May contain peanuts - IR will tell

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  • Published: Apr 16, 2015
  • Author: Steve Down
  • Channels: NMR Knowledge Base / UV/Vis Spectroscopy / MRI Spectroscopy / Chemometrics & Informatics / Proteomics / Raman / X-ray Spectrometry / Base Peak / Infrared Spectroscopy / Atomic

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Traces of peanuts in wheat flour can be detected by near-IR hyperspectral imaging, so that food packaging can now be labelled with more certainty to avoid medical emergencies. That is far more desirable than the vague description "May contain peanuts"which appears on some products.

That is a direct result of food manufacturers using the same product lines for peanut and non-peanut products such as flour. Currently, near-IR spectroscopy can tell the difference between peanut powder and other types of flour but only by averaging signals from a bulk sample, so that small levels of contamination are not detected.

The solution, according to scientists from France and Spain writing in Journal of Near Infrared Spectroscopy, is to use near-IR hyperspectral imaging which has been used recently to detect contaminants in powdered food. This technique produces detailed spectra in which every pixel contains continuous spectra, so that the presence of peanuts can be ascertained with certainty.

They tested pure wheat flour, pure peanut flower, and various mixtures of the two with a special camera and used principal components analysis to analyse the resulting spectra. As a result, traces of peanuts down to 0.01% were detected in the wheat flour and were accurately measured from 0.1-10%.

"In this context, HSI could be used in conjunction with chemical procedures, such as RT-PCR and ELISA, to facilitate quality control surveillance on product processing lines," said the research team. "Nevertheless, two important limitations for the application of this technology are the high cost and complexity of HSI," they added.

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