One of the biggest risks in the food industry is population poisoning due to the presence of pathogens in the products. These harmful elements can come from the raw material itself in the sacrifice of the animal or at any point of the production chain. Thus, it is necessary to do several microbiology and cleaning controls.
Obviously, legislation related to food safety is strict and implies, for example, the immobilization of whole consignments of products until the results of the tests are negative. This waiting time is especially harmful for the industry in the case of perishable products such as fresh meat.
In light of this situation, a team of researchers from the Nanophotonics Technology Center of the Universitat Politècnica de Valencia (NTC-UPV,) with the funding of the Agencia Valenciana de la Innovación (AVI) have developed Photonics Integrated Circuits (PIC), intended for microbiological controls in the meat industry.
Next to the ideal situation
At NTC-UPV, they explained that one of the priorities in the field of food technology is the development of quick and inexpensive measuring systems, applicable to the analysis and control of their products and processes.
Likewise, they added that the ideal situation would be monitoring the interesting parameters in each point of the process, in an inexpensive way and for all the processed products. However, today, determining the pathogen?s presence is typically based on classic methods: plate culture and counting, systems that imply a waiting time of 48 hours before obtaining results and that require specifically trained lab technicians.
The sensors developed by NTC-UPV overcome these problems. They permit quickly and accurately detecting the presence of one of the big enemies of the sector, Escherichia Coli bacteria, and at a low cost. For this reason, its use will make immobilized food consignments be quickly released and will guarantee the safety of the production chain of the food industry.
Lumensia Sensors, an indispensable collaborator
To validate sensors, NTC-UPV has collaborated with Lumensia Sensors, a Valencian startup engaged in the development of systems for biological control in food safety applications.
"Cooperation between both entities", explained the researchers from NTC-UPV, ?has resulted in a portable, highly quick and inexpensive method, that is easy to use and has great sensitivity, which allows detecting levels of pathogen presence lower than the levels detected by the traditional systems that are already used as standard in the microbiological control".
In addition, it is important to note that although the NTC-UPV kit has been developed to detect E. Coli, it can be transposable to locate other bacteria. The NTC-UPV researchers added, "this new generation of sensors is a great ally for guaranteeing the safety of the products made in the meat industry".
The Instituto Tecnológico AINIA has also collaborated in the project.