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Spinning food waste into sustainable nutraceutical ingredients

Article-Spinning food waste into sustainable nutraceutical ingredients

Celebrating International Day of Awareness of Food Loss and Waste.jpg
On International Day of Awareness of Food Loss and Waste, we explore how reuse of bioactive compounds from fruit and vegetable waste could be commercialised to support a more sustainable food supply chain.

Around 14 percent of food produced is lost within the global food supply chain, while an estimated 17 percent of total global food production is wasted, according to the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO). The traditional strategies and poor management of these food and agro by-products have a negative impact on the environment, and the social and economic sector (read more about the topic research work published in Journal of Environmental Management, DOI: Due to their high-water content, fruit and vegetables are one of the most perishable food categories, and it is estimated that yearly half of global fruit and vegetables production are lost or wasted. Most of this is generated during production time, mainly because of aesthetic requirements [1]. Officially, FAO launched 2021 as International Year of Fruits and Vegetables, promoting the benefits of fruit and vegetable consumption and examining various aspects of the sector from a food systems approach to be improved: from sustainable production and trade to loss and waste management.

Current food supply systems cannot be resilient if they are not sustainable. Thus, integrated strategies are required to encourage upstream waste recovery, leading to the development of downstream processes for production of value-added ingredients, based on a circular economy [2]. From an economic point of view, the circular economy concept has been promoting suitable strategies to manage and valorise these by-products to reduce pollution and promote a sustainable bio-economy growth between industries, designing and creating new revenue streams. Many bioactive molecules (BM) of interest can be extracted from fruit and vegetables by-products; among these, the most important higher market value items include enzymes, antioxidant extracts and vitamins. They can be used as functional ingredients, food additives and nutraceuticals due to their biological health-promoting properties, such as antimicrobial, antiaging and antioxidant activities as well as prebiotic effects. Indeed, a positive correlation has been reported for the consumption of these BM, decreasing the risk of several chronic diseases, including obesity, cardiovascular diseases, and certain types of cancer. Thus, by these beneficial characteristics and potential applications offered by BM, different researchers have been intensified their studies to develop biotechnological methodologies to valorise food by-products.

According to research work published in Food Chemistry (DOI:, melon peels is a rich source of polyphenols, “responsible for diverse biological activities (antimicrobial and antioxidant activity) with health promotion,” that could be commercialised as an nutraceutical product with antioxidant benefits. And a research paper published in Applied Sciences (DOI: reports on the development of antioxidant extracts from non-compliant apples through sustainable methodologies and green solvents. They were able to obtain a dry extract with extraordinary antioxidant activity due to the fruits’ high content of chlorogenic acid, (−)-epicatechin, (+)-catechin, phoretin and phloridzin—known as phenolic natural antioxidants. Additionally, this study demonstrated the possibility to use rejected/non-complaint fruit to produce new foodstuffs for human consumption or food industrial purposes. Another research paper published in Food Hydrocolloids (DOI: describes a suitable and environmentally friendly method for bromelain enzyme extraction from industrial pineapple residues (stems and peels), which is an active protein with high food, medicinal and nutraceutical industrial interest due to its broad potential uses as natural catalyst, meat tenderizer and anti-inflammatory agent. This patented method allows lower recovery costs as well as lesser environmental impact when compared to the traditional extractive processes, while achieving good extraction yields and high enzyme purity.

Therefore, sustainable solutions for the valorisation for food loss and waste are indeed an important trend, which needs the whole food system to take immediate action to update their processing lines, which could allow the treatment of food by-products through green technologies immediately after their production.[2,3] Integration of the circular economy concept allows the conversion of food waste into high value ingredients with relevant potential applications for human consumption, such as production of antioxidant extracts, nutraceuticals, and food additives.

1. Vilas-Boas, A.A.; Gómez-García, R.; Campos, D.A.; Oliveira, A.; Pintado, M. Non-compliant Fruit as New Functional Food Ingredients. In Sustainable Innovation in Food Product Design; Springer, 2021; pp. 189–204.

2. Campos, D.A.; Gómez‐García, R.; Vilas‐Boas, A.A.; Madureira, A.R.; Pintado, M.M. Management of fruit industrial by‐products—a case study on circular economy approach. Molecules 2020, 25, doi:10.3390/molecules25020320.

3. Vilas-Boas, A.A.; Campos, D.A.; Nunes, C.; Ribeiro, S.; Nunes, J.; Oliveira, A.; Pintado, M. Polyphenol extraction by different techniques for valorisation of non-compliant portuguese sweet cherries towards a novel antioxidant extract. Sustain. 2020, 12, doi:10.3390/su12145556.


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Ana A. Vilas-Boas
PhD student at Centro de Biotecnologia e Química Fina, Laboratório Associado, Escola Superior de Biotecnologia, Universidade Católica Portuguesa


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Débora Campos
Junior Researcher at Centro de Biotecnologia e Química Fina, Laboratório Associado, Escola Superior de Biotecnologia, Universidade Católica Portuguesa

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Ricardo Goméz-García
PhD student at Centro de Biotecnologia e Química Fina, Laboratório Associado, Escola Superior de Biotecnologia, Universidade Católica Portuguesa


TAGS: Ingredients