Brussels, 18 Nov 2005
A EU funded project, EXTRANAT, is developing an innovative method for extracting the functional compounds from fruit waste produced by the food and drink industry.
The technique will reduce the costs for waste management, while at the same time create new markets for the functional compounds extracted from fruit waste within the food and cosmetics industries. This in turn should help protect the environment and increase the competitiveness of vegetable processing companies.
The EXTRANAT project aims to meet the challenges of sustainable development in the food and drink industry. One major environmental concern for small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) processing vegetables for food is the management and removal of waste. At the same time, fruits and natural extracts are well known for being part of a healthy diet and they contain functional compounds such as vitamins, anti-oxidants, or dietetic fibre that have principally anti-cancer and cardio-protector properties. Properly processed, fruit waste can be recycled into added value products, since it contains a significant percentage of functional compounds that can be sold as pure natural extracts used as natural colour and flavour additives by other industries.
Reducing the costs of waste management and broadening the product range of the SMEs from this sector will better enable them to face competition from larger enterprises. EXTRANAT plans to achieve this by developing and implementing a highly selective and environmentally friendly method to extract these compounds from fruit waste, based on a technique known as supercritical fluid extraction (SFE).
When a gas such a carbon dioxide is contained under high pressure and then heated, its physical properties change and it becomes a supercritical fluid. In this state, the gas acquires the solvating power of a liquid and the diffusivity of a gas. This dual nature makes supercritical fluids work extremely well as a processing media for a wide variety of chemical, biological, and polymer extractions. The main advantages of using supercritical fluids for extractions is that they are inexpensive, contaminant free, and less costly to dispose of safely than organic solvents.
In terms of the products obtained form fruit waste, the main innovation of the EXTRANAT project will be the selective extraction of vitamins and other types of phytochemicals from citrus fruits, berries and other fruits such as pears, apples and apricots. These compounds can be used as nutritive supplements, dermatological treatments and cosmetics, preservative additives, and natural colouring and flavouring for foodstuffs.
EXTRANAT is a two-year CRAFT project which began in April 2005. CRAFT is a Sixth Framework Programme (FP6) scheme for small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) with innovative capacities but limited research capacity. The EXTRANAT consortium is composed of eight SMEs, two research centres and a large company acting as final user, based in Spain, Italy, Hungary, France and Germany.
The main scientific and technical objectives of EXTRANAT are to design, develop and implement a reliable and accessible method to extract phytochemicals from food industry wastes; to analyze the anti-oxidant and organoleptic activities of the final products and to set the final product quality parameters and composition in order to fit the final user requests.
EXTRANAT partners are convinced that this innovative approach could be rapidly adopted by many in their industrial sector, thus spreading the environmental, technical and socio-economic benefits of EXTRANAT throughout Europe.