Food quality, authenticity, nutrient profile and health benefits are a focus of consumer’s requirements worldwide. Food traceability and safety are key factors to ensure food quality and to protect consumers’ interests. However, despite all efforts within the EU there is still a significant fragmentation in the area of food analysis and research worldwide. To increase efficiency in food quality and food safety research and to help identify crucial knowledge gaps, a new “Research Infrastructure (RI) for promoting Metrology in Food and Nutrition” – METROFOOD-RI – has been established.
Sciensano’s ‘Chemical and Physical Health Risks’ department is the Belgian representative for METROFOOD-RI, a new distributed research infrastructure that has recently been accepted within the “Health and Food” domain of the ESFRI Roadmap 2018 (ESFRI Roadmap 2018 – Domain Health and Food).
The mission of METROFOOD-RI is :
- to enhance quality and reliability of measurement results,
- to promote and facilitate data sharing, exchange of information and metrological tools,
- to provide scientific excellence in the field of food quality and safety,
- to increase translational scientific cooperation and integration throughout the food chain.
The project is now in its Preparatory Phase (01/12/2019 – 31/05/2022) during which all the legally binding agreements and requirements will be developed for obtaining the ERIC (European Research Infrastructure Consortium) status. During this phase Sciensano is responsible for:
- the development of the service provision,
- the definition of the access and procurement policy,
- the guidelines for the implementation of the security management,
- the definition, planning and follow-up of the use cases.
The main goal of this concerted effort is to harmonise and coordinate high quality metrology services in food and nutrition. Developing standardised procedures and providing suitable reference materials (RM) to ensure full traceability, will help to achieve this goal. The distributed infrastructure will provide scientific services and grant access to a shared database, through a network of interlinked providers and users. The services may include:
- the development and validation of methods for food or environmental analyses,
- the provision of Proficiency Testing schemes and RM,
- pilot plants for food production, packaging, storage and distribution,
- experimental field/farm sites,
In food analysis RMs play an essential role. Considering the emerging challenges for food safety (nanotechnology applications, food adulterations, etc.), there is an urgent need for new multiparameter RMs in various food matrices.
This network currently includes numerous facilities distributed in 18 European countries and is still expanding. It aims at serving a wide range of users starting from researchers and technicians working in universities and research institutes, public and private analytical laboratories, up to food business operators, policy makers, food inspection and control agencies, consumer organisations and citizens.
The project is coordinated by the Italian Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable Economic Development (ENEA). In each country METROFOOD-RI is organised in national nodes. The Belgian node (METROFOOD-BE) is represented by Sciensano. At present, the other interested national partners are the National Metrological Institute (FSP Economy, Metrology, National Standards), the Food Pilot of the Flanders Research Institute for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (ILVO) and the analytical laboratory of CER.