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The Project

Introduction


The term sensor has been defined as a device or system - including control and processing electronics, software and interconnection networks - that responds to a physical or chemical quantity to produce an output that is a measure of that quantity.

A biosensor comprises two distinct elements: a biological recognition element (e.g. antibodies, enzymes or whole cells) and, in close contact, a signal transduction element (e.g. optical amperometric, acoustic and electrochemical) connected to a data acquisition and processing system

Problem to be solved


The European farming community is under a number of threats not least due to the increasing demands to produce higher quality food to increasingly stringent standards. They lack the technology to test their produce for the presence of pesticide residues at the site of production. If a system was developed that gave farmers, food companies and distributors the flexibility to test for a range of analytes regularly and in a cost effective way it would allow them to offer remedial solutions quicker than is currently possible.

The conventional analysis of pesticide residues in food commodities is a labour intensive procedure, since it is necessary to cover a wide range of different chemicals, using a single procedure. Standard analysis methods include extensive sample pre-treatment (with solvent extraction and partitioning phases) and determination by gas chromatography and high performance liquid chromatography to achieve the necessary selectivity and sensitivity for the different classes of compounds under detection.

As a consequence, current methods of analysis provide a limited sample analysis capacity, on a day/instrument basis.

Therefore, rapid pesticide residue testing is necessary. In a region-specific pattern, this results to a general lack of resources for implementation and enforcement of environmental, pesticide and labour regulations. Providing novel solutions for food quality assurance can be a very critical issue, especially in view of the new EU and international regulations for minimal residue concentration in marketed food and agricultural products.

In recent years, a series of negative incidents concerning food safety has heightened consumer’s awareness of food commodities and their production. Apart from increasing concerns about food safety, often fuelled by mass media reports, changes in legislation created the opportunity for quality control laboratories and manufacturers of equipment for analytical assays to provide assurance along the entire food supply chain from the farm to retailer's shelf.

Objectives and solution


The objective of the FOODSCAN project is to develop a novel and automated, biosensor platform for pesticide residue detection incorporating membrane-engineered cells. The autonomous automated system will be primarily based on the Bioelectric Recognition Assay (BERA) technology, combined with sophisticated membrane engineering and artificial intelligence. Furthermore a specially designed electronic interface will be realized in order to acquire and manipulate the corresponding signals from the real time analysis.
According to many surveys conducted by farmer and exporter organizations, insufficient controls for pesticide residues have led to considerable market losses, up to 40%, in particular from considerable export destinations for European products, such as the Russian Federation. Even within the EU, whole producing regions may endanger their competitive position due to the lack of the appropriate food safety screening tools: a recent example is the ban of exports to major German discount chains of products from the Almeria region in Spain.

The BERA-based system developed in this project would give Europe's farmers and small agri-/food business a low cost method of doing this, reducing the risk to the farmers and maintaining their economic viability.

FOODSCAN system: a new, portable, reliable, quick and added-value quality system for food producers, importers, wholesalers, authorities in order to safeguard the protection of consumers!