University of South Florida
College of Arts and Sciences
Contribute to our future
Office: BSF 217
Lab: BSF 257,259
Email: mariacecilia (at) usf.edu
Food is a valuable resource and yet around the world millions of tons that could have been eaten are wasted every year. For example, fruits and vegetables have exceptional nutritional qualities and preferential environment profiles compared to animal-based products; however, they are at the top of the list with global losses ranging from 30 to 50%. Further, it is astonishing that when less than 10% of Americans meet the recommended daily guidelines for consumption of fruits and vegetables, up to 30% of the fresh produce purchased is thrown away by consumers. Fruits and vegetables are essential constituents of a healthy and well-balanced diet, as they supply several biologically important components to the human organism. Besides supplying generous amounts of water, vitamins and fiber, they are very good sources of other bioactive compounds with potential anti-carcinogenic and cardiovascular risk-reduction properties.
However, fruits and vegetables are often inadequately handled, resulting in accelerated loss of fresh appearance, diminished flavor and nutritional value, follow-on deterioration and complete loss.
Research in my laboratory is focused on studying the biochemical responses of food tissues, systems and bioactive compounds to growing/production environment and to environmental and physical conditions normally encountered throughout the food supply chain. Other aspects of our research consist of using directed stress and temperature optimization to maximize the genetic potential of fruits and vegetables for sensory and nutritional quality specifically, bioactive compounds. Results from our research help understand the biological mechanisms that lead to food deterioration as well as on the impact of environmental and physical stress on the appearance, texture, flavor and chemical components of foods. Our research also helps improve the handling, distribution and marketing system to reduce food losses, increase food security and provide the consumer with better food quality.