REALMed- Pursuing authenticity and valorization of Mediterranean traditional products
Cristina Máguas, Fundação da Faculdade de Ciências da Universidade de Lisboa ; Portugal
Food authenticity and origin, Traditional Mediterranean products, Value chain, Analytical tools, Database and spatial modelling
Worldwide, consumer demand for food quality and distinctiveness is growing, as well as concern over issues related to food authenticity, geographic origin, health and nutrition and sustainable production. The use of standards and certifications can act as a warranty of quality to gain the trust and confidence of consumers. Indeed, food products have to respond to current ethical, environmental and socially sustainable claims. This is particularly critical in the Mediterranean region, where several unique and traditional food products of an exceptional quality play a fundamental role in local socioeconomic activity and in the conservation of cultural and natural heritage. The latter is under threat from the cumulative impacts of land use and climate change affecting the Mediterranean Basin. REALMed is a project that aims to add value to Mediterranean food products by providing means to assure authenticity and quality. The project is focused on high premium products typical of the national identities involved in the project - Moroccan argan oil, Portuguese and Spanish meat products from Iberian black pigs, Italian and Slovenia truffles and Tunisian lamb. With such a selection of products we will achieve, through a comprehensive set of activities, including national and international benchmarking, an assessment and analysis of national capacity needs, as well as opportunities for value chain improvements. We will combine analytical techniques that show great potential for determining geographic origin (stable isotope ratios and elemental profiles) and authenticity (molecular characterization). We will then use the data generated to create spatial-temporal models and ‘authenticity’ maps usable by control authorities as well as by stakeholders. This will allow to differentiate between reference areas, which, in turn, will reinforce the commercial value of the different products. Coordinating individual countries efforts to recognise, certify and defend local products will ensure competitiveness, sustainability and help implement prevention measures against fraudulent food practices. REALMed will re-direct scientific efforts to increase the value of economically important products of the Mediterranean region, through innovative solutions for the benefit of society as a whole. The REALMed project will also reduce the disparities in food traceability, quality and safety assessment methods that exist amongst the Mediterranean regions through knowledge and technological transfer between partners and regions. Establishing a sustainable cooperation platform of experts in food traceability, authenticity and having a balanced partner structure and early stakeholder involvement at all stages will ensure the success of the project. The expert platform will remain operational after the project’s closure and will continue to collaborate with producers and policy and decision makers.