The farm sector is the major user of antibiotics worldwide. Although this ensures dairy product safety, at the same time, it increases the risk of food contamination with antibiotics residues. Existing antibiotic detection systems operate at the dairy plants after milk arrival, and depending on the result, a specific milk batch can be accepted or rejected. This not only delays the dairy production process but also causes unnecessary financial losses and may negatively impact the credibility of specific farmers.
An automatic assay for measuring antibiotic levels in milk
The EU-funded TEST4ALL project proposed a change in the food analysis paradigm through novel assays that operate on site and in real time. “Our goal was to develop an automatic antibiotics detection system that can be operated by anyone, anywhere in the dairy production chain, anytime,” explains Pedro Razquin, project coordinator and CEO of ZEULAB. In this context, the project team generated a single assay capable of detecting at least 50 antibiotics in one single test. The test is based on the inhibition of microbial growth of Geobacillus stearothermophilus through a unique technology that measures bacteria growth kinetics in real time. The milk is added to the test tube, and the assay is performed automatically using special algorithms that integrate different parameters. The system is operated through a smartphone application, and the results are stored in the cloud so that they can be shared in real time. The Test4all device has been certified for fulfilling market requirements and has been successfully scaled up for industrial production. Dissemination activities are directed to raising awareness on the importance of antibiotics self-control and demonstrating the benefits of TEST4ALL to end users.
TEST4ALL advantages and prospects
Dairy plants collect milk from farmers on a daily basis, requiring good cooperation within the entire sector to guarantee milk free of antibiotics. The TEST4ALL system offers a new-generation antibiotics control solution based on an accurate biological test. Its automation allows on-site analysis and immediate results sharing. These features offer farmers and dairies the opportunity to undertake antibiotics testing before and during milk transport in trucks. Results integration in a real-time information system supports cooperation down the dairy chain from small farmers in rural areas to big modern dairies, thereby improving sector sustainability. Implementation of this system will enable dairy plants to take early decisions with the management of non-compliance milk, saving costs associated with its transport and destruction. Moreover, it can help increase milk production yield at farms through strict control of treated animals. “We believe that this is the first step to change the model of food analysis during food production,” emphasises Razquin. Overall, TEST4ALL demonstrates that non-qualified people at any stage of production can help control food safety given the right resources. In the future, a similar TEST4ALL analysis can be implemented for other food risks, including allergens and pathogens.
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