Nuclear techniques to detect adulterated food in developing countries
The United States Grocery Manufacturers' Association (GMA) estimates that fraud in this sector causes a loss of 10 to 15 billion dollars a year. Documentation labels, guarantee authenticities, can be easily falsified. For this reason, the adulteration of food not only presents a serious danger to public health but also a lack of confidence in these products. This leads to the establishment of international commercial bans with the affected countries and the subsequent economic damage.
A new research project will develop low-cost portable devices that authorities will be able to use directly on the streets and markets, especially in developing countries
New portable devices
Authorities do not have the necessary equipment to allow them to quickly detect these frauds. For these reasons, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has teamed up with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), which brings together scientists from 13 countries (Austria, Belgium, China, India, Malaysia, Morocco, Russian Federation, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Sweden, United Kingdom, Uganda and the United States) and is conducting a new research project that will develop low-cost portable devices that authorities will be able to use directly on the streets and markets, especially in developing countries, thus helping help protect the distribution chain of food products and public health.
Ion mobility spectometry, a nuclear technology used by border police to detect drugs and explosives, is one of the methods that can be adapted to detect adulterants, contaminating substances and mold in food. The project will develop devices to determine the authenticity of food products, including procedures for analysis and a comprehensive database of reference samples. At first it used two portable spectometers granted by a German contribution, in order to help modernize science and nuclear applications laboratories at IAEA.
Initially, efforts will center on analyzing milk powder and vegetable oil, two products that are particularly vulnerable to adulteration. The first practical results are expected in about two years.