dispatches from RAFA 2015, Prague

RAFA: Nano, EU projects and US food safety work

RAFA 2015: Day 2 highlights

Methods to analyse nanoparticles, food safety from the US perspective and insight into a range of EU projects were key topics during the second day of a conference in Prague.

The focus on nanoparticles was under the banner of the NanoDefine European project which started last year and runs until 2017.

It will address issues on the availability of suitable measuring techniques, reference material, validated methods, acceptable for all stakeholders.

Speakers presented a range of techniques from automated electron microscopy, SPICP-MS (single particle inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry) to field flow fractionation (FFF).

Nan-no or nan-yes?

Stephan Wagner, from the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research, Leipzig in Germany, said there is a need for validated methods for particle characterization and quantification.

He addressed the health and safety aspects of nanoparticles and the regulatory context in terms of the definition and control of labelling of products, monitoring in the environment and dealing with complex matrixes at low concentrations.

Wagner said there is no general method for all engineered nanoparticles (ENPs) in food matrices so it is on a case by case development but it is possible to have guidelines

NanoDefine has 28 partners including RIKLIT Wageningen UR, BfR, The Technical University of Denmark (DTU), EAWAG, BASF, Solvay, Thermo Fisher Scientific, Eurofins and the Nanotechnology Industries Association (NIA).

EU projects presented

As part of the EU projects presented, Andrea Adami, from the Fondazione Bruno Kessler, Trento in Italy presented SYMPHONY which is focused on the rapid detection of toxins in milk and dairy.

It is looking at photonics, biochemistry and microfluidics, in a miniaturised system to perform label free detection of contaminants, especially aflatoxin M1.

The project started in 2013 and will finish in October 2016. Consortium members include Lionix, Epigem and QCL.

Ioannis Raptis, from the National Center for Scientific Research, Demokritos, Greece, told attendees about results from the FOODSNIFFER project and current methods of sending samples to a lab and the need to wait for days for an answer to measuring the concentration of an analyte or marker at the point of need (PON).

FOODSNIFFER is made up of the transducer itself, an all-silicon integrated optoelectronic platform based on Broad-Band Mach- Zehnder Interferometry, wafer-scale microfluidics and filtration systems and a low-power reader controlled by a smartphone through a custom-produced application.

The work started in 2012 and finished recently, partners included Universisdad de Almeria, Eurofins Analytics France and Trustfood Stichting.

Zuzana Bilkova presented the LOVE-FOOD project and revealed new work would start next year after additional funding.

The first LOVE-FOOD work ran from 2012 to August 2015 and involved Jobst Technologies, Institut Pasteur and Senseor.

It developed an integrated lab-on-chip microsystem platform with an acoustic detection biochip incorporating an array of Love wave acoustic sensors, integrated with a microfluidic module.

The LoveFood2Market project, co-ordinated by FORTH, will start in February next year and run until 2019.

It anticipates development of a Lab‐on‐Chip system for multi-pathogen food analysis, including integrated modules to perform automatically cell capture and lysis, followed by DNA purification, amplification and detection.

George Tsekenis, from the National Technical University of Athens, told attendees about the BIOFOS project.

BIOFOS is combining promising concepts from the photonic, biological, nanochemical and fluidic parts of Lab-on-a-Chip systems to overcome limitations related to sensitivity, specificity, reliability, compactness and cost issues.

The system will be validated against antibiotics, mycotoxins, pesticides and copper in milk, olive oil and nuts, aiming at detection below the legislation limits and time-to-result of five minutes.

It started in 2013 and ends in October 2016 with partners including the Universite de Perpignan, Lionix, Wageningen University and Surfix.

View from across the pond

A variety of US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Research Service (ARS) staff added the view of food safety issues beyond Europe.

This included Kurt Lawrence’s presentation on hyperspectral imaging and work with Headwall Electronics to detect pathogens and foreign material in poultry and food.

Xiaohua He also showed work on a universal assay for detecting Shiga toxin producing E.coli (STEC).

She said no commercial assays can detect all STEC, as it has genetic variation with two types of Shiga toxin (1 and 2). The first has three subtypes and the second has seven subtypes and while they all share similar functions and structures they have genetic variations.

FQN also caught up with SCIEX, Agilent and Thermo Fisher during an action packed day so keep an eye out for our interviews with these companies.

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