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Detecting Microorganisms and Food Toxins

Living healthy means, among others, eating healthy. Organic products are by now offered in most supermarkets and are in increasing demand. However, frequently food scandals cause alarm among consumers and create special challenges for inspection authorities. Salmonella in meats, legionella in drinking water, or prohibited additives in food: often, the detection of hazardous substances and microorganisms is difficult, time-consuming, and costly. Photonic technologies offer alternatives to conventional analysis methods.

Photonic Technolgies for Analysis Methods

IPHT is researching convenient point-of-care (POC) and on-site diagnostic test systems that detect germs and bacteria in food using optically readable biochips, test kits, or spectroscopic measurements without time-consuming and costly sample preparation. Together with the Friedrich Schiller University Jena and as part of the Jena Biochip Initiative supported by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, IPHT has implemented a method of detecting microorganisms. This system recognizes up to forty pathogens simultaneously by their DNA in a matter of minutes. Through long-standing and consistent interdisciplinary research, a robust, portable, and inexpensive system for the chip-based analysis of pathogenic organisms was developed. This makes it easy to detect microorganisms directly onsite quickly and conveniently.

To detect pathogenic additives in food, such as for example different azo dyes and melamine, IPHT is developing special solutions based on surface-enhanced resonance Raman spectroscopy (SERRS). This technology makes it possible to detect even the smallest concentrations of illegal admixtures. With this tool, food manufacturers can better monitor the ingredients used and guarantee better quality for consumers.

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