Agricultural products, intended for consumption, either as raw products or as processed foods, form the basis of the human diet. Global market and commerce as well as fraudulent practices have raised both the concerns in the marker and the adulteration events of products Thus, checking the authenticity and detecting counterfeit agricultural products including cereals, legumes, vegetables, olive oil, fruits, nuts, wine and wine products, honey and herbs and flavorings is a prerequisite for promoting their value and prevent fraudulent practices and unfair competition. Molecular approaches are necessary in order to prevent adulteration and moreover for product branding. DNA methods become the method of choice and especially DNA barcoding. The ultimate goal is the identification, traceability and detection of any fraud to protect consumers and producers but also to increase the value of the product.
To this end, during the 3rd semester of the project the emphasis has been placed on applying traceability processes covering the whole agri-food supply chain. Thus, the MED Food TTHubs team worked extensively to develop a Common Authentication and Quality Assurance Protocol based on genetic and genomic approaches, on isotope analysis and on quality control from farm-to-self. Besides that, a full-path Voluntary Scheme of Traceability for MED foods has been developed based on documented authentication of products using the genetic and genomic data along with the isotope analysis data.
Actually, within the scope of WP3: “Development of integrated framework for traceability and authenticity control of Mediterranean food products”, six cases that met the requirements of discontinued production, exposure to fraud, high nutritional value and importance for biodiversity conservation were evaluated: (i) processed fruits from Italy, (ii) fishery products from Greece, (iii) processed vegetables from Egypt, (iv) fresh vegetables from Jordan, (v) meat products from Portugal, and (vi) fresh fruits from Tunisia. The use of DNA barcoding methods enabled INAB and the other involved partners to authenticate the selected products. Then, the consortium used the data produced in a blockchain process to monitor the product in the production chain from the farm-to-the-self of the market.
Moreover, an overall integrated process of certifying a series of critical characteristics of fresh, frozen, semi- processed and processed products was developed in terms of the authentication of species, their proven geographical origin (avoidance of fraud), their nutritional value (actual per product) the cultivation process (residual measurement) and the process of processing (recipes) and packaging was established. This process facilitated the formulation of a Voluntary Scheme of Traceability form MED foods, which will be applied by the stakeholders and end-users.
More specifically, step-by-step guidelines for designing and applying full-path traceability processes internally and externally covering the whole food supply chain for all the food products which are selected for the project’s activities are now available. A step-by-step full-path tracing traceability system that will support all stages process of food traceability: (Identification, Capturing, Evaluating, Sharing) is also available and fully compliant with GS1 standards.
WP3 and its various activities had been completed at the end of September 2021. During the upcoming semester, the developed protocols will be integrated to the MED Food TTHubs e-Platform, setting the basis for the pilot activities and the next steps of our project!