Pork chops and tuna steaks

11 October 2021

Determining the shelf life of food products by investigating decay in meat and fish products is the objective of Kristian Key Milan Thamsborg’s PhD project.

‘The United Nations Development Goal number 2, Zero Hunger by 2030, does not just revolve around increasing food production. Using the food we have in a sensible way is also extremely important. If we are able to determine the shelf life of food products more precisely, then we can prevent non-spoiled food from being thrown away, and that is also great for the environment and the economy of food-producing companies’, says Kristian Key Milan Thamsborg.

Currently, the food industry evaluates sell-by or best before dates of products by means of non-objective sensory methods and bacterial enumeration, which are not fitted to the precise conditions of storage or treatment of the producer. Moreover, these methods are expensive and time-consuming. However, over the last decade, the emergence of hand-held sensors that indirectly measure the bacterial concentration of food products has made evaluations cheaper, faster and potentially more accurate, explains Kristian Key Milan Thamsborg.

Kristian Key Milan Thamsborg spends much of his time in the lab linking the levels of the biogenic amine cadaverine in meat and fish products to spoilage. Cadaverine is produced by bacteria, and it has the potential to be a spoilage indicator in meats. An advantage to studying cadaverine is that it will mix with the air around the meat products, which means that measurements can be performed by simply holding the sensor above the product. This faster and cheaper way of measuring also means that food control can be performed on smaller quantities of products, which again means that products can be distributed more accurately.

China on hold

Kristian Key Milan Thamsborg initiated his PhD project in November 2019, where he joined a Food and Health conference at SDC in Huairou. Then Covid-19 broke out, and he has not been able to complete any of his planned research stays in China, which also means that he has been forced to alter his plans for the PhD project.

He planned to perform genome analyses and subsequently run them on products in China, and he was also supposed to compare similar products from Denmark and China, respectively, because of the differences in climate, handling and processing.

‘My visit in 2019 really whetted my appetite for going to China. Joining the conference and being a part of SDC was very exciting, so it is a shame that that part of the project has been put on hold. I still hope to be able to go, and I want to make the most of it, but due to the changed timetable we will have to rethink what makes sense for me to do once I get there’, says Kristian Key Milan Thamsborg.