Researchers have developed an automated machine that is being trailled on identifying moulds in juice as part of an EU project (FUST) which runs until November 2014 with €1.6m funding.
The cultivation and liquid sample handling system, using high throughput FTIR Spectroscopy, provides a biochemical fingerprint for each mould stain.
It can differentiate between microbial varieties at species level and track sources of contamination along the production line.
End user applications
The system is scalable and can be applied to the food industry, including cheese, bread and meat and is able to identify contaminators including bacteria and yeast.
Partner companies are Elopak and TINE in Norway and Synthon in Germany.
The automatic system can run 200 samples in two hours, Volha Shapaval, Nofima PhD student told FoodQualityNews.com.
“FTIR has a 95% correct identification, it is a good competitor to other technologies and much better than traditional methods. It is cheaper than DNA and MALDI (Matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization) TOF (time-of-flight mass spectrometer) which is used extensively but does not have high throughput.
“It gives results within two days for samples but for total time of sampling in the food industry from start to finish you will have an answer in five days.
“Compared to DNA sampling the difference is just one or two days faster but DNA is more expensive although it is more specific than FTIR at 98-99%.”
FUST aims for a 25-33% increase in productivity for Europe’s fruit juice industry, due to the decrease in resource controlling microbial contamination and a financial saving of 20%, helping to make production more sustainable.
Source of contamination
Shapaval said they found it was possible to find where the source of the contamination of microorganisms during production.
“The issue for the food industry is the monitoring of food production and the production line in the factory, it is not possible as there are so many samples and points.
“With the system they could do this type of monitoring routinely to see what is happening and not wait until a contamination case where they have to throw away product.
“It gives them the opportunity to find the source of where the contamination is, is it from the raw materials or the production line and then you know what parts you have to clean.”
Shapaval said the system will be operational next year and a prototype with the software checking algorithm will arrive at Nofima next week and be demonstrated in spring 2014 to potential end users.