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UMR Procédés Alimentaires et Microbiologiques

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Axe 4 - Oxidation of food and wine

opic 4: Oxidation of food and wine

Supervisors: Dr Sébastien Dupontand Dr Christian Coelho

Oxidation phenomena are the source of numerous processes that participate in the biosynthesis, ageing, and breakdown of organic matter.

Within the framework of the objectives pursued by the PAM joint research centre, these phenomena are extremely important as they determine the production of biomass (plant, animal, microbial) and biomolecules comprising the primary constituents of food and wine. Conversely, oxidative processes are involved in the breakdown of these components during manufacturing and preservation. The cellular context is particularly interesting as living cells use oxidative processes to obtain their energy and have the ability to control them. Likewise, wine is a typical example of hormesis with regard to oxygen, as low quantities are necessary for harmonious ageing whereas too much results in a sharp depreciation of the wine.

Open to all scientists working at the PAM joint research centre, the aim of this new cross-disciplinary area is to improve understanding and control of oxidative processes in food and wine through the coordination of multi-disciplinary approaches bringing together skills in chemistry, physico-chemistry, biology, and food processing. It also supports Masters Research projects.

The work undertaken within the context of this cross-disciplinary area will, for example, help improve understanding of the dynamics of oxidation processes that result in the deterioration of food, wine or microorganisms during their preparation and/or preservation. It will also enable the identification of natural antioxidant mechanisms whether associated with naturally occurring metabolites in food and wine but as yet unknown or used by microorganisms in order to develop innovative methods of protection/preservation. This work will also help improve control of oxygen transfer at food and wine interfaces through a better understanding of the physico-chemical mechanisms involved.

More general subjects linked to the environmental impact of food production activities will also be addressed. For example, the energy cost of manufacturing a food product is considerable: 200 calories on average for 1 food calorie produced. This assessment is explained in part by the energy transfers (pasteurisation, sterilisation) used to destroy pathogenic microorganisms. These same processes also deteriorate the nutritional or sensory components. Greater understanding of the oxidative processes that destroy the microorganisms could help the development of targeted destruction strategies to reduce energy costs while preserving the nutritional and sensory capital of the food and wine.  

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