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Department of Safety and Quality of Fruit and Vegetables

Research Projects

Rasterlektronenmikroskopische Aufnahme der mit Laser behandelten und unbehandelten Apfel-Außenhaut

Laser labelling

A modern labelling method for fruit and vegetables

Where does this tomato come from? Is this cucumber organic or not? Was this banana really traded fairly or does it just happen to have found its way into the section with fair trade products? These are the sort of questions that consumers are increasingly asking when they buy their food. In order to meet the need for information about products, nowadays, foodstuffs have to be well labelled.

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Ripening of Kiwifruits

Kiwifruits (Actinidia deliciosa) are steadily gaining popularity with consumers. Usually, fully developed fruits of the perennial vine are harvested unripe in the countries of origin – most commonly China, Italy, New Zealand and Chile. Thus fruits can withstand the long transport by ship and attain its maturity at the destination.

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Prevention strategies for mycotoxins

Mycotoxins are toxic metabolites of filamentous fungi and are a problem with respect to the safety of various foods and feeds. According to estimations of the FAO, up to 25 % of the yearly harvest of plant products are contaminated by mycotoxins and must be discarded. Up to now, no comprehensive concepts exist to prevent mycotoxin contaminations in foods and feeds.


Genetic regulation of mycotoxin biosynthesis

Fungi play an important role as spoilage organisms for fruits and vegetables. It is estimated that 25 % of the yearly harvest of plant type products are spoiled by fungi. The fact that many of these fungi are able to produce mycotoxins increases the problem.


ZwiebÖL: Onion landraces for organic farming

As with other vegetables, the demand for organically produced onions is constantly rising and this demand should be met by regionally produced crops. In this regard, one major obstacle is the limited availability of suitable onion cultivars and organic seeds. But why is this the case?

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Potassium Supply and Tomato Fruit Metabolite Profile

The supply of minerals like potassium generally has a major impact on plant growth and fruit yield, also in case of tomatoes. Nevertheless, little is known in which way potassium may influence the different tomato metabolite profile and thus fruit quality as such.

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Storage-dependent changes of apple fruit quality parameters

Due to the different demands on the storage conditions all new varieties have to be examined in terms of temperature and atmospheric sensitivities to determine the optimum conditions for the preservation of fruit quality. Further, cultivation conditions may cause physiological damages like bitter pit.

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Does a hot water treatment affect apple quality?

Depending on the cultivar and on the conditions, apples can be stored up to 10 months. However, a fungal infection before harvest may affect storability strongly by causing an early spoilage. This problem is especially relevant for organic cultivation where the application of synthetic fungicides is not allowed.

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Human pathogens in plant produce

Status quo, decontamination, routes of entry and influence of storage conditions

Vegetable products may come into contact with bacteria, viruses or parasites at various stages of the food chain from cultivation to transport to private household.

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Characterization of the citrinin biosynthesis of Penicillium

Species of the genus Penicillium are often contaminants of certain plant type products including fruits and vegetables. Some of these Penicillium species are able to produce citrinin. Citrinin is a nephrotoxic mycotoxin which can occur in products like cereals, rice, nuts, spices, fruits and thereby also in fruit juices.

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Healthy Vegetable

Substantial gourds for gardens in South East Asia

Cucurbits, especially bitter gourd (Momordica charantia) and pumpkins (Cucurbita moschata), are wide spread in vegetable gardens in Asia. As a supplier of essential nutrients (vitamins, minerals) and other valuable ingredients (secondary metabolites) they can provide a great contribution to food security and to avoid hidden hunger under the poor population.

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HORTINLEA – a joint project with East Africa on the field of global food security

The aim of the project is to improve the livelihood and nutritional situation in urban and peri-urbane areas in Kenia and adjacent areas in Tanzania and Ethiopia. The main focus lies on increasing production and offer of indigenous African vegetables and to improve the efficiency of the regarding value chain.

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In recent years, metabolomics has developed into a key approach in modern life sciences. At the Max Rubner-Institute, the decision to establish metabolomics platforms in several departments (lead by the Department of Safety and Quality of Fruit and Vegetables) was made in 2010. The aim of this initiative is to enable cutting-edge research in the fields of food safety and food quality as well as health-oriented nutrition research in the mid-term.

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Molecular Monitoring of the Mycotoxin Biosynthesis in Foods

Mycotoxins are toxic metabolites of the secondary metabolism of fungi. They are not urgently needed for the growth of the fungus, but recent results suggest that they play a role for the adaptation to specific environmental conditions, e. g. the conditions in a plant derived product.

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„Masked” mycotoxins

Research in recent years has shown, that plant based foods infested by molds are able to metabolize mycotoxins. These fungal toxins altered by the plant are not detected by the standard analytical methods of laboratories. Thus, the total contamination of food is underestimated. Moreover, the toxic activities of these metabolites are usually not known.  For this reason these metabolites are also called "masked" mycotoxins..

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In order to investigate the association between nutrition and health in epidemiological studies, it is necessary to assess food intake as accurately as possible. Classical food intake assessment methods are mainly based on questionnaires and therefore are susceptible to random and systematic measurement errors (e.g. under- and overreporting).

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A cooperation project between German and African research institutions

Denoting Zero Aflatoxin, AFLA-Z is a Max Rubner-Institute (MRI) research project to develop strategies to reduce aflatoxin exposure. Together with scientists from the Friedrich-Löffler-Institute, the Julius Kühn-Institute, the University Koblenz-Landau as well as two project partners in Kenya, KALRO (Kenya Agriculture and Livestock Research Organization) and EAFF (East African Farmers Federation), the formation of aflatoxin on corn and the resulting load of milk examined. Both foods are very popular in sub-Saharan Africa and are consumed frequently.

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