reporting reference, and what the uncertainties of the measurements involved are. The accurate measurements of stable isotopes in different matrices are challenging, because

  1. The used analytical methods could not be properly validated given that certified reference materials and/or reference methods are lacking
  2. Isotope fractionation in the conversion of components to the gas analysed occurs
  3. Components in the column separation – combustion cycle often overlap

The sample preparation thus represents one of the largest or even the largest source of uncertainty of the entire procedure. This is in particular evident in samples most commonly analysed in food processing industry where the compounds of interest often occur in highly complex matrices, while the available certified reference materials are rather simple compounds where the conversion into measurable compounds is by far less demanding.

Data management

Development of the ISO-FOOD repository for data and knowledge about food and feed composition and region-, species- and practice-specific fingerprints.

To support diverse ERA Chair academic and research activities, we will develop a database, tools and services for data and knowledge management, exploration and exploitation. Tools and services will be either selected from the repository of existing and well-established ones or developed/upgraded by PhD students from the ERA Chair.

Some of the existing standards and tools that might be of our interest are the food composition data (FCD) standard Food data. Structure and interchange format (EN 16104:2012), the food classification and description system LanguaL and FoodEX, the FCD management tool FoodCASE developed by ETH Zürich, and the EuroFIR FCD Web services. In this way, we will enable an integration of scientific information collected by the ERA Chair with existing foodstuff composition and consumption data. As the JSI has already participated in the development of such tools and services for EuroFIR AISBL and EFSA, we are able to follow the standards and evidence-based practice in this field.

Moreover, developing a Web application for dietary assessment and diet planning (OPEN), which has been recognized by the European Federation of the Associations of Dieticians (EFAD), we are well aware of the needs for new data and knowledge in the fields of food quality, safety and traceability from the view of dieticians and chronic patients with special nutritional needs. The OPEN will serve as a research tool for the ERA Chair and other interested parties from hospitals, clinics, academic institutions and industry.  

Our relevant references:

BIZJAK, Mojca, JENKO PRAŽNIKAR, Zala, KOROUŠIĆ-SELJAK, Barbara. Development and validation of an electronic FFQ to assess food intake in the Slovene population. Public health nutrition, ISSN 1368-9800, 2014, Vol. 17, Iss. 8, pp. 1729-1737, doi: 10.1017/S1368980013002577.

BENEDIK, Evgen, KOROUŠIĆ-SELJAK, Barbara, SIMČIČ, Marjan, ROGELJ, Irena, BRATANIČ, Borut, DING, Eric L., OREL, Rok, FIDLER MIS, Nataša. Comparison of paper- and web-based dietary records : a pilot study. Annals of nutrition and metabolism, ISSN 0250-6807, 2014, Vol. 64, No. 2, pp. 156-166, doi: 10.1159/000363336.

KOROUŠIĆ-SELJAK, Barbara, STIBILJ, Vekoslava, POGRAJC, Larisa, FIDLER MIS, Nataša, BENEDIK, Evgen. Food composition databases for effective quality nutritional care. Food chemistry, ISSN 0308-8146, Elsevier, 2013, Vol. 130, No. 3, pp. 495-499, doi: 10.1016/j.foodchem. 2013.02.061.

KOROŠEC, Mojca, GOLOB, Terezija, BERTONCELJ, Jasna, STIBILJ, Vekoslava, KOROUŠIĆ-SELJAK, Barbara. The Slovenian food composition database. V: 9th International Food Data Conference, September 14-17, 2011, Norwich, United Kingdom. FINGLAS, Paul M. (ur.). Food composition and sustainable diets, (Food chemistry, ISSN 0308-8146, Vol. 140, no. 3). Amsterdam [etc.]: Elsevier, 2013, str. 495-499, doi: 10.1016/j.foodchem.2013.01.005.

KOROUŠIĆ-SELJAK, Barbara. Web-based eHealth applications with reference to food composition data. European journal of clinical nutrition, ISSN 0954-3007, London; Paris: John Libbey, 2010, Vol. 64, Iss. S3, pp. S121-S127.