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Source tracking and monitoring of mould contamination in food production

Final Report Summary - FUST (Source tracking and monitoring of mould contamination in food production)

Executive Summary:
Summary description of the project objectives, results and the socio-economic impacts
Mould identification and source tracking in the food industry, in particular in the juice industry, is difficult because current technologies rely mainly on visual identification. Visual identification is not species and strain specific, it requires experienced staff and it is time-consuming. Although for very specific cases, genetic methods are available, approaches, which are applicable to a broad spectrum of food spoilage moulds, as they appear in juice production or in the food industry in general, are not available.
During the FUST project, an automated high-throughput system was developed, which allows the source tracking and identification of food spoilage fungi in juice industry; the new system enables rapid identification of moulds at species level at low running costs. The system is simple in use and no expert knowledge in mycology is needed to perform fungal identification. The new system is based on Fourier Transform Infrared (FTIR) Spectroscopy, which provides a unique biochemical fingerprint of each mould strain, allowing, both the differentiation of different types of moulds and the tracking of sources of microbial contamination along the juice production line. The complete system is currently under commercialization by the SME Labman Automation (FUST participant 2). The prototype which has been developed within the FUST project consists of a fully automated cultivation and sample handling system for high-throughput FTIR spectroscopy of moulds and bespoke software and databases. For FTIR spectroscopy an off-the shelf routine instrument is used. During the project, the SMEs in the consortium out-sourced three main research and development activities to the RTD Performers. The first activity was the development of an automated sample handling system for high-throughput cultivation of filamentous fungi and sample preparation for FTIR spectroscopy to simplify and standardize the sample operation procedure. The second activity was the development of a high-throughput industrial protocol for the automated system for industrial use. The third activity was the development of the software and database for source tracking and identification of fungal contamination in juice industry. These three research activities resulted in three innovations, which in combination allow to perform fast, simple and cheap source tracking of fungal contamination in juice industry.
The consortium consists of SMEs that will profit from the commercialization of this system in different ways. Labman Automation, an SME specialized in developing bespoke robotic systems, automation, and electronic solutions and the future integrator of the system, is commercializing the complete solution including the automated system, industrial protocol, software and databases and an off-the shelf FTIR spectrometer. The SME Synthon GmbH, an SME specialized on FTIR for bacteria and software solutions wants to licence the software and databases to Labmann Automation. The SME ScanBi Diagnostics AB, an ISO accredited molecular testing lab, wants to extend their field of activity to moulds analysis and establish the complete system in their lab and sell testing services to the juice and food producers. The SME Labnett AS, a large analytical testing company, is providing the solution to their customers (many of them are SMEs) as a service. The end user Elopak AS, a large company producing juice-filling lines, recommends the new services provided by ScanBi Diagnostics AB or Labnett AS as an integrated solution to their customers – many of them are SMEs. Elopak recommends large customers to purchase the system for the customers’ own microbial lab. The customer network of Elopak AS represents therefore an important route to market. The SME Epleblomsten AS has already during the project period utilised the system for routine analysis and quality control and will continue to do this in future through the testing labs ScanBi Diagnostics AB or Labnett AS. The new system will therefore also in future provide Epleblomsten AS with an easy and cheap access to microbial testing and help them to improve food safety in their production.

Project Context and Objectives:

The main objectives of the project

1. To develop an automated system based on high-throughput micro-cultivation and FTIR spectroscopy for source tracking and identification of food spoilage moulds.
2. To develop and validate a high-throughput protocol for industrial source tracking and identification of food spoilage moulds
3. To develop software for source tracking and identification of food spoilage moulds by the use of spectral data.
4. To develop a source tracking database and a spectral library of moulds for source tracking including a user interface for database management, identification and source tracking of microorganisms.


Project Results:
The main results of the project

1. A high-throughput robot system based on micro-cultivation and FTIR spectroscopy for source tracking and identification of food spoilage moulds in food industry.
2. A high-throughput protocol for industrial source tracking and identification of food spoilage moulds in food industry.
3. Algorithms and software for source tracking and identification of food spoilage moulds.
4. A source tracking database, a spectral library and a user interface for source tracking of microorganisms.
Potential Impact:
Project publications
Project press releases:
Publication Date Partner Responsible Media
New technology for stopping mold 12.12.2012 Labman www.nofima.no

Novel High-throughput Robot System for Food Microbial Source Tracking 24.09.2013 Nofima www.rapidmicrobiology.com

Microorganisms detection focus for FTIR spectroscopy 21.11.2013 Nofima www.foodqualitynews.com

Good news for fruit juice producers 02.10.2013 Labman www.labman.co.uk


1.1. Participation in conferences, workshops
The participation on the conferences/workshops will be in a special focus as it allows direct communication to targeted groups and general public. Below a list of conferences is given, which shows where FUST has been presented during to disseminate FUST in the second project period.

Oral presentation Date Partner Responsible Conference
FTIR Spectroscopy: Source tracking and monitoring of microbial contamination in food industry 21.01.2013-23.01.2013 Nofima Rapid Method Europe, Noordwijkerhout, Netherlands
Automated sample handling and high-throughput FTIR spectroscopy for rapid detection of moulds contamination in food industry 01.06.2013-03.06.2013 Nofima Spoilers 2013, Quimper, France
Automation in the water laboratory 8.10.2013 Labman ICWW Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
To present automated high-throughput liquid handling system that can be used for moulds (other microorganisms) 31.05.14-
05.06 14 Labman, Durham IEEE International conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA2014), Hong Kong


List of Websites:
http://www.fust.eu.com/