New sensor to make milk products safer and their production less wasteful

A new project is set to develop a portable biosensor to detect spore forming harmful bacteria of environmental origins that may enter the dairy supply chain and exceed the ever-tightening microbiological specifications for high-end products such as infant milk formula.

Tyndall National Institute, Cork, and Teagasc recently launched the project which is called the ‘Spore Analysis Critical Control Point’ (SACCP) partnership.

Developed in Ireland, this new system will revolutionise quality monitoring processes within the dairy industry at a global level, benefiting businesses and consumers.

Ireland is a significant player within the global dairy market producing 15% of the world’s infant milk formula and 2015 will see the removal of the current milk quota system ensuring this global marketplace becomes even more competitive.

The Tyndall Teagasc partnership will look to create a biosensor that will allow on-site, in-line and real-time testing of milk to ensure that harmful spore-forming bacteria, which can survive pasteurisation, do not reach harmful levels.

Current spore detection processes with milk are cumbersome and can take days of analysis in laboratories before establishing a definitive result. By comparison, the biosensor under development will be portable and produce results in just minutes.

Dr Karen Twomey of Tyndall said the biosensor has the potential to become an essential component of the dairy manufacturing process all over the world.

“Early detection is key and the biosensor will enable producers to take preventative measures at earlier stages thus preventing unnecessary product downgrade,

“This technology is also incredibly flexible and can be modified to detect a range of other bodies enabling it to be used across other areas of the food industry and other sectors such as environment, security and medical to name but a few.

“This is currently the only research of its kind taking place so we have a real opportunity to create an important tool that will not only benefit businesses but also consumers all over the world,” she said.

Project coordinator Dr Phil Kelly of Teagasc said Teagasc are particularly pleased to be collaborating with Tyndall on the SACCP project because of the urgency in dairy food manufacturing for the creation of a biosensor that will give a rapid indication of the presence of sporeforming bacteria and enable early intervention process control strategies to be implemented.

SACCP is a joint venture between Teagasc and Tyndall and is funded by the Department of Agriculture Food and the Marine’s Food Institution Research Measure (FIRM) which has committed €625,000 to the project.

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