Posted: 06 March 2019

This is an English translation of the article entitled, "Laser portatile contro le frodi alimentari firmato Enea. La tecnologia Ŕ stata giÓ testata su cibi di grande consume", which may be found at: https://ilfattoalimentare.it/enea-laser-frodi-alimentari.html

By Beniamino Bonardi

It's called Safefood and is a portable laser device for fast and reliable screening of food quality. This was presented by Enea (National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable Economic Development), which is working on two prototypes in the laboratories of Frascati: one for inspections of control bodies and the other for quality controls in the food industry.

The two tools, based on a laser technology that uses light and sound to detect harmful substances or not declared on the label, they differ according to their specific use: the one intended for food companies has been designed to integrate into the industrial process and monitor the entire production chain, while the second instrument, which will be given to the inspection authorities, will be handy, easy to use and the size of a case. In the latter case it is a mini portable laboratory, where it will be enough to insert a small sample of food to have in a few seconds a quick and precise screening of the presence of any contaminants. And these features will make it suitable for fast and targeted checks in all distribution channels, from markets to supermarkets, from school canteens,

"The technology behind the two anti-fraud devices is called photoacoustic laser spectroscopy" , explains Adriana Puiu from ENIA's Diagnostics and metrology laboratory . "Technically, an infrared laser beam is fired on the sample. The sample in turn heats up, expands and generates a pressure wave, a sort of 'echo' that is heard as sound through a microphone. In this way we can analyze any substance, without its molecules being altered, and immediately get the results to understand if we are facing food fraud."

So far this technology it has been tested on consumable foods such as fish, soft drinks and fruit juices, milk powder, olive oil and wine. In the case of fish, both fresh and canned, the laser has identified the presence of histamine, a toxic molecule that forms when the fish is old or badly preserved and that is not destroyed during cooking. In fruit juices and soft drinks the system allows to identify the presence of five sweeteners such as fructose, glucose, maltose, aspartame and sucrose; in powdered milk it is able to detect the contamination from melamine, a substance used to produce plastic but capable of simulating the protein content causing serious kidney damage in newborns, while in citrus fruits it can detect pathogen infections;

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