New Zealand dairy factories could be the big winners in a proposed new detection and electromagnetic imaging method aimed at strengthening food safety systems. A multidisciplinary team of researchers from the University of Canterbury, Lincoln Agritech, the University of Auckland and FoodSouth, as well as international collaborators in Australia and the United Kingdom, are working on the development of the super-detection method. .
At the University of Canterbury’s Electrical Power Engineering Center (EPECentre), research on a Joule heating technique for logs has also paved the way for improved imaging technology with wider applications in the world. beyond the timber industry. By passing electricity from an electrode through a piece of wood to an array of segmented electrodes, the researchers were able to produce images showing the internal structures of the wood, and now this same technology is under investigation. for the food industry.
“This is half the story of this new method of electromagnetic tomography which we now hope to develop for food safety and quality applications,” says Dr Bill Heffernan, senior research engineer at the University of Canterbury. “We can use this electrode technique to get clues as to what’s going on in a section of pipe between two rings of segmented electrodes. The second half of the story involves developing an electromagnetic system of sensors around the pipe to get a more complete picture of how the flowing food mixture behaves between the electrodes.
The objective is to develop this new innovative method so that it can reliably determine the distribution of the electrical conductivity of food mixtures – such as milk – circulating in a processing line. Foreign objects such as pieces of metal or plastic could then be quickly identified by their different characteristics of electrical conductivity. This method could also be used to scan and image milk or other foods for attributes such as consistency, consistency and temperature, thus providing reliable quality control assurance.
One of the big challenges for researchers will be to apply the method to fast flowing product mixtures, as opposed to a stationary article. A key objective of the research will be to produce a working prototype which can then be tested. The organizations aligned with this exciting project are New Zealand Food Safety, Synlait, TipTop, InFact Ltd, Westland Milk Products Ltd, Waiu Dairy, Miraka Ltd, Hellers Ltd, PDV Consultants and Fonterra.
“Super-detection has obvious applications for foods like milk or yogurt, but could also be applied to a product like sausage meat to check the safety and consistency of foods during processing,” says Dr. Heffernan.
Food quality and safety are central to New Zealand’s reputation as a trusted exporter of value-added processed food products. It is essential to have reliable scanning systems for primary products such as milk and meat throughout the processing chain. Current systems include metal detectors, magnets, filters, temperature sensors, and direct sampling, but a new method currently under study could effectively replace and improve many existing safety and quality controls for food. such as milk, ice cream and sausage meat.
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