UK-China Agritech Challenge- CITRUSAFE

Co-investigators: Professor Francisco M. Goycoolea, Dr Christine BoschDr Richard Blackburn, Professor Long Lin

Partners and collaborators:

  • Professor Chen and Professor Ye, College of Food Bioprocessing, Zhejiang University, China
  • Phil Metcalfe, BioPower UK Ltd, Milton Keynes, UK
  • Dr Meryem Benehoud, Keracol Ltd, Leeds UK
  • Sarah Cadwallader, Parkside Flexibles, Wakefield, UK

The project addresses China's development priorities to eliminate waste and improve food safety. The project will exploit complementary Chinese and UK research and industrial expertise to valorise waste from large scale (>10 million tons of waste) Chinese mandarin canning manufacturing for food safety applications. Efficient green technologies will be optimised to extract and refine food-grade hydrocolloids and citrus bioactives from both solid and liquid waste streams.

The focus will be on improving extraction efficiencies and solubility of the compounds to ensure compatibility with foods and packaging matrices. The exploitable outputs will be well-defined biomaterials with downstream processing applications in two manufacturing sectors: food additives and food packaging.

Food and packaging prototypes will be developed and selected according to optimal antimicrobial and antioxidant properties against key spoilage pathogens in high-risk foods (e.g. meat and fish products) and consumer acceptability.

This project will utilise China sustainable materials, provide commercial opportunities to Chinese and UK industries with benefits to the environment and the safety of consumers.


FOOD SAFETY: one of the main aims of this innovate/BBSRC Newton Fund projects is to improve the safety of commodity products in China, focusing on high-risk commodity products including poultry and fish. Through this project, we will demonstrate the application of pectin biofilm and citrus bioactives as antimicrobials agents against key food pathogens. Our aim is to extend the shelf-life of high-risk foods (chicken and fish) by at least 24 h.

ENVIRONMENTAL BENEFITS: The main objective of this project is to deliver improvements in environmental quality by reducing or eliminating unavoidable waste from food processing streams. In addition, improvements to shelf life have the potential to reduce food waste even further, it is estimated that extending shelf life by 24 h would cut food waste by 10%. The project will undertake a life-cycle analysis to quantify potential environmental impacts. If Xiang Shan Hua YU Ltd. adopts the technology and expands its waste treatment capability, it will lead to a reduction of 10 million tons of liquid waste and 1 million tons of solid waste in the short to medium term (2-5 years). Adoption of the waste treatment technology by other companies (there are at least 50 other mandarin canning factories in the region) will increase the scale of impact in the longer term (5-10 years).

IMPROVED REGULATION: technical advances will lead to the development and maintenance of fit-for-purpose regulations and practical guidance for waste utilisation technologies. In the longer term, the project may play a part in the development of food safety legislation of packaged food products.

ECONOMIC BENEFITS FOR THE UK ECONOMY: This project has significant potential for commercial exploitation of products and industrial processes by UK companies. Successful completion of the proposed project will have a significant commercial impact for the UK companies in the short, medium and longer-term. While the UK companies have existing routes to market in EEA, the project will open market opportunities in China.

ECONOMIC BENEFIT IN CHINA: In the long term (>5 years), improvements in food safety systems will allow China to increase food exports.

DIETARY HEALTH OF THE CHINESE POPULATION (>5years): Associated with improved food safety will be the increased availability of nutritious foods such as poultry and fish. China is still developing and malnutrition through unavailability or unaffordability of nutritious food is still prevalent. According to WHO data 12.7 million children are stunted in China including 20% of children in rural areas. Increase in food availability should reduce the need for food aid.

SOCIAL BENEFIT (>5 years): The project has the potential to stimulate the local economy, increase employment and source of income for rural populations.

Publications and outputs

Chen H, Zhang H, Tian J, Shi J, Linhardt R, Ye T, ... Chen S. (2019). Recovery of High Value‐Added Nutrients from Fruit and Vegetable Industrial Wastewater. Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety, (5), doi: 10.1111/1541-4337.12477

Li J, Li S, Liu S, Wei C, Yan L, Ding T, ... Chen S. (2019). Pectic oligosaccharides hydrolyzed from citrus canning processing water by Fenton reaction and their antiproliferation potentials. International journal of biological macromolecules, 124, pp. 1025-1032. doi: 10.1016/j.ijbiomac.2018.11.166

Li J, Li S, Zheng Y, Zhang H, Chen J, Yan L, ... Chen S. (2019). Fast preparation of rhamnogalacturonan I enriched low molecular weight pectic polysaccharide by ultrasonically accelerated metal-free Fenton reaction. Food Hydrocolloids, doi: 10.1016/j.foodhyd.2018.05.025

Mao G, Wu D, Wei C, Tao W, Ye X, Linhardt R, ... Chen S. (2019). Reconsidering conventional and innovative methods for pectin extraction from fruit and vegetable waste: Targeting rhamnogalacturonan I. Trends in Food Science & Technology, doi: 10.1016/j.tifs.2019.11.001

Mao G, Li S, Orfila C, Shen X, Zhou S, Linhardt RJ, ... Chen S. (2019). Depolymerized RG-I-enriched pectin from citrus segment membranes modulates gut microbiota, increases SCFA production, and promotes the growth of Bifidobacterium spp., Lactobacillus spp. and Faecalibaculum spp. Food & function, 10(12), pp. 7828-7843. doi: 10.1039/c9fo01534e

Wu D, Zheng J, Mao G, Hu W, Ye X, Linhardt RJ, ... Chen S. (2019). Rethinking the impact of RG-I mainly from fruits and vegetables on dietary health. Critical reviews in food science and nutrition, pp. 1-23. doi: 10.1080/10408398.2019.1672037

Zheng J, Chen J, Zhang H, Wu D, Ye X, Linardt R, ... Chen S. (2020). Gelling mechanism of RG-I enriched citrus pectin: Role of arabinose side-chains in cation- and acid-induced gelation. Food Hydrocolloids, doi: 10.1016/j.foodhyd.2019.105536

Project website