An EU research project is under-way to develop an automated method for identifying and tracking mould contamination during fruit juice production. Moulds exist naturally in fruits. Some mould strains can defer the quality and shelf-life of the juice. Some mould strains are also hazardous to the health of the consumer. For fruit juice producers, this can prove expensive in terms of rejected stock, product recalls and the associated damage to the brand.
Traditional testing methods include plate counting, DNA analysis and microscopy. These are generally performed by external testing laboratories away from the fruit juice production facilities. This is time consuming and expensive. Crucially such tests only identify the presence of certain moulds and not the source of the contamination. When a problem arises an entire production line needs to be closed down for investigation.
As part of the EU project, Labman Automation have developed a robot which uses Fourier transform infra-red (FTIR) spectroscopy and high-throughput micro-cultivation (100 samples per hour) techniques for testing the fruit juice along several points in tandem with the production line. This automated technique is 70-100% accurate and takes as little as 8 days for a complete test. The system is far cheaper than conventional methods. Also by having several testing points on the production line, producers can track any contamination to a specific part of the production line.
Plans are in motion to extend the same technology for identifying various other micro-organism, such as bacteria and other pathogens.
This new technology will be available in 2014.
A workshop/ presentation is under plans to unveil the first system on site at Norway in the spring of 2014.
For more information please contact Jo Batey at Labman Automation.
The EU website “www.fust.eu.com” provides more information related to work undertaken with fruit juices.