Is it Safe to Eat?

Technion researchers lead a European Consortium for the rapid monitoring of pathogenic bacteria and toxins in food.

Early warning systems for food contamination are taking a leap into a safer and healthier future with lab-on-a-chip monitoring technologies for the food industry being developed by Technion researchers within an EIT-Food Consortium.

Toxin detection technology: Time-lapse fluorescent images of the electrokinetic preconcentration of Deoxynivalenol (DON) toxin into a preconcentrated plug of molecules within a microchannel for enhancement of detection sensitivity.

Food safety is crucial for food-producing companies from farm to fork, and fundamental to public health. Every year, over 23 million people in Europe become ill from contaminated food, leading to around 5,000 annual deaths. Food is generally monitored in facilities that use time-consuming methods.  Analysis can take up to a week, which results in a significant rate of 50 weekly recalls of food products across the EU and the USA.

The Technion has developed a technology for sensitive, real-time detection of contaminants, validated in different environments. Bringing increased efficiency and precision, the technology is based on several concentration techniques in a lab-on-a-chip format. A lab-on-a-chip is a class of device that integrates and automates multiple laboratory techniques into a system that fits on a chip up to a maximum of a few square centimeters in size. By manipulating reagents on the microscale, effects such as rapid heating and mixing can be exploited.

The innovative solutions from Technion are expected to improve public safety, cut costs, and minimize the need for recalls. The early detection of contaminations can save lives, increase public trust, and bring a significant leap in efficiency to the food industry.

“Our solutions will improve societal well-being, minimize recalls and food outbreaks, and improve production efficiency,” says Prof. Yechezkel Kashi of the Faculty of Biotechnology and Food Engineering. “It is relatively inexpensive and will encourage all parties to check products throughout the supply chain, eliminating contaminated raw materials and products in real-time. This will help avoid recall events, which also damage food companies and public confidence.”

Prof. Kashi and Prof. Gilad Yossifon of the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering are leading the consortium with six European partners (EUFIC, Grupo AN, Maspex, Energy Pulse Systems, SwissDeCode, and Queen’s University, Belfast).

The European Union has allocated millions of euros to advance the future of food. There are three Technion research teams participating in EIT-FOOD projects, which have cumulative budgets of more than €2.25 million, supported by grants of the EU.