Food safety tests could soon be easier and faster: EU-funded researchers are developing lab-on-a-chip technology for the rapid detection of multiple pathogens in multiple samples. Work on a portable pre-industrial prototype is under way.
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The name LoveFood2Market may well reflect a love of food. But, more to the point, it refers to a defining feature of the ultra-fast, compact, portable and affordable technology that the partners involved in this EU-funded project are developing. Their new system for the detection of foodborne pathogens exploits waves named after the mathematician Augustus Love.
The partners are preparing a pre-industrial prototype of a lab-on-a-chip instrument that uses acoustic sensing to check for bacteria such as Salmonella, Listeria, E. coli and Bacillus cereus. This instrument, which will be part of a portable analytical system, is envisaged as no larger than a credit card.
LoveFood2Market builds on the outcomes of predecessor project Love-Food, which had produced a lab prototype. It is a three-year undertaking launched in 2016 with the aim of preparing the proposed innovation for commercialisation, in a growing and competitive food pathogen testing food for pathogens market, which is (expected to increase from EUR 2.3 billion in 2015 to EUR 8.9 billion by 2021, according to igateresearch).
Partners in the Czech Republic, Germany, Greece and France are cooperating in this endeavour, which is led by the Foundation for Research and Technology Hellas in Heraklion.
One of the main objectives the partners have set themselves is to make their system even faster. The consortium is striving to deliver an affordable and fully automated solution that will take less than four hours to test samples of dairy products or meat for a number of pathogens. In contrast with techniques that are commonly used at the moment, the process would not require skilled personnel or large, dedicated lab-based equipment, the partners note.