Predictive Models for Safety of Sustainable Protein Products

During the Exhibition Plant-Based Foods & Proteins Europe 2021 on 8 June, Joost Blankestijn introduced how Wageningen University & Research contributes to the next generation of plant-based foods, by introducing several public-private partnerships (PPP). Joost has shared a short summary of his presentation, his vision on which changes are relevant to accelerate the protein transition & how Wageningen University & PPP Prospect can contribute.

Can you give a short summary of your presentation?

A world built on sustainable food systems, in which every resident receives enough high-quality protein. We can only achieve this ambition if Western countries switch to a consumption pattern with more plant-based than animal proteins. Although the transition from animal-derived proteins towards plant-based alternatives is required, we are convinced that animal-derived proteins remain to be part of our future diet. Therefore, hybrid products, combining animal protein with plant-based sources of protein, can assist substantially in this required shift. The current hybrid products out in the market have issues with respect to product quality in terms of texture and taste and need to be improved in order to be appreciated by a growing number of consumers to gain a substantial impact on sustainability.

Various Public-Private-Partnership projects are currently being built on various topics ranging from improving plant-based products by means of the application of fermentation technology (ALL-INFORMED), developing low-energy alternatives to extrusion for structuring plant ingredients into meat analogues (Analogues4ALL), and Evaluating & improving health aspects of meat analogues. We invite companies to join us in shaping these initiatives in the coming weeks.

Which changes in the value chain are important to accelerate the protein transition?

Food safety is of eminent importance for the protection of consumers and brand reputation. The rise of alternative plant-based proteins and novel side streams for more sustainable food production introduces new protein products on the market. The functional, nutritional, and technical challenges resulting from the use of new proteins are being addressed. However, the food safety aspects and prediction of pathogen growth for these new product commodities have received limited attention. The food matrix composition has a large impact on the efficacy of control strategies for food pathogens, for example, different efficacy can be observed in animal protein-based products in comparison to their plant-based counterparts.

How can your organisation contribute and in what kind of role?

PPP Prospect (Predictive models for safety of sustainable protein products): Wageningen University & Research is searching for partners to participate in a multi-partner consortium project aiming to develop effective preservation strategies and predictive pathogen growth models for plant-based products. To help secure the safety and shelf life of plant-based protein products, effective (mild) preservation hurdles and mathematical models to predict food pathogen growth are needed. This project aims to develop validated preservation strategies and improve predictive models for plant-based foods that help the industry to maximize product shelf life without compromising food safety. The project addresses the need for predictive models that more accurately predict for more accurate prediction of pathogen behavior in matrices containing new plant-based protein sources. The project aims to contribute at three different levels:

  1. Validation of predictive models is already available by using (miniaturized) food matrices containing (new) plant-based protein sources and combined with other ingredients.
  2. Enrichment of existing databases with new growth data for different (new) plant-based protein sources, and the interaction effects with other food ingredients
  3. Development of new models with datasets for new proteins, relevant variability, and interactions factors in predictive models for pathogen development in the food (chain)

Two categories of food pathogens are specifically relevant within the scope of the project:

  • Listeria monocytogenes: typically a concern in chilled products (many plant-based products or meat/dairy replacers belong to this food category).
  • Pathogenic spore formers: highly resistant contaminants present in raw material of plant-origin and will mild survive (heat) processing


Want to join PPP?

Joost would like to invite relevant stakeholders that act in the food production chain including manufacturers of plant-based protein products, suppliers of new protein ingredients, suppliers of antimicrobial solutions for new protein sources (e.g. organic acids and ferments) to join this Public-Private-Partnership. Please visit the PPP Project webpage here or connect with Joost on LinkedIn.

Related articles

Accelerating the Protein Transition. Dr. Stacy Pyett (Wageningen University & Research)

Global Plant-Based Foods & Proteins EcoSystem Advisory Board: Stacy Pyett from Wageningen University

The planet is too small for a meat-rich diet – By Stacy Pyett (Wageningen University)