The purpose of the project WHEYSAN is to provide a solution for two major issues that currently affect to the competitiveness of the participant SMEs: the management of whey and postharvest disinfection of fruits and vegetables (F&V). The whey is the residual liquid fraction that is obtained during the production of cheese. Its raised content of lactose makes it a high contaminant waste which needs to be processed before disposal. Postharvest disinfection of F&V is crucial for extending the market time of the produce, and chlorine is the sanitizer most widely used. However, the likely formation of carcinogenic chlorinated compounds in water has called into question chlorine application, which is already banned in several EU countries.
Whey and its derivatives have shown promising perspectives as natural preservatives for disinfection of F&V. The project WHEYSAN aims to develop new technologies for the decontamination of whole and fresh-cut F&V and for the processing of whey to achieve a profitable byproduct with sanitizing properties. For this purpose, the whey produced by the dairy SME will be treated under different processing conditions and the efficacy of the whey derivatives as sanitizing agents for F&V will be assessed. The most successful whey derivatives will be fully characterized. Also, a protocol for whey processing will be established to reduce the heterogeneity among the samples.
In order to make real the industrial exploitation of the new disinfection strategy, a commercial formula containing the whey derivatives will be developed. Moreover, the laboratory results will be scaled-up and the most efficient conditions for disinfection of whole and fresh-cut F&V will be defined at pilot and industrial scales. Consequently, the project WHEYSAN will provide two major benefits for the participant SMEs: a new source of revenue from the whey-based sanitizing formula, and an increased turnover from the commercialization of chlorine-free F&V in the organic market