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Smartphone analyzers for on-site testing of food quality and safety

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - FoodSmartphone (Smartphone analyzers for on-site testing of food quality and safety)

Okres sprawozdawczy: 2019-01-01 do 2021-03-31

Imagine how many samples are being taken in national monitoring plans within the European Union for food quality and safety testing: millions each year again and again. Despite all these efforts, we are still facing frequent food incidents and fraud issues. A paradigm shift in food quality and safety testing is needed in order to free resources for an intensified combat against fraud in the food chain. As an enabling technology solution to the problem FoodSmartphone proposed the development of smartphone-based (bio)analytical sensing and diagnostic tools, for simplified on-site pre-screening of quality and safety parameters and wireless data transfer to servers of relevant stakeholders. Bioanalytical chemists, biologists, physicists, micro/nanotech engineers, mathematicians and others worked together on this joint supra-disciplinary goal. Moreover, FoodSmartphone offered 14 Early Stage Researchers (ESRs) an extensive program of network-wide training events and intersectoral secondments.

1. To study the challenge of smartphone-based analysis systems having advanced biorecognition, signal transduction, microfluidic sample handling and image data handling solutions.
2. To develop user-friendly, rapid integrated sample preparation and smartphone-compatible Apps, to ultimately ensure adequate field implementation for both professionals and future citizen science.
3. To develop a range of smartphone-based on-site screening demonstrators for food quality and safety issues of concern, viz. for pesticides, allergens, mycotoxins, food spoilage organisms and marine toxins.
4. To deliver, through high level training, a group of multidisciplinary scientists who can integrate (bio)analytical chemistry, physics, micro-engineering and ICT knowledge into a common supra-disciplinary goal.

The project delivered a new generation of young scientists having multidisciplinary research and complementary skills in the context of food quality and safety testing. Proof-of-concept smartphone-based solutions were delivered for a range of food safety issues, some of them even simplified to a level that an untrained teenager was enabled to do food testing himself. Thanks to the achievements, a paradigm shift in food quality and safety testing is no longer a dream but becoming more and more within reach. As expected, the novel hardware and software prototype solutions from the project are typically at a level ready for further development towards truly exploitable products. The scientific training in novel smartphone-based technologies is expected to have a major impact on future EU monitoring practices and pave the road for future citizen science approaches to food testing.
14 ESRs have been recruited by the project (3 of them replacing resigned ESRs), covering 11 individual research projects that were organized in a matrix structure with 5 different research work packages (WPs). In the research WPs, advanced biorecognition, optical and electrochemical detection, integrated sample preparation, data handling, and applicability testing were studied. In addition, separate WPs were dedicated to training, dissemination, management and ethical aspects.

-Advanced biorecognition through directed immobilization of conjugates, antibodies, aptamers and bioactive enzymes for antibiotics, aflatoxins and pesticides.
-Advanced optical detection through nanostars for label-free localized surface plasmon resonance (LSPR) detection and nanozymes; 3D-printed imaging SPR; and carbon nanoparticles for labelled detection, yielding an ultrafast allergen strip test (visual result <30 s).
-Advanced sample handling through design and prototyping of 3D-printed unibody lab-on-chip microfluidic devices.
-Advanced image data handling solutions and secure cloud interfaces for smartphone reading of strip tests.
-Applicability for screening of allergens in cookies, marine toxins in shellfish, antibiotics and pathogens in milk and cheese, pesticides in lettuce, strawberry, cereals and fruit juices, and mycotoxins in corn.
-The logistics gap between future massive on-site testing using smartphone assays and regulatory analysis in official laboratories was filled by the development of identification test strips (ID-LFIA), acting as an interface between on-site assays and mass spectrometric confirmation.
-All ESRs participated in scientific and transferable skills courses and acquired at least 20 ECTS each (pro rata for ESRs having shorter contract durations). All ESRs enrolled in a PhD program graduated or are on track for achieving their doctorate in 2021-2022. All graduated or resigned ESRs obtained a job position in the academic or industry sector.

In line with expectations from projects in the Horizon 2020 excellent science pillar, the level of the prototype developments in FoodSmartphone ended typically at TRL 3-4 and exploitation has been mainly scientific. As a result, the know-how and outcome of the project can and will be exploited as solid starting points for future, more applied, follow-up projects and initiatives at the beneficiaries and beyond.

The project has been widely disseminated to scientists, EC regulators, reference laboratories, food industry, diagnostics companies, general public, and next generations. ESRs and supervisors presented the project outcome at 49 (inter)national scientific events via 74 lectures and 24 posters. In addition, 7 scientific opinion papers, 14 papers on the project in magazines/local newspapers, 4 TV or radio interviews, 5 interview features about the project in food industry magazines, 26+9 peer reviewed scientific papers, 25 YouTube videos, 8 e-Newsletters, 157 ESR blogs and 404 tweets were published. Moreover, the project results were presented on 5 open days. Next-generation potentials were engaged by 6 ESRs via presentations at their previous primary or secondary school.
The scientific progress is evident from 26 peer-reviewed scientific papers published in high impact journals. The progress of the project beyond the state-of-the-art identified at the start can be summarized as follows. Previous devices reported in literature (i) lack validation and benchmarking evidence: in contrast, several of our prototypes were successfully validated and benchmarked; (ii) lack simplicity that allows use by non-experts: we made great progress as shown in our videos on YouTube and one of our prototypes could even be operated by an untrained teenager using a simple pictogram-like manual; (iii) lack speed of biorecognition: great progress was made and one of our prototype developments even showed a record-breaking assay speed of 30 seconds, moreover, in several ESR projects we successfully showed multiplexing capabilities of the developed prototypes; (iv) lack flexibility/adaptability versus the rapidly changing smartphone models: the adaptability and comparison of different smartphone models (cameras and processing software) has been demonstrated by three of our ESRs. The potential socioeconomic impact of the project and its implications on future food testing has been recognized by relevant stakeholders. Apart from scientists, the project triggered attention from EC regulators, the European and National Reference Laboratories network, the food industry, diagnostics companies and also from the general public via the wide press and social media coverage.
FoodSmartphone logo
FoodSmartphone concept