Improving Europeans’ kitchen hygiene
Have you ever thought about the health risk of leaving your cold cuts out in a warm room during your Christmas buffet? It is not actually that big, but statistically 60,000 Europeans will get sick on Christmas Eve due to poor kitchen hygiene. Nofima scientists are now heading work in a new EU research project to reduce this number.
In the past, research has largely focused on what the food industry can do to improve food safety. However, the fact of the matter is that almost 40% of foodborne disease outbreaks are caused by factors under the consumer’s control.
“The food industry’s best efforts are of little use if food is not handled properly at home. We are now starting a research project to provide consumers with the knowledge and tools they need to store and prepare food at home more safely,” says project manager Solveig Langsrud, a scientist at the Norwegian food research institute Nofima.
On Tuesday the EU awarded funding to research projects under its Horizon 2020 framework programme research and innovation. It was a day of celebration for Nofima, with funding awarded to this project, which is called “SafeconsumE”, and three other projects. The other three are on aquaculture, fisheries and food fraud.
“SafeconsumE” is being coordinated by Nofima. With EUR 9.5 million at their disposal over five years, 31 partners in 14 countries in Europe will work to contribute to reducing health risks from food-borne illnesses.
Why don’t people follow government advice?
The scientists will study the actual food preparation habits of consumers across Europe. And in cases where habits do not concur with the government’s advice, they will find out why.
The innovation mission of the interdisciplinary team of natural scientists, technologists, microbiologists, sociologists, architects and designers is to make it easier for people to do things correctly in the kitchen. To achieve this, they will find out how the authorities can tailor information so that it enters the consumers’ consciousness, develop computer games about kitchen hygiene, and design kitchen utensils that promote better hygiene.
A dream come true for a food researcher
“It is this interdisciplinary collaboration that I find so exciting about this project. We can achieve a lot when we work across disciplines throughout the entire process, from identifying the problem to implementing solutions. I have experienced this first hand in previous projects, and it is what makes this research project so very promising,” says Langsrud.
It is particularly pleasing that major industrial players such as Ikea, Unilever and Arcelik (Grundig and other white goods) are on the team. “I am an optimist – we are a strong consortium that can bring about change!” concludes Langsrud.
Nofima is participating in four new projects funded by the EU's Horizon 2020 programme:
The topic of SafeconsumE is “The impact of consumer practices in food safety: risks and mitigation strategies”. Solveig Langsrud and Nofima are coordinating the research project.
The MedAID project is being led by IAMZ-CIHEAM in Spain. The topic is “Improving the technical performance of the Mediterranean aquaculture”. Anna Sonesson from Nofima is a work package leader and is involved in breeding and genetics for two farmed species in the Mediterranean.
The FarFish project is being led by Matis in Iceland. The topic is “Advancing basic biological knowledge and improving management tools for commercially important fish and other seafood species”, with a focus on distant waters (outside Europe). Nofima’s Petter Olsen is a work package leader.
The EU-China-Safe project is being led by Queen’s University Belfast, UK. The topic is to “Increase overall transparency of processed agro-food products”, and the focus is trade between Europe and China in general. Nofima is involved in the work package relating to labelling and fraud related to wine exported from Europe to China. Petter Olsen is the work package leader.