New hygiene regulations brought in the by the EU during 2006 impose tougher and more stringent testing requirements on food processors, making it necessary for them to do the job as quickly and efficiently as possible.
Tate & Lyle's investment in food safety diagnostics company Lumora, a spin-off from Cambridge University, aims at producing a cost effective sensor that will identify and measure specific food borne pathogens within a matter of hours.
The money is part of Tate & Lyle's €35 million development programme through which it funds food research.
Current culture-based systems in use have detection times that range from three to five days. Once developed, the new sensor should provide processors real-time results in-house, Lumora said in a statement yesterday.
Lumora has developed a detection system that uses a novel version of the luciferase gene, one that enables fireflies to glow in the dark.
The presence of minute quantities of bacteria or viruses will cause samples to glow under highly sensitive cameras.
The sensor will identify the specific type of pathogen contaminating a food sample, as well as measure the precise amount of contamination.
Lumora aims to have prototype platforms systems installed with key customers within 12 months.
Although the focus of the development is to produce cost-savings and efficiencies to pathogen detection, there are multiple applications for the technology within the food sector such as the detection of minute quantities of GM ingredients in products, the company said.
The system could also prove effective in combating growing levels of food fraud by assessing the provenance of natural food ingredients.
Tate & Lyle Ventures last year announced its intention to fund research and development into innovations, including studies on bio-materials, next-generation food ingredients, industrial ingredients and bio-fuels.
Between eight and ten projects will be funded over several rounds of financing, with individual schemes expected to receive from €1.5m to €3.8m.