Research focuses

Research in the Area of Organic Food Quality

Organic foodstuffs are produced, processed and traded in accordance with EU regulations 834/2007 and 889/2008. In addition there are several associations, some of them national, that prescribe a more restrictive production of foodstuffs than others (cf. Demeter, Bioland, Naturland etc.). While agricultural production is regulated in relative detail, there are still no concrete requirements concerning processing. It is therefore a task for our group to investigate the effect of various processing technologies of food quality. This is the practice-oriented part of the research work.

The regulations governing the production of organic foodstuffs are process-related, that is they describe the production process, not the requirements made of the product quality itself. Because consumers of organic foodstuffs expect them to be different from traditional (conventional) food, and not just in terms of the production process, methods are required that are able to show the expected something special of these foodstuffs in the product itself With this in mind our group is developing and testing analytical and holistic laboratory methods.

Between 2002 and 2010 methods were tested to determine secondary plant compounds by our group itself (cf. for example Werries 2007, Roose 2008) and in collaboration with other research institutes (e.g. the Technical University of Munich, Max Rubner Institute in Karlsruhe, INRAN in Rome). The results have been and are being published in a series of articles. Our group is no longer doing this because, at the moment, factors such as unregulated varieties or climate seem to have a greater influence on the content of secondary plant compounds than the factors specified in the regulations (N-fertilization, non-use of pesticides etc.).

Since 2002 so-called holistic methods have been developed in the working group and tested in various areas. A 'holistic' approach is understood by the group as an approach that makes it possible to find an answer that goes beyond the individual compounds (e.g. pattern formation, self-organization). These works are carried out by the working group itself (bio-crystallization, rising pictures, cf. Zalecka 2006, Meelursarn 2007, Szulc 2008) or in collaboration with other research institutes (e.g. the Fluorescence Spectroscopy unit at KWALIS Fulda, Spectralys in Paris/ France). The method of biocrystallization is the central focus of the work, because in our opinion it offers the greatest development potential for the various foodstuffs and different areas.

Biocrystallization involves studying the effects of a sample (of food) on the crystalline growth of copper chloride (cf. Busscher et al. 2010a). This gives rise to crystal patterns that can be evaluated accordingly. The method has been documented with respect to laboratory processes and crystallization (cf. Kahl 2007, Busscher et al. 2010b), and a visual (cf. Huber et al. 2010) and computer-supported image evaluation has been developed and subsequently standardized for a series of foodstuffs. It has been possible to examine samples of varying origin in a statistically significant way using image characteristics (cf. Kahl et al. 2009, Szulc et al. 2010). In addition to its use in basic investigations on methodological principles and evaluation optimization, the method is employed in various research projects.