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Social Research: How people perceive information related to sustainability/circular economy, their perception and purchasing options. A survey related specifically to the island of Lemnos

Agro-industrial waste biotechnology refers to applications of biotechnological processes and techniques to convert agricultural/agro-industrial waste into valuable products. Processing and production in the food and agribusiness generate significant amounts of waste, including by-products from crops, fruits, vegetables and other agricultural products. By using biotechnological techniques such as fermentation, enzymatic conversion and microbial processes, it is possible to convert these waste materials into various useful products. But how do people get this information (and more generated from this field of science) in their daily lives? This study aims to cover that and provide an approach to how they ultimately relate to their purchase options. A total of 120 people (37.5% male, 62.5% female) from 6 different parts of Greece (34.2% from Lemnos) took part in this survey and the results were analyzed in terms of their gender, marital status, dependents and monthly family income. The main results of the survey included that 85.0% of those surveyed answered positively about their awareness of sustainability/circular economy. In addition, 64.6% of participants responded negatively when asked if they thought the information they received from the media and public bodies on sustainability/circular economy was enough for them. 36.7% of the participants answered that they would be willing to pay 20% to buy a product that itself or a part of it is produced by biotechnological applications and 46.7% that they would be willing to pay more in order to cover the cost of biotechnologicaly produced product/ingridient but the cost recovery is important to them. Finally, the results showed that the purchase option was tied to the dependents and there was a variability related to the monthly family income.

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A pilot study on sensory evaluation of commercial yogurt products by Italian students from middle school
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Consumer interest in functional foods, in particular in yogurt, is growing significantly, due also to health messages and promotions. An interesting sector for market demands, as well as to design and develop new functional foods, is those represented by teenagers.

This article reports a pilot experiment conducted by a group of students from an Italian middle school, as a part of a project on the STEM teaching (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) to improve and/or increase students' knowledge about functional foods.

Eighteen students from the last year of a middle school of Foggia, after a preliminary training performed by their teachers in collaboration with researchers of DAFNE Department, evaluated commercial yogurts from 20 different labels in terms of acidity, sweetness, odour, texture, taste, and overall acceptability through a 5-point scale. Data were analyzed through non-parametric test, box-whisker plots, and Principal Component Analysis.

Statistic pointed out that for teenagers the overall acceptability was directly related to sweetness (0.695), odour (0.587), and taste (0.861), and indirectly related to acidity (-0.517); in addition, non-parametric test shows a high variability inside the dataset, with a not-normal distribution of sensory scores.

In conclusion, this research offers an important contribution to elucidate the point of view of adolescents, providing a significant contribution to studies on consumer knowledge in the functional food market.

Furthermore, it provides an innovative help to the field of pedagogy and orientation teaching, bringing young students closer to scientific research from an early age and strengthening specific skills with a view to a more effective structuring of process of pedagogical orientation towards increasingly aware future choices.

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Retrospective study investigating the habits related to the snack consumption in a sample of the Greek population

The purpose of this study was to evaluate the snacking consumption habits of Greek consumers. We aimed to record the adequacy of the knowledge about the nutritional status of snacks and whether the snack-products are pre-packaged to evaluate consumer preferences regarding nutritional claims or the nutrition table information. A snack is generally defined as any food eaten between main meals. Since snacking has become a key part of modern eating behaviors, this study investigates the preferences and habits of adult consumers in Greece regarding the snacking consumption, which nowadays shows a growing trend. Snack foods are an established part of this trend. They have become an even more popular meal replacement for many people on the go. In this retrospective observational study, an online questionnaire targeting the opinions and habits of consumers was employed. In total, 1039 participants completed the survey. The majority (34.9%) age range was 35-44 years and 64.2% were female. The mean BMI was 24.8 kg/m2 (normal weight), while the final sample comprised 29.5% in overweight range and 11.4% with obesity. “Cereal bars” was the most popular choice (66,7%) because of limited time that respondents have during the day. The 60,3% of participants preferred a “tasty” snack rather than a “nutritious’ one. The 77,4% preferred nutrients derived from natural raw materials rather than a snack enriched with specific nutrients. The 3 most popular categories of nutrition claims on a food product were “Fat/Saturated Fat”, “Energy Value” and “Sugar Content”. The most popular claim (66.7%) on a pre-packaged snack label, was the “No sugar/no added sugar”. The main conclusion is that Greek adults prefer to consume a cheap, “grab ‘n’ go”, tasty, savory, snack with high nutritional value, with no added sugar, low in fat and calories and follow the habits of the Mediterranean diet. On the other hand, depending on the daytime, they also consume different types of snack regardless if they are healthy or not (e.g. chips at night). Due to time pressure some of them necessarily replace at least one main meal during the day. That’s why food industry should focus on developing enriched products (snacks) with nutritional ingredients from raw materials of the Mediterranean diet that promote nutritional claims in line with consumer demands.

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Kiwi fruit is a member of the "Actinidiaceae" family, which has over 76 species and cultivars with a wide range of sensory attributes. The kiwi fruit is one of the most popularized fruits in the world, and it is high in nutrients such as vitamins, phytochemicals, and minerals. Candies have a low nutritional value, because of their principal constituents, which include gelling agents and sugar. In comparison to conventional candy, the goal of this project is to make a natural and healthful dehydrated candy utilizing fresh kiwi fruit. The fruits were grabbed from the local market of Faisalabad. Two types of dehydrated kiwi candies were prepared (T1: peeled and T2 unpeeled). In the last step, the candies were kept in a dehydrator at 50 degrees Celsius for 24 hours. Candy's physiochemical, color measurements and sensory characteristics were assessed. In all physio-chemical and sensory evaluations, the unpeeled candy produced the best results. The unpeeled candy’s TSS value, titratable acidity, pH, and vitamin C content values were 77.9°, 0.36%, 4.5, and 37mg respectively. Unpeeled candy has a slightly dark color as compared to peeled candy and color values L*, a* and, b* were 43.89, 0.43 and, 11.34 respectively. Candy’s sensory study employing a 9-point hedonic scale reveals the highest consumer acceptability in terms of flavor, scent, mouth feel, and texture.

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Comprehensive Investigation of Antimicrobial and Antifungal Mechanistic Pathways of Bioactive Phytochemicals from Apple Pomace Using Molecular Docking

The valorization of agri-food wastes and by-products represents not only a current trend but also a measure to support the transition to a circular economy. Apple pomace contains important amounts of bioactive phytochemicals that can be exploited for nutritional, pharmacological, or cosmetic purposes. This article highlights the significance of molecular docking in unraveling the molecular mechanistic pathways of action of bioactive phytochemicals from apple pomace as antimicrobials and antifungals.

This research begins with a comprehensive overview of the bioactive phytochemicals found in apple pomace extract, emphasizing their chemical diversity and potential as natural antimicrobial and antifungal agents.

Subsequently, the molecular docking technique is introduced as a pivotal approach for elucidating the interactions between phenolic compounds and target proteins involved in microbial and fungal growth and survival. Molecular docking provides valuable insights into binding affinity, binding modes, and key molecular interactions within phenolic compound-protein complexes.

Furthermore, case studies are presented to illustrate the application of molecular docking in unveiling the molecular mechanistic pathways of action of phenolic acids, flavonoids, and triterpenoids. These studies investigate the interactions between the bioactive compounds and specific microbial and fungal targets, shedding light on the molecular basis of their antimicrobial and antifungal activities.

Acknowledgments: PN23150401 – The cascade valorisation of agro-industrial waste of plant biomass type in bioproducts with added value in the circular bioeconomy system.

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Lead in wild edible mushroom species in Leicester, England.
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Consumption of urban garden products, including edible mushrooms, can contribute to local food security, and is increasing all over the world despite the risks that they can represent due to anthropogenic contamination. Recent systematic reviews have reported a significant toxic risk to those that consume wild edible mushrooms, including adults and children, highlighting a potential public health risk in England that has been little explored. Moreover, evidence of the impact of urbanisation, economic development and growth on wild edible mushrooms in UK urban environments is scarce. The aim was to assess the risks from lead (Pb) present in wild edible mushrooms of the species Agaricus bitorquis collected in Leicester city (England), as well as in urban topsoils, to evaluate the environmental presence and distribution of this contaminant. Twenty-two A. bitorquis mushrooms were collected from an open green area close to St Augustine Road, a high traffic area within Leicester. Species identification was confirmed by DNA barcoding using internal transcribed spacer 1/4 primers after extracting DNA from 100 mg of frozen homogenised ground mushroom material using DNeasy Plant Mini Kit®. Pb was monitored by ICP-MS in cleaned, dried and homogenised mushroom caps and stipes mineralised with HNO3/H2O2 [LoD=0.872 mg/kg dry weight (dw)]. Moreover, 450 topsoil samples were collected from 18 urban parks and green areas across Leicester, which were appropriately prepared, pulverised, pooled together and thoroughly homogenised on a motorised rotating mixer to be further processed as composite samples per park in duplicate. Pb was measured in duplicate in each of the 36 composite sample also by ICP-MS after acid digestion with nitric acid (69%) and chlorhydric acid (37%) in a microwave system. Pb was found in all composites examined (LoD=0.698 mg/kg) and in the collected mushrooms. Levels of this metal were significantly higher in the mushroom caps (p-value=3E-05), median and ranges are provided in mg/kg dw: 2.461 (1.806-6.664) vs. 1.579 (0.988-4.223). Concentrations were in general lower to those recently reported in different species of the genus Agaricus collected in urban habitats within Berlin (Germany; <0.1-51.0 mg/kg DW). However, the levels of Pb detected were much higher than those reported in sixteen A. bisporus (median <1.0 mg/kg DW) specifically cultivated in high traffic areas in the inner city of Berlin, suggesting that Leicester’s St Augustine Road presents a heavy volume of traffic that should be further explored to prevent risks to Pb exposure, which is highly persistent in the environment. All caps monitored exceeded the established maximum concentration limit for Pb in cultivated mushrooms in the European Union (0.3 mg/kg wet weight, approximately 3 mg/kg dw), in line with the high accumulative metal capability described in the literature for Agaricus spp. However, the consumption of the monitored wild mushrooms represents a minimal risk to Pb, as the hazard quotients were much lower than the established threshold in both adults (5.72E-08) and children (2.67E-07). Moreover, the levels of Pb detected in Leicester topsoils (data presented as median and 95% CI, in mg/kg): 102.805 (84.335-110.625), would not represent a risk for the population for any route (oral, inhalation and dermal), although a wide distribution of this metal was observed. Thus, Leicester’s urban region could require remediation, as the levels of this metal exceed the Regulatory Guidance Value of 80 mg/kg established by the UK Environment Agency. Although non-carcinogenic risks characterised for Pb were negligible in the monitored mushroom, high consumption of wild green edibles in Leicester’s city should be limited as there are multiple additional sources of Pb and other metals, and substituted by cultivated edibles when possible.

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From Forest to Table: Optimizing the Nutritional Value of Acorns through Effective Tannin Extraction

The acorn, a fruit of the Quercus genus, is abundant in Portugal and offers a high nutritional content, including essential minerals and vitamins, unsaturated fatty acids, and bioactive compounds like tannins, phenolic acids, and flavonoids [1]. Despite their antioxidant properties, excessive consumption of tannins can cause health problems due to their effect on protein bioavailability [2]. This study evaluates two extraction techniques: water immersion at room temperature for seven days and thermal hydrolysis via boiling for 30 minutes and their effects on acorn's tannin and mineral content. The results reveal that both extraction methods are viable options for extracting tannins. However, they also reduce some important minerals, such as potassium (K), zinc (Zn), calcium (Ca), and iron (Fe). In conclusion, while acorns hold potential as a nutritious food source, effective tannin extraction methods like water immersion must be employed to maximize their health benefits and minimize potential risks.

Acknowledgments: This work received financial support from REQUIMTE/LAQV-UIDB/50006/2020, UIDP/50006/2020 and LA/P/0008/2020, financed by FCT/MCTES.


[1] A. Pasqualone et al., “Effect of acorn flour on the physico-chemical and sensory properties of biscuits,” Heliyon, vol. 5, no. 8, 2019, doi: 10.1016/j.heliyon.2019.e02242.

[2] M. M. Mostafa, E. Ali, M. Gamal, and M. A. Farag, “How do coffee substitutes compare to coffee? A comprehensive review of its quality characteristics, sensory characters, phytochemicals, health benefits and safety,” Food Bioscience, vol. 43. Elsevier Ltd, 2021. doi: 10.1016/j.fbio.2021.101290.

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Multi-bioactive potential of a rye protein isolate hydrolysate by enzymatic processes
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Nowadays, the interest in vegetable proteins has increased due to climate change. Rye has been considered as future food because it can grow during hostile wheater and contains several bioactive compounds. Thus, this work aims to determine the multi-bioactive potential of rye hydrolysates obtained with alcalase and flavourzyme. First, a protein isolate was obtained from whole grain rye, milling, and sieving through 297 µm mesh to get rye flour, which passed through alkaline and acid treatment for protein separation. Isolated protein was lyophilized at -54°C and 0.110 mbar for 48 h and was submitted to the total protein determination by the Kjeldahl method. Enzymatic hydrolysis was performed at 60°C and 130 rpm using rye protein suspensions at 10% (w/v) in phosphates buffer (0.1 M, pH=7.5) and adding both enzymes in a mass ratio of 100:2.5 (protein: enzyme). Sampling times considered were 0, 4, and 8 h, where supernatants to be analyzed were obtained after enzyme inactivation in boiling water for 10 min and centrifugation at 10,000 rpm at 4°C for 10 min. Spectrophotometric methods were applied to determine hydrolysis degree, radical scavenging capacity, and ACE and DPPIV inhibition by trinitrobenzene sulfonic acid method, DPPH test, hippuric acid determination, and p-nitroanilide release, respectively. The protein content found in the isolate was 51.06±1.15%, less than that reported in the optimized methodology (63-68%) for rye flours obtained by jet milling used as a reference. In the case of the hydrolysis produced by each enzyme, flavourzyme generated fewer free amino groups (2974.15±275.40 mg/L) at the eight hours of the process compared with the alcalase application (5481.40±409.43 mg/L). In this sense, flavourzyme showed a significative hydrolysis increase (p<0.05) between 0 and 4 h but was statistically constant until 8 h, while alcalase showed significative increases (p<0.05) in each time sampling. For bioactivities, the antioxidant capacity increased each time for both enzymes, achieving a maximum activity of 34.77±0.59% and 78.58±1.04% at 8 h for the flavourzyme and alcalase systems, respectively. Regarding ACE and DPPIV inhibition, flavourzyme maintained a similar behavior to that found in free amino groups, where both bioactivities were statistically constants between 4 and 8 h, reaching its maximum antihypertensive capacity (86.15±1.15%) at 8 h and antidiabetic activity (40.62±2.61%) at 4 h. In the same context, the ACE inhibition from alcalase hydrolysates increased from 81.87±4.9% at 0 h to 86.76±2.02% at 8 h. Still, the statistical analysis showed no significant differences. For DPPIV inhibition, alcalase hydrolysate showed statistical differences only between the 0 and 4 h (p<0.05) with inhibition of 63.70±1.27% at this last time. Finally, both enzymatic processes showed a promising multi-bioactivity potential, but the alcalase systems' results are better, especially for antioxidant and antidiabetic capacity.

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Food choices in snacking moments and biogenic amines exposure. A preliminary observation on children and toddlers from Abruzzo region

Snacking outside of main meals is common and often a dietary requirement, especially for children and toddlers. This habit has both social and educative dimensions, as it has become an established moment in the daily routine.

We conducted an easy online survey involving students and their families from schools in the Abruzzo region, Italy. The aim of the survey was to understand the participants' habits, food choices, and meal composition during snack time. Additionally, we inquired about their general health state.

Our interest lies in knowing more about this population, with sufficient data to observe if habits and food choices may be accountable for exposure to biogenic amines (BAs).

BAs are unavoidable natural compounds that come from the catabolism of amino acids in tissues. They are possibly involved in reactions such as allergic-like manifestations, abdominal pain, and more severe symptoms depending on individual sensitivity. The action of BAs can be augmented by the intake of foods, mainly fermented products, which are common in the everyday diet.

We collected 300 responses from students ranging from 11 to 18 years old. The most popular foods eaten were sweets (pastries, cakes) and bakery sweet products, followed by yogurt-based and milk-based products (30% and 23% respectively). The majority of students (58%) reported having a snack moment daily. The population was generally in good health, but some reported experiencing light discomforts after snacking, such as transient gastrointestinal pain, headache, and dermatological symptoms (8.7%, 2%, and 0.7% of the total, respectively). All this information may be linked and added to the knowledge about BAs contents in foods and their potential impact on health.

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Pijuayo (Bactris gasipaes) pulp and peel flours as partial substitutes of animal fat in burgers: Physicochemical properties
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The high intake of food with a high fat content rich in saturated fat has been recognized as a risk factor for the development of cardiovascular diseases, obesity, diabetes, and gastrointestinal cancers. Peach palm (Bactris gasipaes), known as pijuayo in Peru, is a native fruit from the Peruvian Amazon and has a nutritional value because of its unsaturated fatty acids, fiber and carotenoids content. The incorporation of peach palm (PP) as food ingredient could have technological and nutritional implication as a fat substitute in food products. In this context, the aim of this study was to evaluate the incorporation of PP flour, obtained from the pulp and peel of PP, as substitutes of animal fat in beef-based burgers. The flours were obtained by cooking PP in boiling water for 30 min, separating the pulp from the peel and drying both pulp and peel, separately, in an oven with circulating air at 55 °C until reach a moisture < 15%. Five treatments were prepared varying the substitution of pork backfat: 0% substitution (T1), 25% (T2) and 50% (T3) substitution with PP pulp flour, and 25% (T4) and 50% (T5) substitution with PP peel flour. A randomized complete block design (the block was the repetition of the burger processing in three independent days) was carried out. The instrumental texture profile, proximal analysis, cooking losses, diameter reduction and lipid oxidation by TBARS (after 15 days of storage at 4 °C) were evaluated. Data were analyzed using ANOVA and Tukey post hoc test at 5% of significance. The results showed that the hardness and chewiness decreased significantly by the incorporation of PP flours, regardless of the level of fat substitution. There were no differences between treatments regarding the proximal composition of burgers, with the exception of fat content. Burgers with PP peel flour stood out for having the lowest fat content (9.4–9.6%) compared to the other treatments (p < 0.05). For all treatments: moisture level ranged from 60.3–63.6%, protein from 14.3–15.9%, carbohydrate from 4.8–8.9%, and ash from 2.4–3.0%. Moreover, PP peel flour also had the lowest cooking losses (10.3–11.7%), diameter reduction (15.2–16.0%), and TBARS values (0.135–0.224 mg malondialdehyde/kg) (p < 0.05). In conclusion, PP fruit has the potential to be utilized as new ingredient in burgers, but future studies are needed regarding detailed sensory trials and consumer acceptance, as well as a pilot scale study to evaluate their potential industrialization.