Microorganisms such as bacteria, yeasts and molds can cause food spoilage and deterioration during food production. They could be lurking in the tubes that convey milk to cartons, lying in wait on the floor, or even floating in the air where sausages are being packaged, and they are poised to attack and contaminate our food at any time.
The food production chain is growing more and more complex, which increases the risk of food going bad at some point during production.
Troubleshooting during production is the food industry's current approach, using observation and testing to locate the causes of food spoilage.
Now the participants at a research project carried out by the research institute Nofima Mat and packaging company Elopak have developed a more effective method of identifying infection sources that is faster and more economical to use.
Using a spectrometer, the researchers are able to detect undesirable microorganisms in finished products and trace them back to the various steps in the production process.
Scientists have long used Fourier Transform Infrared (FTIR) spectroscopy as a method of chemical analysis, and for the last two decades for identifying bacteria as well. The method can also detect all types of microorganisms in air, fluids and many other substances.
"But no one had so far used the method for identifying food contaminants," says Henri-Pierre Suso, a researcher at Elopak.
He headed a user-driven project that received funding under the Research Council's Food Programme: Norwegian Food from Sea and Land.
From the August 22, 2011, Prepared Foods' Daily News.