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Novel tech targets mycotoxins in food

By Joe Whitworth+

05-Dec-2013

An EU project is to develop a novel technology to detect mycotoxins in foods and liquid foodstuffs.

MYSCOSPEC, presented at IRIS facilities in Castelldefels (Spain), aims to create a system to detect mycotoxins.

Mycotoxins toxins are produced by fungi infest food crops and processed foods.

The project will develop a tool based on infrared spectroscopic fingerprinting and novel laser technology.

Infrared spectroscopic analysis with multivariate calibration and the infrared laser light source will provide monitoring of plant components with information on crop quality and safety that is needed for screening systems in the food and feed industry.

Mycotoxin contamination

Dr Imma Llop, project manager of Mycospec, told FoodQualityNews.com that cooking and freezing doesn’t destroy the mycotoxins.

She cited one incident in chickens in Russia were around 7,000 were killed and one in Germany, where a problem was found in milk after animals ate contaminated feed.

“Contamination can happen in the field, in storage or in transport and then animals eat the contaminated product,” she said.

“We hope to have a system that can be operated by industry and give information fast on the status of the mycotoxin contamination.

“This will also have an economic impact as the methods used now are time consuming and need expertise with some batches being rejected as the monitoring is not good enough or others being accepted and find a problem later in the food chain.”

Dr Llop said that mycotoxins can cause diseases with acute or chronic affects and have been linked with cancer.  

Accurate and rapid analysis

Quantitative and rapid analysis is difficult with current analytical methods being costly, time- consuming, and not suited application in the field.

High-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) is one method currently used, said Llop.

“It is time consuming and difficult to perform with extraction and analysis and needs to be conducted by skilled staff as detection is sophisticated,” she said.

“The aim of the project is not to replace well-established laboratory methods. It is to provide a method that it is quick, easy-to-operate and enable field-based analysis.”   

The two-year EU funded project started last month and runs for two years.

The tool will take minutes to analyse sample and provide a result, said Dr Llop.

“It can be used in the industry environment on the field or in production plants, operated by personnel as the first screening for detecting contaminants.

“The first tier is research and development of the technology for detecting contamination levels and data matrixes.

“The second tier is to test it in an industry environment, so we will have a prototype and integrate results from universities and the prototype, so it is robust enough to go in an industry environment and be validated in different end users such as cereal users and dairy products.”

The project will join the efforts of three research centers: Universitaet ULM (Germany), Universitaet fuer Bodenkultur Wien (Austria), IRIS (Spain).

Five industrial SME partners will work on the development and industrial validation: ICC (Austria), Fullwell Mill (UK), MG Optical Solutions (Germany), Cerveses LA Gardenia (Spain) and Setbir (Turkey).

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