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AFQ Food Bioactivity and Antioxidant Action Certification Scheme

Aimed at prevention, for the Health and Well-being of consumers.
 
In layman’s terms, we could describe it as a scheme for classifying the “antioxidant activity” of foods, determining an index of bioactivity of the products we consume on a daily basis, such as meat and dairy products, primary agricultural products, secondary processing products, etc.

It is well known that antioxidants contained in the food product reduce free radicals, which are produced as by-products in human metabolism. Therefore, the consumption of foods with a high ‘antioxidant activity’ index, by definition, has a protective effect against a variety of pathological conditions.

In a highly innovative and revolutionary approach, at an international level, for the first time in modern nutritional history, an attempt has been made to classify agri-food products in general according to their level of antioxidant substances and bioactivity.

The “Spin Off” company of the University of Thessaly under the name Foodoxys, understanding the great need for differentiation of Greek agri-food production, created the New International Quality Label, the first label that has been created at international level, starting from Greece regarding agri-food products in general, the so-called AFQ: Activity Foodoxys Quality.

The important problem of the food market is the inherent and reasonable inability of consumers to know in an objective way – and not on the basis of promotional advertising schemes – which foods have the highest index of ‘antioxidant activity’ and ‘bioactivity’, or in any case an acceptable level of ‘antioxidant activity’, which makes the food attractive for consumption, but above all safe from a preventive point of view.

For the first time at international level, Professor Dimitris Kouretas and the Laboratory of Biochemistry and Biotechnology of the University of Thessaly attempted in a systematic, innovative and structured way to classify foods according to the index of “antioxidant activity” and “bioactivity”, code-named “AFQ”.

More specifically, products classified in the AFQ scale are subjected to rigorous and detailed laboratory testing protocols in order to assess their ability to neutralize a number of synthetic and natural free radicals.

In addition, the ability to prevent DNA damage induced by the action of free radicals, which can lead to mutations, is being tested, and the ability of the food product under consideration to protect important endogenous ‘biomolecules’ from oxidative damage associated with modern lifestyles, which studies have shown to be associated with a number of pathological diseases, is also being assessed. The new AFQ label introduces an innovative, internationally pioneering way of evaluating agri-food products that practically demonstrates the beneficial effect of the consumption of the food product under evaluation on the metabolic health of human cells.

The antioxidant profile of the product influences not only its shelf life but also its taste stability and the protection of the raw materials from oxidation, which would potentially reduce its quality and benefits. The antioxidants contained in the product are therefore both the most important endogenous ‘guardians’ of its flavour and the ‘guarantors’ of its beneficial effects on human health.

With regard to primary and secondary production, farmers and the agri-food processing industry in general are nowadays called upon to adapt their farms into modern businesses that produce high-quality and safe products while protecting the environment. The effects of globalisation, the liberalisation of markets and new international agreements on the production and marketing of agricultural products are imposing new constraints on the agri-food sector.

In particular, the pressures for ever increasing quality at lower prices from Super Markets, the legal responsibility of the producer, the urbanisation of the population and its move away from traditional ways and places of production, environmental sensitivities, the constant need to pursue the well-being of consumers, the intense pressure from the Processing & Standardisation Industry, the constant trend towards diversification of the nutritional value of products, and the support of the above priorities by the European Union, have quickly put in place

Thus, products should be clearly certified to ensure that good agricultural practices are followed in terms of cultivation, plant protection, harvesting and marketing of agricultural products on the one hand, and good production and distribution processes in the secondary sector on the other.

The need to objectify the controls on the Producers and Distributors of the products that will be included in the AFQ certification scheme, led to the cooperation of FOODOXYS with the Independent Certification Organization Swiss Approval International, which is an Internationally recognized Inspection and Certification Body, with presence in 19 countries in 3 continents. Within the framework of the International food certification activities, Swiss Approval International, has now included the AFQ International certification mark, owned by the “Spin Off” company of the University of Thessaly, Foodoxys, in its specialized services.

The challenges of a new system of food evaluation and classification, based solely on the positive effects on the human body, is now a global necessity that will inevitably lead in the coming years to significant and innovative rearrangements in the global food chain.

AFQ is the result of a continuous research effort over the last decades, with the involvement of important people, mainly subject scientists, but also consultants, strategy and market analysis experts, and other contributors, led by Professor Dimitris Kouretas.

Mr. Dimitis Kouretas, Professor of the University of Thessaly, who has published more than 200 articles in international peer-reviewed journals, has also served as an EU expert in the ‘Foodforlife’ technology platform in the periods 2007-2013 and 2014-2020, while he is also an Associate Editor in numerous scientific journals such as Food and Chemical Toxicology, Antioxidants, Toxicology Reports, etc., and his work in food innovation has been awarded in Greece and Internationally. Already since 2018 he is a member of the Commission’s expert committee on chemical and food crises (risk assessment of chemical threats) and since January 2019 he is a member of the World Academy of Sciences, he is the initiator of the AFQ certification mark and a pioneer of modern food forms with particular added value for the Health and Well-being of consumers, underlines that the adoption of the AFQ certification mark is a “historic moment” for the global food system, and the food chain.

It is considered absolutely certain, because it is historically necessary, that the global consumer movement will adopt in the near future methodologies for the evaluation of agri-food products based on indicators of “antioxidant activity” and “bioactivity”, establishing an absolutely NEW system for the evaluation of food products, and therefore their acceptance and penetration of global markets.

In this New Reality, we will move from the well-established and widely known today “evaluation of production and distribution systems” to the “evaluation of food products” as such, changing the hitherto known structure of the food market.

The game of food acceptance and distribution in global markets has already changed, and a revolutionary approach to the hitherto known consumer order of things is now just around the corner.


GENERAL DESCRIPTION OF THE CERTIFICATION PROCEDURE FOR FOODSTUFFS UNDER ASSESSMENT

  • The interested customer/producer/processor approaches Swiss Approval TB, or the FoodOxys Laboratory, and requests the evaluation of the products selected according to the AFQ criteria.
  • He receives a questionnaire which he fills in appropriately, in such a way that the product to be evaluated is fully identified. In the case of more than one product, he shall complete the corresponding number of questionnaires.
  • It then receives the financial and technical offer from Swiss Approval TB. The financial offer consists of 2 distinct types of services:
  1. The cost of the laboratory tests, which is the exclusive responsibility of the FoodOxys laboratory, which also issues the relevant tax document.
  2. The cost of Inspection and Certification, which relates exclusively to the Swiss Approval Certification Body, which will issue a separate tax document for its services. Swiss Approval will carry out the relevant inspection on the production line, regarding the production – packaging & labelling – storage – and distribution of the product under evaluation, issuing the relevant product conformity certificate.
  • By accepting the offer, the producer concerned will send a sample of the products to be evaluated to the laboratory, based on a specific sampling methodology.
  • The FoodOxys laboratory carries out the prescribed checks and tests and issues a LABORATORY REPORT for each product individually, which is simultaneously addressed to the Customer and Swiss Approval.
  • Subsequently, the Swiss Approval TB Certification Body, in cooperation with the customer / producer, determines an inspection date, during which the production system of the product under evaluation, the planned controls, the correct implementation of the quality plan with regard to the product under examination, the correct production practices / Factory Production Control, its packaging and its appropriate labelling, storage and finally the distribution procedures of the product are thoroughly examined.
  • Following a successful inspection, a CERTIFICATE OF COMPLIANCE with the specifications/criteria of the AFQ Certification Scheme is issued. The certificate is valid for 1 year, and is continuously renewed, with laboratory tests repeated every one year.
  • It is possible, and sometimes necessary, to combine AFQ certification with other quality and food safety standards, both for economies of scale and for better monitoring of the certification conditions of the product under evaluation.