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GAIKER-IK4 developed active packaging and smart labels to extend product life

Technological advances will allow for an exhaustive control of the quality of packaged food and to verify its conditions throughout its life

2011/01/03  
To increase and guarantee the quality of packaged foodstuff has become a consumer demand and a top priority for the food industry. In this context, the project MIPFOOD was launched, led by the company Mahou-San Miguel, while the technical coordination responsibility relies on GAIKER-IK4.

The project aims to develop "active packaging" and "smart labelling" to increase and guarantee the lifetime and quality of packaged goods. To achieve this ambitious goal we have developed MIPs (molecularly imprinted polymers), which are polymers that act as traps for the agents causing deterioration of food and beverages.
 
These MIPs will be included in the packages and labels, which will then become "active" and "smart", respectively.
The project aims to achieve three goals:
1. To develop quality control systems for food and drinks in real time (before packaging) by evaluating "biotic" parameters (antibiotics, hormones, bacteria and fungi that develop throughout the lifetime of food), "abiotic" (heavy metals, pesticides) and "freshness indicator molecules" (histamine).
2. To develop smart labels based on MIPs that will be included in the labels. When the MIP detects and/or traps the harmful agent it will alert with a fluorescent light, thus enabling removal of the product so that only quality-assured products reach the consumers.
3. To develop active packages, manufactured with polymers that already include MIPs to detect and/or trap harmful agents, while giving way to a mechanism liberating active substances, such as a natural antioxidant to protect the food against deterioration.

The advantage of these active packages and smart labels is that they enable a more thorough quality inspection of packaged goods, allowing for a verification of its state throughout its life.

The project has an overall budget of 5.4 million euros and is funded by the Ministry of Science and Innovation by grants and loans. In addition to Mahou-San Miguel and GAIKER-IK4, this project also involves some organisations and companies like the University of Santiago de Compostela, Feiraco, AMCOR, Pescaldía, Inkoa, IRTA, Nutreco and the Complutense University of Madrid. This project was launched in June 2010 and it is expected to end in 2014. 
 
Further goals
Avant-garde technologies, such as active materials, smart materials and nanomaterials, find their main field of application in packaging. Food conservation is an key factor in their safety, quality and healthiness. The MIPFOOD project will enable, among other things, the quality of the packaged goods to increase their duration, decreasing the use of food additives, ensuring the safety of foods packaged in plastic container, reducing the toxicological food risks for consumers, endowing the food industry biosensors that are fast, affordable, high-sensitive and selective for the detection of harmful agents, toxins and molecules to guarantee the quality of food and beverages. Furthermore, developed MIPs may be implemented in the existing tracking systems at all levels; from the food industry, through packaging and transport to the final sale venue.
 
info:  Clara Bilbao,  bilbaoc@gaiker.es

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