After 18 months of intensive work, the first results of the Optifel projet are available!
This article is a description of the work performed since the beginning of the project and the main results achieved so far:
Workpackage 1 – User specifications, has been the most active workpackage so far, as planned in the Description of Work. A major achievement was a survey of preferences concerning fruit and vegetables, and food products from fruit and vegetables, allowing to assess common aspects and cultural differences. This survey included 400+ elderly and 45 care-caterers and was carried out in France, Finland, United Kingdom, Poland, Span and Turkey, involving 8 of the project’s partners and a common (translated) questionnaire. For packaging, a focus group approach was used to identify with elderly persons, the optimal packaging type and maximal acceptable force or torque needs for its opening. These focus groups were also used to study factors that impact legibility of information on packaging and coordinated with the survey on preferences. Characterization of eating capacity in relation with hand grip strength and finger force was carried out with 200 subjects, its rationale being that hand grip or finger force are easy to measure and non-invasive, and can become predictors of eating capacity. Discrimination capacities for sweet and acid tastes in an apple puree based were measured in young adults and autonomous elderly (300 subjects). Liking for products with varying sugar / acid ratios was also tested as a tool for formulation. A baseline environmental and cost assessment of existing meal delivery systems was carried out, taking into account the cold-chain and transportation aspects. A review on nutritional needs and existing solutions was carried out including the recent published advances.
In Workpackage 2 – Functional requirement specifications, the existing recommendations for daily allowances across Europe were synthetized and used to give aims in amounts per portion. A food calculator based on these recommendations was elaborated and is available at http://www.centiv.de/calculator. Information was sought throughout the scientific literature for texture parameters and sensory modification for adapted foods. Existing products were benchmarked with two options: one was the existing products for seniors world-wide, the other was for products related to Optifel ideas for all ages. From this and from interactions and creativity sessions during the meetings involving all partners, a number of product ideas were generated and the most promising ones were further developed to propose products concepts.
In Workpackage 3 – Design and processing of novel food products, partners began to test the proposed products’ ideas in terms of feasibility, stabilisation and packaging, and supplementation levels. Most of the products were based on apple (fruit) or carrot (vegetable) as they are among the well- accepted fruits and vegetables, and are available throughout the year for trials. Fairly advanced data is available on smoothies and carrot puree.
In Workpackage 4 – Impact of food storage and preparation of food product properties, experimental work began on solutions mimicking the conditions in the real foods. The stability of vitamin C in the conditions of reheating (45-85°C) was studied in buffer solutions and in the serum of apple puree. Oxygen concentrations at equilibrium were also measured. First, products from WP3 were also analysed (after processing and during shelf-life). Microbial safety was assessed using the sore- forming pathogen B. cereus, in presence and absence of oxygen, in conditions of storage (8- 10°C), in presence or absence of oxygen, and in conditions or reheating. Environmental and cost performance were assessed in three scenarios based on the practices of Optifel partners.
In Workpackage 5 – Product acceptance at homes and nursing homes, work has not begun yet. Planning have been undertaken.
In Workpackage 6 – Dissemination and technology transfer, the website was established (www.optifel.eu) and regularly up-dated with news, articles (> 5 per months). Two newsletters were written and disseminated to a contact database of about 700 persons. Presentations to congresses (>10 done or submitted so far) and articles (Article accepted) have begun.