Many different factors can impair the quality and safety of foodstuffs on their journey from the manufacturer to the consumer. Contamination from micro-organisms, drug residues or other unwanted contents must be detected as quickly as possible in order to be able to react appropriately in an emergency. In the framework of Nanodetect, an EU project, an international consortium led by ttz Bremerhaven is developing a nanosensor based on a biotechnological rapid method. The project was launched at the Kick-off Meeting on 16 and 17 September in Bremerhaven.
Bremerhaven, October 2008. With the new system and using the example of fresh milk, product quality is already checked during transport before it is pumped into large tanks in the dairy and – in the case of contamination – causes considerable economic damage. The nanosensor is connected to a system which can also make the results of the rapid analysis available online and in real time. The use of the nanosensor is being tested initially in the dairy sector. An important optimisation factor is assuring the quality of the milk, which stems from numerous farms and is brought together in the dairy. Should a batch not meet the requirements of the industry and be mixed together with large quantities, then the entire batch becomes contaminated and thus unsellable.
It is possible to use the nanosensor on the tanker and to connect it directly to the milk pump. At the ttz Bremerhaven, scientists from the Food Technology/Bioprocess Engineering and Molecular Genetics departments are working on fitting with an antibody microchips being developed by the Microsystem Center Bremen. The purpose of these antibodies is to detect mycotoxins, drug residues or pathogenic micro-organisms. The nanosensor should also expose any admixtures, for example cheap cow’s milk in expensive goat’s milk.
The detectable contaminants can be specifically enriched in tiny micro-channels from several litres of liquid. Caroline Hennigs, Project Manager at ttz, summarises the advantages: “In this way, a high contact rate of the antibodies can be achieved during throughput and an exact quantification of the contaminants is facilitated, with significant time-saving in comparison to conventional methods”. There are many areas of application for this technology in the food industry. In product safety, for example, mycotoxins such as aflatoxin M1 or drug residues or blending with inferior substances can be detected simultaneously and their concentration established.
Beyond the dairy sector, other fields of application such as drinking water treatment, waste water purification or the testing of water quality in aquacultures can in future profit from this technology. The consortium members are the University of Bremen, the RIKILT (NL), the Central Science Laboratory (UK), BIOCULT BV (NL), Noray Bioinformatics S.L (E), Optotek d.o.o (SI), Formatgeria Granja Rinya, (E) as well as Langenhorn Dairy Farm (D). The project has a volume of 2.6 million Euro and is funded by the European Commission under the 7th Framework Programme.
NANODETECT Project description
Pictures for editorial use: (foto: ttz/pr)
Single nanosensors can be combined with each other and connected in parallel for the parallel detection of different bio-molecules.
Nano sensors test fresh milk for contamination during the transport from farm to dairy
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ttz Bremerhaven is an innovative provider of research services and operates in the field of application-oriented research and development. Under the umbrella of ttz Bremerhaven, an international team of experts is working in the areas of food, environment and health.