Safety technology put on trial

By Rod Addy

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Polymerase chain reaction Rfid

Safety technology put on trial
EU funds rash of safety technology trials inthe chilled and frozen food supply chain

Trials are underway to improve food safety and detect spoilage in the European chilled and frozen supply chain, backed by euro 15.6M of EU funding.

Under the umbrella Chill-on programme, some test projects are based in the laboratory and some are in the commercial field.

"We want to improve food safety and traceability," said Sigurdur Bogason, project manager at the University of Iceland's School of Engineering and Sciences.

Field trials will examine the development of 'smart labels', enabling tracking and tracing of products from depot to store. Tools for quicker detection and risk assessment of microbe activity are being tested, as are techniques for cooling fish.

In the area of molecular genetics, two types of polymerase chain reaction (PCR) kits are being trialled, which can detect the presence and extent of microbe contamination within six hours. Common pathogens including Campylobacter, Salmonella, E.coli, Enterobacteriaceae, Pseudomonas and Photobacterium can all be identified and measured. "Food producers will be able to employ PCR machines costing between euro 10,000-15,000 for use in company labs," said Bogason. They are expected to be ready for commercial roll out soon after trials are completed in April.

Work on quantitative microbial risk assessment (QMRA) was progressing according to plan and data on microbial growth is available for different supply chains being considered for field trials, said Bogason. Integration of hazard analysis critical control point (HACCP) procedures and QMRA in the supply chains for field trials continues. "We need to know if we have viable technology and how to implement and deliver this to the industry," said Bogason. "We'll be discussing this extensively."

Tests using 'bubble slurry ice', designed by Israeli firm Crytec to incorporate higher volumes of ice into liquid ice for fish cooling, transport and storage have also been launched. They are due to culminate in April, said Bogason.

The smart labels combine time temperature indicators with Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags to communicate shelf-life more accurately via colour changes and RF response. Chilled and frozen fish is the test bed for this technology, which transmits information via a mobile management unit (MMU).

"We need the means for testing the MMU's capacity for sending a signal," said Bogason. "It can communicate to a server following a shipment anything that is happening to it."

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