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EU project to detect toxins in milk

09 Dec 2013

To develop photonic system for milk analysis - led by Fondazione Bruno Kessler in Italy.

One of the most pressing needs in the dairy sector is the timely detection of possible contamination by toxic substances in the milk. In particular, the milk and milk products may be contaminated with aflatoxin M1, known to be a potent carcinogen that originates from feed contaminated with a fungus (Aspergillus Flavus) which may be transferred in the milk of the infected animal.

Such contamination can still represent a danger to the health of consumers and cause significant economic losses to the dairy industry. The methods currently available for the detection of aflatoxin are very accurate but also require long lead times and high costs.

Therefore, the EU and several other initiatives have funded the scientific Symphony R&D project (Integrated System based on Photonic Microresonators and Microfluidic Components for rapid detection of toxins in milk and diary products) which started in November 2013, coordinated by the Fondazione Bruno Kessler (FBK) in Trento, Italy.

The project’s coordinator is Leandro Lorenzelli , head of research BioMEMS belonging to the Center for Materials and Microsystems FBK, and scientific director is Andrea Adami, researcher Unity BioMEMS. The EU under the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7), has committed €2.34 million for the three-year duration of the project, which will be included in an international network of initiatives focused in the development of microsystems for the agrifood sector.

Optical techniques to improve quality control in the dairy sector.

Optical techniques to improve quality control in the dairy sector.

Automated sampling

The SYMPHONY project is set to develop “heterogeneous technologies, encompassing photonics, biochemistry and microfluidics, integrated in a miniaturized smart system that will perform low cost label-free detection of contaminants in milk and improve safety and quality of dairy products".

The main aim is to produce an automated sampling and analysis system to be used on-line in Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP).

Project leader Leandro Lorenzelli, commented, “The Symphony project is working towards achieving new high-tech devices to enable faster and more efficient methods for the analysis of product quality in the dairy industry, especially in relation to the problem of contamination by aflatoxin. Specifically, our goal is to rapidly detect its presence in milk and milk products by the integration technologies such as photonics, microfluidics and microbiology.”

Partners besides FBK, are the University of Trento (Italy), LioniX BV (Netherlands), Epigem (UK), Acreo Swedish ICT (Sweden), Quadrachem Laboratories (UK) and the Consortium of Social Trentini Cheese Makers (CONCAST).

Lorenzelli added that the consortium approach should achieve a breakthrough in developing the necessary instrumentation for improving quality control in the dairy sector. “The reliability of the final system will be evaluated in Trentino and several types of milk product and analysis businesses will be involved in the testing our technological and scientific results.”

About the Author

Matthew Peach is a contributing editor to optics.org.

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