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Chill - ON! Transparent food quality all the way

Regardless of where poultry or fish come from, freshness and food safety are critical factors for customer satisfaction. All parties involved in the supply chain must cooperate to meet these demands. CHILL-ON is an EU-funded project which has been working on solutions to guarantee a more accurate and almost continuous prediction of the level of risk during the supply process by means of integrated and novel technologies.

Food quality, safety and traceability ensured throughout the entire supply chain of chilled or frozen food.

Poultry and fish represent a modern and health-conscious lifestyle, the outcome of which is enormous growth in production and consumption. As a result, both industries as well as the relevant authorities have to find ways to ensure the supply of safe food whilst adhering to international trade agreements and remaining competitive both within and outside Europe. CHILL-ON, a European research project, started in July 2006 with the ambitious aim of improving quality, safety, and transparency in the chilled food supply chain - from farm to fork. This was done by implementing an interdisciplinary programme which included a very wide spectrum of disciplines ranging from biochemistry, genetics, microbiology, through chilling, packaging, and logistics, to information technologies, engineering, statistics and mathematics.

During its final meeting on 9th and 10th November 2010 at Chateau Chillon near Montreux, Switzerland, the CHILL-ON partners demonstrated their achievements. CHILL-ON has shown very promising results which can move the current traceability of chilled or frozen food to a new level.

The Quantitative Microbial Risk Assessment (QMRA) and the Shelf Life Predictor (SLP) software modules predict and/or calculate the growth of relevant pathogens and spoilage bacteria and the probability of food spoilage based on temperature profiles obtained from the entire food supply chain. The risk levels to the consumer and the remaining shelf life of food can be evaluated at any point in the chain. Scientists in CHILL-ON have also developed rapid test kits for the fast quantification of spoilage indicators and hygienic markers.

With the Time Temperature Indicators (TTI), the project makes the "freshness" of food visible by low-cost, colour-changing labels on the food packing. They are continuing working beyond CHILL-ON on a new generation that even allows wireless transmission of a temperature signal through a passive radio frequency identification chip. The rf-TTI prototype successfully developed in CHILL-ON has proved the concept but still needs further research work before it can become a commercial e-CHILL-ON Smart Label. Furthermore, CHILL-ON provides guidelines on best practices for the chilling of food and alternative transportation solutions to improve chilling during processing, transport and storage.

Finally, a major CHILL-ON outcome is a new generation of supply chain management software, called the TRACECHILL System, which combines different technologies to allow communication and data management along the entire supply chain, i.e. a web-based Supply Chain Management (SCM) software for data processing and file sharing. A Decision Support System (DSS) with integrated QMRA which alerts supply chain actors in case of temperature abuse, reduced shelf life, etc., a Geographical Information System (GIS) to determine the location of goods during the transport, and temperature sensors (T-Sensors) that record and transmit temperature data. With a Mobile Management Unit (MMU), data from the sensors can be received wirelessly and transmitted to a server. The objective of the TRACECHILL system is to cover the most crucial points within a supply chain, continuous temperature monitoring, temperature abuse identification, food contamination, quick tracking and tracing of products, and to meet the requirements of the European Union and international trade agreements. "I am confident that CHILL-ON represents a unique opportunity to improve safety and documentation of food chains to a considerable degree and at the same time to increase manufacturers' competitive position", says Matthias Kück, Project Coordinator at ttz Bremerhaven.

The CHILL-ON technologies have in the past year been tested in field trials in different geographic regions, i.e. partners on the project labeled Atlantic cod from Iceland and tracked it to France, they observed hake from Chile on its way to Spain or tilapia in the frozen supply chain in China. During the whole journey of the food product, starting in the factory where the food was packed through flight, truck or vessel transportation, the food data was sent wirelessly to a server and evaluated by the scientists. The results have been carefully analyzed to optimize the system and its functionality - and to increase industrial distribution and user acceptance. Similar tests have been accomplished along chains for poultry.

The project is coupled with a communication strategy for dissemination and exploitation. To learn more about the CHILL-ON story and how the wet trials looked, please visit <www.chill-on.com>.

CHILL-ON is coordinated by ttz Bremerhaven. It is a four and a half year research and development project that is being co-funded by the European Commission's Sixth Framework Programme. Its industrial partners are Afcon Industries Ltd. and Motorola Inc., Israel, Beijing Fishing Company, China, Seara Cargill S. A. and Companhia Minuano de Alimentos, Brazil. The participating SMEs are Actvalue Consulting & Solutions, Italy, Q-Bioanlytics GmbH, Germany, Research relay Ltd., United Kingdom, OSM-DAN Ltd, Israel, Freshpoint Holding, Switzerland, Chainfood b.v., Netherlands, Traceall Ltd., United Kingdom, and Research Laboratories, Greece. The RTD performers in CHILL-ON are China Agricultural University, China, Wessex Institute of Technology and University of Kent, United Kingdom, Fundación Chile, Chile, University of Parma, Italy, Matis ohf and University of Iceland, Iceland, Institute for Packaging, Transport and Logistics Research, Spain, Fundaçao Universidade Federal do Rio Grande, Brazil, Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, Israel, University of Bonn and ttz Bremerhaven, Germany.

ttz Bremerhaven is an innovative provider of research services and oper-ates in the field of application-oriented research and development. Under the umbrella of ttz Bremerhaven, an international team of experts is working in the areas of food, environment and health.

Contact: Christian Colmer

Head of Communication and Media ttz Bremerhaven Fischkai 1 D-27572 Bremerhaven (Germany) Phone: +49 (0)471 48 32 -124 Fax: +49 (0)471 48 32 - 129 ccolmer@ttz-bremerhaven.de <www.ttz-bremerhaven.de>

idw :: 10.01.2011