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Chinese scientists report new progress in carotenoid biofortification in tomato products

Tomatoes are one of the most important vegetables, and China is the largest tomato producer in the world. In recent years, climate change and resource shortages have constituted new challenges to the tomato industry. With the improvement of living standards and health awareness, consumers have an increasing demand for high-quality tomatoes. However, the current tomato industry has encountered a series of problems, such as insufficient innovation in germplasm, intensive cultivation, storage, and processing management, which have, to some extent, hindered the high-quality, efficient, and sustainable development of the tomato industry in China.

As tomatoes usually soften rapidly after ripening, the traditional hybridization method crossing with ripened mutants are mainly aimed at creating storable and transportable varieties as well as harvesting tomatoes before they are fully ripe in order to extend the shelf life, without considering the overall decline in the sensory and nutritional quality.

As a main source of natural pigments, carotenoids and carotenoid-derived volatile compounds are associated with the sensory, nutritional, and flavor quality of tomato products. The human body cannot synthesize lycopene, which is the most abundant carotenoid composition in ripe tomato fruits, so the acceptable daily intakes of carotenoids are beneficial to human health. Tomatoes are the richest source of lycopene, and the intake of lycopene from tomatoes accounts for about 80% of lycopene in our daily diet. Carotenoid biofortification in tomato products is an effective approach to fighting carotenoid deficiency worldwide.

The research team led by Prof. WANG Qiaomei at the Zhejiang University College of Agriculture and Biotechnology published an article entitled “Carotenoid biofortification in tomato products along the whole agro-food chain from field to fork” in Trends in Food Science & Technology.

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