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New portable sensor detects food allergens

GUELPH - An estimated 2.5 million Canadians report an allergy to at least one food, according to Food Allergy Canada. Peanut allergies alone affect the lives of approximately two in every 100 Canadian children.

As the list of food allergens continues to grow, there is a genuine need for a quick and accurate allergen test whether you are scrutinizing every snack for your child, or conducting randomized testing on a food production line. Current allergen testing can take hours, when minutes can make all the difference.

A new technology developed at the University of Guelph successfully shaves valuable hours off accurate testing, and will soon be widely available in Canada.

Suresh Neethirajan, an associate professor in bioengineering in the School of Engineering at Guelph, has developed a new test that accurately pinpoints and quantifies the presence of food allergens. Designed to deliver results in a matter of minutes, the test can be used by consumers, restaurants and food manufacturers for on-site testing in a user-friendly format.

The new biosensor provides a one-step assay to test for the presence of food allergens and is intended for anyone who wants to avoid certain food ingredients.

“We have successfully tested the technology to measure food allergens including shrimp, egg and peanuts, and are working to expand to other food allergens,” said Neethirajan.

Using nanotechnology, the biosensor can pinpoint an exact allergen using just a miniscule amount of a food sample. Plate-side at a restaurant, consumer would simply put a small food sample in a tiny vial or cartridge, shake it for a few seconds then place in a reader to analyze the sample and provide results within minutes.

Neethirajan has also developed a paper-based technology that delivers an inexpensive way to tests for food allergens where resources are limited.

October 13, 2017

 
 

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