Dangerous micro-organisms in the food industry can be stopped with infrared light
A research project in which infrared light (FTIR spectroscopy) is used for identification will effectively prevent moulds and yeasts from stopping food production lines.
Micro-organisms are part of the production process of food products. They can be “good” organisms – part of the process – or they can destroy the process.
The European food industry has sales of 836 billion euros a year and employs four million people. As an example of the problems, juice producers run the risk of up to 40 per cent of all the juice they produce having to be destroyed or recalled because of moulds in the production process. It is therefore vital to find methods of identifying yeasts and moulds quickly, so that the industry can maintain effective control of costs and production.
Infrared light finds yeast and mould families
“The main objective for this project was to develop a quick, simple, reproducible and high-capacity procedure for Fourier Transform Infrared (FTIR) spectroscopy that can identify yeasts and moulds in a food industry analysis,” says Volha Shapaval, who has been working on this project for her doctorate.
“We saw that it was possible to find exactly where the contamination of micro-organisms during production came from. This makes it possible to quickly clean the local area that is contaminating the rest of the production line, thus avoiding the costly procedure of cleaning the entire production premises. It also enables companies that supply each other to find out in which of the companies the contamination originates,” says Shapaval.
The doctoral work has also developed into an EU project (FUST) that has concentrated on identifying moulds in juice. During the course of the project, the researchers have devised a fully automated machine for the purpose, which will go into commercial production during 2013.
Volha Shapaval’s disputation was on 8 November at Nofima with the thesis “High-capacity characterisation of food-related yeasts and moulds with Fourier Transform Infrared (FTIR) spectroscopy”. Her main supervisor has been Achim Kohler, Research Scientist at Nofima and Senior Lecturer at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences (UMB). The partner companies were Elopak and TINE in Norway and Synthon GmbH in Germany.