More sensitive test methods for safer food

Published: 04-01-2016, | Member: EuroProxima

European law forbids the sale of foods containing antibiotics, mycotoxins and many other substances. EuroProxima develops and validates innovative test methods that can detect the presence of substances that are banned from food. The company will soon launch an innovative rapid test that can detect several substances simultaneously.

All over the world, recent food scandals have put the spotlight on food safety and authenticity. Food manufacturers at all points in the production chain want to know exactly what is in their products and where it comes from. Food safety authorities demand the same. Modern test methods like those developed and supplied by EuroProxima make this possible.

EuroProxima specializes in biochemical test methods aimed at ensuring food safety. These include ELISA [Enzyme-Linked Immuno Sorbent Assay] tests and rapid test methods for on-site analysis. In its modern laboratory, EuroProxima can also validate test methods for various applications in different food matrices. EuroProxima has representatives on every continent and is now working on several projects in close cooperation with scientific institutes worldwide.

Milk purity test
ELISA assays are the core products in EuroProxima’s range of methods. ELISA uses a staining reaction to detect macromolecular substances. “The advantage of this method is that it’s relatively simple to test a large number of samples for the same substance in one go,” says Marco Oteman, Sales Manager at EuroProxima.

In the summer of 2015, EuroProxima introduced an ELISA assay for the detection of cow or buffalo milk in sheep and goat milk. Oteman explains how this works. “Cow and buffalo milk contains a particular protein called Kappa-casein that’s unique to bovines. This protein shouldn’t be present in goat’s and sheep’s milk, but it sometimes is. This might be due to an insufficiently cleaned tank that still contains cow’s milk, traces of which then end up in the goat’s or sheep’s milk. This can have negative consequences for people with allergies. Another way cow milk can end up in goat or sheep milk is through deliberate mixing. Cow milk is cheaper than sheep and goat milk. Our Milk Fraud/Bovine ELISA can determine whether goat or sheep milk is pure.”

Recently, the company was asked by their representative in Australia to develop a new application for this particular test. “In the fall of 2015, there were several recalls of coconut milk from Southeast Asia,” says Oteman, “because it contained trace amounts of milk allergens that were not specified on the label. Some manufacturers add sodium caseinate to coconut milk to make it creamier. As it turns out, our milk test could detect this protein in coconut milk with a 0.1 percent accuracy.”

Rapid multi-substance tests
ELISA assays are carried out in a laboratory and take 2 to 2.5 hours. EuroProxima has also developed several rapid assays that do not need to be conducted in a lab. “With such on-site analyses you don’t even have to leave the farm to see what’s in its products,” says Oteman.

Current rapid assays test for only one substance, but since the summer of 2015 EuroProxima has been working on an ELISA that can test for several substances in the same run. “Since last summer, a visiting researcher from Queen’s University in Belfast has been working in our labs to develop an innovative test for the rapid detection of various mycotoxins in food and animal feed,” says Oteman. The project is funded through a ‘European Union Horizon 2020 Marie Sklodowska-Curie Individual Fellowship’.

Food matrix
EuroProxima does more than just supply test methods. “As a service, we also validate our tests in different product groups,” says Oteman. “The outcome of a test depends on the food matrix, which determines how much you are likely to find of the substance you’re testing for, for instance. Other substances could affect the outcome or trigger an aspecific reaction that affects the sensitivity of the test. At the request of the industry, we validate our test methods in our own lab in various ways, for example by adding a substance and then testing how much of it is detectable,” Oteman explains.

“We’re closely following developments in the market. If there’s a food safety problem anywhere, we’re on it. We immediately check whether we have a solution for this type of problem and if not, whether we could develop one. There’s a growing interest in food safety and not just from the regulatory authorities. Businesses and consumers are ever more aware of what our food products contain and where these contents come from. Our test methods help to ensure that everyone has access to authentic and safe food.”