Issue date: 11 April 2001

UWE is coordinating a government and industry sponsored initiative to fill a technology gap in the rapid detection of organophosphate residues on raw materials in the food chain.

Organophosphates are one of the commonest substances used against soft bodied insects on crops. Current procedures to detect the residues rely on laboratory tests that can take up to 48 hours to produce results. The technology is both costly and time-consuming and relies on the availability of experienced analysts and sophisticated instrumentation.

The project, which involves nine other partners*, will create an instrument which uses biosensor technology and rapid extraction techniques to detect quickly and effectively the presence of organophosphate residues on raw produce before it is accepted for processing. It will make a significant contribution throughout the food chain to improve the quality and safety of raw produce.

The research will bring together advances in science and technology such as disposable biosensors and rapid extraction systems, which will enable quick and accurate detection of any residues. The aim is to produce an easy to use analyser that incorporates sophisticated sensor technology and advanced processing. The biosensors will also be safely and easily disposed of and cheap to use.

The lead researcher at UWE, Dr John Hart, says the new research is an important step forward for the safety and quality of raw food, "We chose to use organophosphates as the model to develop this new sensor technology because they are widely used and because of public concern about them. Once successfully developed we believe this sensor technology will be used to detect a wide range of compounds in the food processing of raw materials, raw fruit and vegetables and the production of drinks from raw materials."


Editors notes:

Further details on this project are available at www.uwe.ac.uk/fas/maff

*The other partners in the project, of which UWE is the co-ordinator, include:
University of Leeds
University of Perpignan in France
RHM Technology
Campden and Chorleywood Food Research Association
Apple and Pear Research Council
Jenway Ltd
Gwent Electronic Materials

The Food Safety Act 1990 places the onus on producers, processors and retailers to carry out checks on food and to ensure due diligence to ensure the safety of their products.

The grant for the research has been made under the MAFF (Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food) LINK scheme under the Food Quality and Safety Programme. The overall cost of the project is £712,893 to which MAFF will contribute £356,446.

The Advanced Sensors Research Group at UWE has already developed a national reputation for its work. Recent successes include:

- In conjunction with Silsoe Research Institute UWE has research funding from MAFF on the non-invasive prediction of ovulation using sensor technology in cows and pigs.

- A Home Grown Cereals Authority funded project on detecting musty odours in wheat in conjunction with Campden and Chorleywood Food Research Association.

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