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9th newsletter

ISO-FOOD newsletter 9th



Welcome to the ninth ISO-FOOD newsletter.
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The first half of 2019 has been exciting and challenging for ISO-FOOD with two major announcements. One is that after much hard work, we are delighted to announce the Isotope laboratory of the Department of Environmental Sciences finally received accreditation for two new isotopic methods (read on for details). Accreditation represents over two years of preparation, something we could not have achieved without the dedication and efforts of members of the department. The other important news is that we held our first International Symposium on Isotopic and Other Techniques in Food Safety and Quality on the 1st-3rd of April in Portorož. I want to thank everyone involved including speakers, poster presenters, delegates, exhibitors, sponsors and members of the organising committee for contributing to a truly successful meeting. All the details are in the newsletter. Looking forward, July will bring new challenges for ISO-FOOD as the official period of EU funding ends after five years. A look back at all of the progress we’ve made over this period and what the future holds for ISO-FOOD will be the topic of our 10th newsletter. In the meantime, you can download and read our previous newsletters from the ISO-FOOD website, where you can also catch up on the latest news and happenings.

Dr David Heath,
ERA Chair holder

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

Arguably, the main news events for ISO-FOOD during the spring was our first International Symposium held at the Grand Hotel Bernardin Congress Centre, which is situated between Portorož and the historic town of Piran on Slovenia’s Northern Adriatic coast. The idea was to bring together experts, stakeholders, researchers, scientists as well as graduate and postgraduate students from across the world to share knowledge and experiences, and to present the latest advances in isotopic and other techniques in food safety and quality. For this reason, we divided the scientific programme in the following fields, namely, 1) food authenticity and traceability, 2) food safety and quality, 3) foodomics, 4) nanomaterials and nanotechnology, 5) metrology in food, and 6) food databases and semantics. The three-day programme consisted of fifteen invited speakers, thirty-one oral presenters and fifty-nine poster presentations. In total, one hundred and twenty delegates from around the world came to the event. The delegates originated from twenty countries including Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Japan, Poland, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Spain, Switzerland, Taiwan, United Kingdom, and the United States, and represented academia, governmental bodies, industry, SMEs, and NGOs.

In our modern complex and increasingly global food supply chains, the issue of brand reputation and protecting producers and consumers has been in focus more than ever as food producers/retailers struggle to maintain healthy food and stay ahead of the fraudsters. In this regard, the Symposium provided an opportunity for the many different stakeholders attending to raise and discuss a wide range of matters relating to food quality and safety. Participants of the symposium were able to ask questions the leading experts and network with peers. It highlighted the advances made in isotopic and elemental methods and what we can achieve using such methods to determine food safety, food origin and uncover fraud.

Images from the ISOFOOD2019, Left: Delegates enjoying the conference dinner, and Right: Delegates wearing their ISO-FOOD aprons.

As well as the scientific programme, we also included a social agenda into the event as an opportunity for strengthening existing relationships and fostering future collaborations. The networking event consisted of a trip to the Sečovlje Saltpans. This included a guided tour of the still working salt pans followed by a scientific overview of the salt making process presented by Prof Nives Kovač form the Slovenian National Institute of Biology.

                       A view across the Sečovlje Saltpans.

The day was concluded with a dinner and festivities at the nearby family Mahnič ecological farm and vineyard, where delegates were greeted with a traditional welcome of salt and bread and followed by an evening of traditional local cuisine, fine wine and folk music      

Traditional local welcome of bread and salt, followed by old-style music with home produced traditional food and wine.
From the feedback we received, it was by all accounts a very successful meeting, and we would like to take this opportunity to thank the ISO-FOOD team for the tremendous effort in organising the Symposium. We would also like to give a big thank you to all those delegates who attended and present their research, and to our sponsors, Albatros kongresno-turistična agencija d.o.o. and to the staff of the Grand Hotel Bernardin for making us so welcome.

From the presentations given at the conference, it was clear that much progress in this field has been made and the abstracts for the symposium contributions are gathered in the book of abstracts, and full papers will form part of a Special Edition in Food Chemistry and Toxicology. However, it is also clear, that there is much work to be done and that many challenges remain. We hope to see everyone at ISOFOOD2021. The book of abstracts from this year’s Symposium is available on the ISO-FOOD website.

Winners of ISOFOOD2019 best Posters award

It was also double success for the ISO-FOOD students at the First International Symposium on Isotopic and Other Techniques in Food Safety and Quality (See ISO-FOOD Symposium). An independent awards committee headed by Dr Kelly from the IAEA chose the three best poster winners. The committee evaluated the posters in terms of design and layout, coherence, argumentation and methodology, awareness of previous work, attractiveness, message, the balance of text visuals, and overall impression. The final decision was that the best three posters share the first place. The awards went to:
  1. Dr Bor Krajnc for his work on the “Characterization of truffles (Tuber sp.) in Slovenia using stable isotope approach and elemental composition”. Co-authors: Marijan Nečemer, Federica Camin, Katarina Vogel-Mikuš, Staša Hamzić Gregorčič, Lidija Strojnik, and Nives Ogrinc. Jožef Stefan Institute, Slovenia.
  2. Dr Raghuraj S. Chouhan for his work on the “Development of an efficient passive sampler adsorbent for the detection of mercury in water via stratified nanostructured knitting.” Co-authors: Vesna Fajon, Igor Živković, Majda Pavlin, Sabina Berisha, Ivan Jerman, David Heath, and Milena Horvat. Jožef Stefan Institute, Slovenia
  3. Lei Fujiyoshi who presented a poster titled “Trust me? Consumer trust in expert information on food product labels” Co-authors: Christoph Rupprecht, Lei Fujiyoshi, Steven McGreevy, and Ichiro Tayasu.Research Institute for Humanity and Nature, Japan
Winners of the best poster award together with conference Chairs David Heath and Nives Ogrinc, and Simon Kelly Chair of the best poster committee. (From left to right: D. Heath, B. Krajnc, L. Fujiyoshi, R. S. Chouhan, S. Kelly, N. Ogrinc).

ISO-FOOD’s Tome Eftimov receives Scientist of the year award

Also in April, we were all thrilled that Dr Tome Eftimov, one of ISO-FOOD’s our three sponsored doctoral students received for his PhD work the Macedonian award of “2018 scientist of the year”. Gjorge Ivanov, the President of Macedonia, presented Dr Eftimov with the award at a special national ceremony. The Best Young Scientist Award was established in 2010 and is awarded by the President of the Republic of Macedonia as an incentive to bolster science and research in the Republic of Macedonia. Dr Eftimov is currently a postdoctoral researcher at the Department of Biomedical Data Science, Centre for Population Health Sciences, Stanford Medicine, Stanford University, California, US. His latest paper, titled “A novel statistical approach for comparing meta-heuristic stochastic optimization algorithms, according to the distribution of solutions in the search space in the Journal Information Sciences can be found here.

Gjorge Ivanov, the President of Macedonia (right), awards Tome Eftimov (left) as the 2018 best young scientist.

Prof Barbara Koroušić Seljak receives Scientist of the year award

Also in April Prof Barbara Koroušić Seljak from the Computer Sciences Department of the JSI received the Slovenian Young Academy Mentor of the Year Award 2018. Prof Barbara Koroušić Seljak was a mentor to ISO-FOOD’s doctoral student Tome Eftimov. Dr Koroušič Seljak is a valued member of the ISO-FOOD ERA Chair Team and heads work package 4 “Networking and transfer of Knowledge”.

    Prof Barbara Koroušić Seljak (Centre figure) accepting the award for the best mentor.

Television broadcast on vanilla and the use of stable isotopes to determine its origin and frauds

The TV show “UGRIZNIMO ZNANOST” (Let’s bite into science) presented “Vanilla the Queen of the Spices”, its natural and artificial aroma and methods to distinguish between them with the help of the isotopic techniques. Prof. Dr Nives Ogrinc and Lidija Strojnik presented the isotopic research, which is performed at our department. The show was broadcasted on 9th of May 2019 at the national Slovenian TV station: RTV SLO1

Fragrant brown vanilla pods are an indispensable part of every kitchen. Every year more than 1000 new products with vanilla flavouring are sold such that world production of vanilla can no longer meet the demand, to the point that the price of natural vanilla exceeded that of saffron. Nevertheless, the supermarket shelves are full of products with added vanilla. From where does all this vanilla come, if cultivating trees and getting producing the natural pods is so demanding and expensive? Do we even know the natural aroma of vanilla? If it is not natural in the store, how is it produced? How modern analytical and isotopic techniques can help answer these questions is presented in the video. The video is available on the link in the RTV Slovenia archive.

1st ISO-FOOD’s first Science Slam

During this year’s symposium, ISO-FOOD held its first Science Slam. The competition aims to present research in an understanding and entertaining manner in a three-minute timeframe, using simple props to aid in communication. This epic science showdown involved the following six slammers:

Slammers at ISO-FOOD 2019. From left to right: Raghuraj S Chouhan, Gerald A. Herrmann, Silvia Mallia, Ajda Trdin, Vesna Fajon and Jasmina Masten.
The Slam took place during the symposium dinner at the Mahnič Tourist Farm. Since the results of the public voting were extremely close, the decision was made to award two first and four-second places. 

The first prize went to (in no particular order):
Jasmina Masten (Jožef Stefan Institute, Slovenia) who spoke about Algae as a food source and
Gerald A. Herrmann (Organic Services GmbH, Germany) who spoke about the in food fraud and criminal activity.

The second prize went to (in no particular order):
Vesna Fajon (Jožef Stefan Institute, Slovenia) who spoke about the risks posed by the presence of mercury in Seafood;
Ajda Trdin (Jožef Stefan Institute, Slovenia) who spoke about metals in mother’s milk;
Silvia Mallia (METAS, Switzerland) spoke on the safety of sport protein shakes and
Raghuraj S. Chouhan (Jožef Stefan Institute, Slovenia) who spoke about his research into novel materials, sensor development and their application in food research
Congratulations to the winners and bravo to all the participants for putting on an entertaining show. The full performance of the Slam with the kind permission of the slammers is available here.

ISO-FOOD: New Accreditation Certificate

A major aim of ISO-FOOD was realised in April when the Department of Environmental Sciences, in the framework of the ERA Chair ISO-FOOD, obtained accreditation for methods for the determination of the ratios of stable carbon isotopes (13C/12C) in ethanol, and oxygen (18O/16O) in the water of foodstuff using mass spectrometry. The road to accreditation represented over two years of hard work by members of the department and was one of ISO-FOOD’s major project aims. It is an important acquisition for the Department and the Jožef Stefan Institute since it will strengthen our role in the national metrology system and enable us to enter into the new international projects in the field of food traceability and authenticity.

Doris Potočnik (Left) and Lidija Strojnik (Right) operating one of the department’s Isotope Ratio Mass Spectrometers.

ISO-FOOD prize 2019

Each year, the ERA Chair awards the “ISO-FOOD 2019 Prize” at the annual joint Jožef Stefan International Postgraduate School Students’ Conference and the Young Researchers Day in Chemistry, Materials, Biochemistry and the Environment (CMBE) in Slovenia. This year’s conference was held in Planica on April 15th and 16th. This innovative joint event highlights the work of over 70 Slovene and international students. Each year the Era Chair holder Dr David Heath presents the “ISO-FOOD prize for Best Poster presentation relating to food research”. The prize was designed to acknowledge excellence in food research. Members of an independent awards committee made up of heads of departments from different academic establishments, and the JSIPS School judged the posters. The winner for her outstanding contribution was Lidija STROJNIK for her work titled: “Analytical techniques sniff out aroma frauds.”

 2019 winner Lidija STROJNIK (2nd from left).

Call for Papers: Special Issue in Food and Chemical Toxicology

We want to remind everyone that there is still time to contribute to our second Special Issue in Food and Chemical Toxicology (FCT). This special issue FCT invites you to join contributors from the ISOFOOD2019 Symposium to publish your work (original or review papers) to the peer-reviewed Special Issue on Advanced Isotopic and Other Techniques in Food Safety and Quality. The issue will focus on food authenticity and traceability, food safety and quality, foodomics, nanotoxicology, metrology and food databases and semantics. The deadline is September 30, 2019. To submit a paper to the special issue, please be sure to select “VSI: ISOFOOD 2019” as the article type.https://www.journals.elsevier.com/food-and-chemical-toxicology.



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

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