Wednesday, May 6, 2020

The COVID-19 Pandemic Crisis & the food sector

The Food Systems in the Era of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic Crisis 

The World Health Organization (WHO) declared the outbreak of coronavirus disease (COVID-19, broadly referred to as “coronavirus”) a global pandemic, while thousands of infections and deaths are reported daily. The current article explores the food systems in the era of the COVID-19 pandemic crisis. It provides insights about the properties of bioactive ingredients of foods and herbs for the support of the human immune system against infections before discussing the possibility of COVID-19 transmission through the food chain. It also highlights the global food security issues arising from the fact that one-third of the world’s population is on lockdown. Finally, it underlines the importance of sustainability in the food chain in order to avoid or reduce the frequency of relevant food and health crises in the future.

Full open access article

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

20 Years Food & Environmental Science & Technology: What's up Next

Back to 1998 is when I first started my adventure in Chemistry as a graduate student at the University of Patras. Simultaneously, I started practicing oenology part-time in our family chemical laboratory in Chania, analyzing samples of musts from homemade winemaking. My work experience in fermentation processes was the spark inspiring me to conduct my MSc studies in food biotechnology.
However, I continued working with the chemical analysis of other foodstuffs such as olive oil to determine it's quality or olive kernel/paste/mill wastewater samples to optimize the quantitative and qualitative performance of the olive oil production units.

When I came back to my hometown in 2004, I was seeking new challenges beyond food analysis and I found them at the Technical University of Crete. During this period, most researchers of the School of Environmental Engineering were dealing with the treatment of olive mill wastewater (OMW) targeting the diminution of its organic load.

Having daily contact with olive oil producers in our family lab, I quickly realized that the proposed solutions for the treatment of OMW were not sustainable. Olive oil is a sector challenged in many directions. Consumers demand extra virgin olive oils of ultra high quality, the product's final price varies a lot from time to time and local authorities demand from production units to reduce their environmental impact. Under these conditions, even cheap solutions that promise the total treatment of OMW may collapse financially in olive oil industries. On the other hand, the recovery of polyphenols from olive processing by-products was a hype research objective in the middle of 00s: some interesting articles were published and a couple of early efforts were under commercialization.  These facts inspired me to conduct my Ph.D. for the recovery and the clarification of organic constituents from OMW using physicochemical processes.

In particular, I started working with the adsorption of olive polyphenols on Greek lignites as a part of a funded research project on these materials. In 2006, I presented my first experimental results in an international conference [Galanakis, C.M., Dimou, D., Pasadakis, N., Papanicolaou, K., & Gekas, V. (2006). Adsorption of olive mill wastewater on raw and activated Greek Lignites. Protection and Restoration of the Environment VIII. 3-7 July, Chania, Greece].

My presentation did not have many fans in a strictly environmental engineering audience. My early efforts were too empirical and were lacking in the theoretical background. I stepped on the podium and professors in the audience were laughing with my approach. I was so disappointed feeling uselessness for my efforts. Almost two years already as a Ph.D. student, and no real outcomes.
A few months later I visited Lund University in Sweden as an Erasmus student, supervised by my mentor Eva Tornberg. The purpose of my visit was to conduct experiments for the pre-treatment of OMW to remove solids and macromolecules like proteins. We developed a simple methodology for the simultaneous recovery of dietary fiber and polyphenols from OMW, in two separated streams, namely an alcohol insoluble residue and an ethanolic extract.

The proposed method attracted the interest of Forskarpatent I Syd AB (a Swedish spinout commercialization Company), which subsequently funded the edition, registration (28.02.2007) of the patent (WO/2008/082343). At this point, my investigation turned to a double goal: developing applications for both the dietary fiber and polyphenolic extracts. After obtaining the first laboratory results, I decided to edit my first research articles. It took me 3 years and multiple rejections in different scientific journals to publish my first ever paper.

Photo 1 shows my first attempt in making meatballs with dietary fiber recovered from olive mill wastewater. They were black and green, looking burned even prior to cooking. After cooking, they had a metallic taste due to the very high potassium content of the crude extract recovered from OMW. But, the fortification of meatballs with olive fiber was able to improve the cooking properties of the product by restricting the oil uptake and thereby giving rise to meatballs with sustained reduced fat content. This technological property in combination with the innovative application gave me my first publication of research article after 5 years of effort.

Later on, I clarified the fiber-rich extract from high potassium concentrations using a 25 kDa ultrafiltration membrane. The membrane was also able to partially remove the heavier fragments of hydroxycinnamic acid derivatives and flavonols from a phenol containing beverage that was simultaneously developed during my Ph.D. study. This application resulted in one of the most cited articles of Journal Food Engineering (within 2010-2015).

A couple of years later (in 2008), the potential applications of the patent recognized by Lund University Innovation systems AB that established a company (Phenoliv AB) in cooperation with the inventors (Tornberg, E. and Galanakis, C. M.), funded the obtainment of patent legal rights from Forskarpatent I Syd AB. This company tried to commercialize olive polyphenols for different applications in foodstuff and consumer products.

After finishing my Ph.D. in 2010, I focused on Phenoliv AB. The company operated for 8 years (up to 2016). During this period, we developed a pilot plant for the production of 40 Kg polyphenol-rich powder from 2 tn of OMW. This product was investigated by fortifying different products, e.g. chocolates, beverages, meat products, chips, vegetable oils, bakery products, and cosmetics. Phenoliv AB was a great “school” as it allowed me realizing that the distance between academia and real-world is long and that there are many steps to make innovation happen.

In the same period, I continued my research efforts aiming basically at processing bioresources, recovering different functional ingredients from all kinds of food processing by-products, separating functional compounds with membrane technology and finally fortifying foods and consumer products.

Concerning recovery procedures, the first step was to identify the conventional and emerging (basically non-thermal) technologies used for the separation of valuable compounds in foods prior to integrating them in a holistic methodology. The so-called "5-Stages Universal Recovery Process" was published in a review paper that became the most cited article published in Trends in Food Science Technology within the period 2012-2017.

This methodology was initially designed to ensure optimized management of the available technologies and recapture several kinds of valuable compounds from any waste source. Thereafter, it was further developed to a more general approach (the so-called "The Universal Recovery Strategy") that includes all the relevant information in each case (e.g. wastes distribution, availability and production data, microstructure, engineering aspects, safety and cost issues, scale-up and commercialization aspects etc) for the designing of a particular application. All this information was included in a relevant reference module and in my first edited book in 2015 entitled “Food Waste Recovery: Processing Technologies and Industrial Techniques”.

Back in 2013, I realized that my vision cannot be realized with spare actions and efforts, without bridging together all researchers and experts in the field, without bridging the gap between industry and academia, without transferring technical knowledge to stakeholders. This is when I founded the Food Waste Recovery Group with the support of the ISEKI-Food Association. The group acts at the technological part of bioeconomy, helping industries to estimate the potentiality of their food waste and convert them into food by-products of commercial importance.

Within the last 6 years, we have initiated numerous endeavors including the preparation of multiple scientific books, dealing with saving food actions, biobased industries and products, valorization of different food processing by-products (e.g. from olive, grape, fruits, cereals, coffee, meat, etc.), sustainable food systems, innovations strategies in the food and environmental science, innovation in traditional foods, nutraceuticals and non-thermal processing, nutraceuticals and pharmaceuticals, shelf-life and food quality, and personalized nutrition. The group has also prepared books dealing with food components like polyphenols, proteins, carotenoids, glucosinolates, dietary fiber, lipids and edible oils, as well as alternative food products, non-alcoholic drinks and others.
The group has also developed courses, training workshops, joint research efforts, and expert database and several news channels (social media pages, videos and blogs) for them on time dissemination of knowledge. Our advisory department deals with (but not limited to) waste valorization, bio-based product development and compounds recovery.
At the end of the last year, I was included in 2019 Highly Cited Researchers list of Web of Science Group. Working part-time in research with negligible resources for more than a decade, being placed under 40 years old in the World’s top 0.1% of most influential scientists was beyond my dream expectations when I started my career.

What’s Up Next?
My vision is to contribute to #SAVEFOOD actions and build a more sustainable future: 
Food Waste Recovery. The continuous development of the Food Waste Recovery Group and its further establishment as the biggest open innovation network worldwide in the particular field is of the highest priority. The ultimate goal is to inspire related professionals to extract high added-value compounds from wasted by-products in all stages of food production (from agriculture to the consumer) and re-utilize them in the food chain. Through our management consultancy, we provide insights all around the world, from Europe to the US, Asia, Middle East and Oceania: wherever food waste is generated and whenever the food industry is seeking answers.
Contributing to Future European Bioeconomy.  The updated EU Bioeconomy Strategy adopted in October 2018 aims to develop a sustainable bioeconomy for Europe, strengthening the connection between economy, society, and the environment. It addresses global challenges such as meeting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set by the United Nations and the climate objectives of the Paris Agreement. After many years of effort, the objectives of the Food Waste Recovery Group came at the forefront of the European Agenda. The EU Green Deal will change Europe to a biobased, climate-neutral and circular economy by 2050. We will stay dedicated to this vision aiming at contributing to future European bioeconomy.

Intensifying Research and Innovation Efforts. Building bridges between industry and academia, sustainability and innovation, theory and practice is and always will be of primary importance. Through the development of key collaborations such as this between Galanakis Laboratories (Greece) and King Saud University (Saudi Arabia), we aim at recovering valuable compounds from food processing by-products and other bioresources prior utilizing them for the fortification of bakery, meat, foodstuff, and other consumer products (e.g. cosmetics). Up to now, important natural sources have been under-investigated. We are intensifying our efforts to reveal opportunities for under estimated agricultural products and by-products.

Never Stopped Serving Local Producers and Enterprises. Serving the agri-food sector and the local community is always my commitment. The main objective of Galanakis Laboratories is the provision of services to third parties in the field of chemical, physicochemical and microbiological testing of wines, musts, beverages, olive oils, olive kernels, foods, honey, waters, waste, soils and others. Chemical and technical advice is also provided for these products, whereas we undertake the preparation of environmental, chemical, industrial and techno-economic studies.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Cereal Processing By-Products Within the Biorefinery Concept

Cereal grains comprise the principal component of human diet for thousands of years and therefore their processing represents a big asset of the food production chain. Wheat, rice, oat, barley and corn processing via dry and wet milling, pearling and malting includes complex procedures that generate an important amount of by-products that differ in their physical state and chemical composition.
Cereal processing by-products represent abundant and low-cost resources of phytochemicals (e.g. carbohydrates, proteins, dietary fibre, lipids, vitamins, polyphenols, inorganic and trace elements) with potential nutraceutical and pharmaceutical applications. To this line, their re-utilization and upgrade to high added-value applications is a great challenge towards the sustainable development of the agro-food sector for the years to come.
Oat processing and the alternative optionsThe target compounds and substrates are plenty and have been covered adequately through the whole book. Oat, its processing by-products and healthy components is a typical example of the available valorization and upgraded choices. Oats possess high amounts of water soluble fibers and particularly β-glucan (e.g. 2.2-7.8 g/100 g) as well as proteins (11-20 g/100 g). Their nutritional advantages in spite of diabetes and the control of blood cholesterol level have been attributed to the contained β-glucan.
To this line, the attribution of cereal β-glucan as functional ingredient has increased the interest concerning their incorporation in food formulations. Oat grains have been subjected to amylase hydrolysis (converting starch, carbohydrates and dietary fibers to maltose and β-glucan) in order to develop nondairy products. This process is monitored via enzyme kinetics modeling that optimizes the viscoelastic behavior of hydrolysates and simulates biodegradation processes of multienzymatic system based on cultures, e.g. hydrolysis of starch wastes.
Carbohydrate hydrolysis generates a drink that is consumed alternatively to milk products due to the lactose intolerance and cholesterol content issues of human populations, and a by-product (oat mill waste), which is usually dried and utilized as animal feed. The latest is rich in proteins and β-glucan that could be recovered using extraction and membrane technologies and utilized further in different applications, e.g. to replace fat of yoghurt and cheese.
Read full article in my Elsevier SciTech Connect Blog.

Friday, November 3, 2017

The Trend of Polyphenols

In the past 10 years, the growing interest of consumers has arised to a number of “superfoods”, which has been motivated by their high content of “polyphenols”. These compounds constitute a heterogeneous group of molecules which differentiate according to their chemical structure.

Polyphenols is a collective term for several sub-groups of compounds, but the use of this term has been somewhat confusing and its implied chemical structures are often vague even to researchers. Even today the scientific community is not consistent with a universal use of the term denoting plant polyphenols, since some call them plant phenols while some others use the term polyphenols.
The first definition of plant polyphenols in the scientific literature pertains to this initial utilization of polyphenolic plant extracts. As these compounds were highly required in the leather industry, considerable efforts were devoted from the beginning of the 20th century onwards to the study of the chemistry of tanning plant extracts in an attempt to tackle the structural characterization of their polyphenolic constituents.
Research on plant polyphenols shifted gears after 1945, as the discovery of paper chromatography and more and more other advanced analytical techniques made it possible to separate in numerous individual constituents.
In 1957 an industrial chemist Theodore White, pointed out that the term “tannin” should strictly refer to plant polyphenolic materials having molecular masses between 500 and 3000 Da and a sufficiently large number of phenolic groups to be capable of forming hydrogen-bonded cross-linked structures with collagen molecules (the act of tanning).
Today, the main reason for the interest of scientists and consumers for polyphenols is the recognition of their antioxidant properties, their great abundance in our diet, and their probable role in the prevention of various diseases associated with oxidative stress, such as cancer and cardiovascular and neurodegenerative diseases. Due to the considerable diversity of their structures, polyphenols are considered even more efficient than other antioxidants.
Read full article in My Elsevier SciTech Connect Blog.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Sustainable Food Systems Means Improving Production and Processing

Until the end of the 20th century, food loss and disposal of food waste were not evaluated as matters of concern. The prevalent policy was mainly to increase food production, without improving the efficiency of the food systems. This fact increased generation of food lost or wasted along supply chains.
In the 21th century, escalating demands for processed foods have required identification of concrete opportunities to prevent depletion of natural resources, restrict energy demands, minimize economic costs as well as reduce food losses and wastes. Besides, recent changes in the legislative frameworks and environmental concerns have stimulated industry to reconsider their management policy and in some cases to face the concept of “recovery” as an opportunity.
This tendency is becoming a major item for the food industry around the world, as resources become more restricted and demand grows. Indeed, food industry is increasing attention towards sustainability, which has been has been developed into a trendy word characterizing a frame of advances and modernization in the years to come. However, sustainability is neither easy to specify nor to implement.
In theory, it reflects the principle that we must meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. For instance, food processing ensures that the resources required producing raw food materials and ingredients for food manufacturing are used most efficiently. Responding to this goal, sustainability requires the maximum utilization of all raw materials produced and integration of activities throughout all the production-to-consumption stages.
Read full article in my Elsevier Scitech Connect Blog.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Sustainable Management of Olive Mill Wastewater: Treatment or Valorisation?

Olive oil is obtained from olive fruit by mechanical procedures, whereas its production involves one of the following extraction processes: i) discontinuous (press) extraction, ii) 3-phase centrifugal extraction or iii) 2-phase centrifugal extraction. Each of these processes generates in different forms and compositions.
The traditional olive pressing and the three phases continuous systems produce three streams: olive oil, olive cake (or kernel) and olive mill wastewater (OMWW). The annual world OMWW production is estimated between 10 and 30 million m3. The discontinuous process (not used often anymore) produces less but more concentrated wastewater (0.5–1m3 per 1000 kg) than the centrifugation process (1–1.5m3 per 1000 kg). The 2-phase centrifugal system was introduced during the 1990s in which the olive paste is separated into phases of olive oil and wet pomace (sludge by-product) that enables reduction of the volume of OMWW. Wet olive pomace is usually further extracted with n-hexane yielding olive cake oil, although it has no significant value because of the required energy for the drying process.
OMWW is a dark-colored, acidic (3< pH value <5.9) suspension of three phases: water, oil and solids (smashed particles of olive paste and kernel). It has a characteristic unpleasant odour and high organic content, whereas is claimed to be one of the most polluting waste produced by the agro-food industries. Typically OMWW consists of: 83-94% water, 0.4-2.5% mineral salts, 0.03–1.1% lipids and 4-16% organic compounds such as carbohydrates (2-8 g/100 g), pectin, mucilage, lignin and tannins.

Read full article in my Elsevier SciTech Connect Blog here.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Handbook of Grape Processing By-products Book – Authors’ Team Acknowledgments

After its launch few months ago, the Handbook of Grape Processing By-products  is continuously raising interest among researchers, academics, students, professionals and industrial partners activated in the field. Indeed, thousands’ of colleagues have already joined our LinkedIn and Facebook communities, participate in our open forums, discuss their needs, make questions, refer their case scenarios, indicate their problems and finally look for solutions and consulting in our interactive Food Waste Recovery – Open Innovation Network.
Book Presentation
A detailed explanation of the key features and hints of the book is accessible via an online book presentation which was organized on 20th of June by ISEKI Food Association (IFA) and watched live by numerous colleagues around the world. This was also an opportunity to catch up with colleagues and meet our audience. A recording of this book presentation can be viewed in the following video

Authors’ Team Acknowledgments
All these activities are organized by the FWR Group and volunteering actions of experts in the field. Therefore, I would like to take this opportunity to thank all group members and authors’ team for their fruitful collaboration and high quality work in bringing together different topics and technologies in an integral and comprehensive text.
Read full article here.