Demetra, the research project on eco-compatibility in the food industry

The research project to improve the safety and quality of food through the development of innovative technologies for its processing, marking, and tracing

What can be done to make processes in the food industry safer and more environmentally friendly?

This was one of the starting questions of the 3-year DEMETRA (acronym for DEvelopment of MatErial and TRAcking technologies for the safety of food) research project to improve the safety and quality of food through the development of innovative technologies for its processing, marking, and tracing.
Italians, according to this year’s surveys, prefer sustainable packaging when possible (Source: Il Sole 24 Ore article from February 2023). Even amidst inflation, which has decreased the contents of the shopping cart, products sold in eco-friendly packaging are on the rise (Source: article in Il Sole 24 Ore, September 2023)
Hence the importance of a project concerning the safety and eco-friendliness of food packaging, aimed at eliminating harmful substances and reducing the quantity of chemicals and water used for washing.

The expertise of the Vicenza-based company Ecor International in food process safety technology was employed for the research project. Specifically, Ecor International was engaged in activities focused on enhancing the working conditions within food filling plants, minimizing the potential risk of releasing potentially harmful elements into food, and finding a solution for the cleanliness of surfaces on industrial filling machines.

The project’s outcomes have resulted in:

  • Enhanced food safety, benefiting public health by eliminating harmful substances like nickel, which can cause allergic reactions, and improving product traceability.
  • Enhanced surface cleanliness in contact with food, contributing positively to production efficiency (reducing production halts), economics, and the environment (lower consumption of chemical detergents and water).

As highlighted by Ermelando Tolino from Ecor International in the video unveiling the project’s outcomes, ‘The research team comprised the lead partner CSM Centro Sviluppo Materiali, a research company within the RINA Group, Ecor International specializing in specialized components for the food packaging sector, the Italian Post Office, UNICAL, Net service—a leading software developer in Blockchain production—and finally, the public sector represented by the University of Calabria.’

Tolino further notes, ‘The partnership experience has been highly positive; indeed, we have already begun exploring forthcoming projects and advancements within the European sphere.’ He also stresses the significance of the connection with the Calabria region and its university, a relationship they hold in high esteem, particularly as members of the MATELIOSS (Advanced Materials for Renewable Energies) Technological District.

The research received funding from the NOP Research and Innovation 2014-2020 under Axis II ‘Thematic Projects’, ‘Cluster’ action, aimed at supporting industrial research and experimental development initiatives. Additionally, a documentary detailing the project was produced and made available on the website of the National Operational Plan for Research and Innovation 2014-2020: PON Research and Innovation 2014-2020.

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