ENSURED - NEw opeN Strategy for impUrity suRveillance of commErcial microbial fermentation fooD products: Food supplements and vitamins as proof of concept

Last updated on 10-10-2022 by Marie-Alice Fraiture
October 1, 2022
September 30, 2025

Service(s) working on this project

Partners

Marc De Loose
Christof Van Poucke
Nathalie Gillard
Frederic Debode

In short

Microbial fermentation products, like food supplements and vitamins, are massively used and consumed. Their purity is primordial. However, several biological impurities, including genetically modified microorganisms (carrying antimicrobial resistance genes) and allergens, were recently reported, suggesting frequent contaminations. The current quality control only allows to target specific impurities and is laborious due to the need of various laboratories. To improve the current situation, this project proposes to develop an innovative strategy, able to monitor any type of impurities of biological origin. In Sciensano, we will focus on the metagenomic approach, allowing to have the entire genomic information of the samples and consequently to identify impurities. This project is crucial to develop innovative strategy for suitable control guaranteeing the food and feed safety.

Project summary

The purity of microbial fermentation products is primordial, especially in case of direct intake, as usually occurs for food supplements and vitamins. Currently, the industries are responsible for the quality of their commercialized microbial fermentation products. However, several unexpected impurities of biological origin, including genetically modified microorganisms and allergens, were recently reported, suggesting frequent contaminations. The current control only allows to target specific impurities and is laborious due to the need of various methodologies, expertise, technologies and involved laboratories. Therefore, the question of having a first overview of impurities of biological origin present in commercial food supplements and vitamins as well as the need of a suitable control are pertinent in terms of food safety and public health.

To improve the current situation, this project proposes to develop an innovative and universal open strategy, able to monitor any type of impurities of biological origin, both at the genomic and proteomic level, in microbial fermentation products, and, if possible, to be extended to any type of food/feed matrices.

At Sciensano, we focus on the metagenomic approach, allowing to know the entire genomic information of the samples and consequently to identify impurities. This strategy is performable without any prior knowledge and using only a limited number of technological platforms (High Throughput Sequencing and High Resolution Mass Spectrometry). Consequently, this project represents a key and crucial step to provide a suitable control guaranteeing the food and feed safety in its entirety.

As a proof-of-concept, this universal open strategy will be developed on microbial fermentation products like food supplements/vitamins. This strategy will be then used in a pilot monitoring study, allowing to provide a first picture of the frequency and characteristics of impurities of biological origin present in commercialized microbial fermentation products. The generated evidence-based results will allow the competent authorities, both at the Belgian and international levels, to react appropriately in order to prevent associated risks, strengthen food quality control and guarantee the consumers’ interests.

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