PerkinElmer partners with TeakOrigin to develop food transparency tech

By Joseph James Whitworth contact

- Last updated on GMT

Pilot testing will be for olive oil, honey and apples. Picture: iStock
Pilot testing will be for olive oil, honey and apples. Picture: iStock

Related tags: Spectroscopy

PerkinElmer and TeakOrigin have teamed up to use molecular spectroscopy and analytical chemistry to boost food transparency.

PerkinElmer’s molecular spectroscopy instrumentation will be combined with TeakOrigin’s team of analytical chemistry experts.

The companies will develop a technology that uses a single platform to analyze food for key indicators that determines authenticity, quality and freshness.

They are working on the first prototypes but were unable to give details of a timeline or market approach.

Use of analytical chemistry and spectroscopy

Brent Overcash, CEO of TeakOrigin, told FoodQualityNews: Since we are providing datasets and nutritional modeling, we foresee that this technology will be used initially in the food supply chains, specifically in distribution and retailing channels. 

“In the future, it will enable devices that are currently using crowd-sourced data to be able to use higher resolution, lab-driven datasets to provide more accurate results.”

TeakOrigin is analyzing foods for the major parameters of authenticity and quality then correlating those with optical spectroscopy after verifying source of the sample.

Working with partners it provides the spectroscopy protocols, data interpretation algorithms and nutrient quality models to bridge the gap between the lab and measurements in the field.

Research will use molecular spectroscopy, UV VIS, mid/near infrared and Raman spectroscopy techniques – which are fast, small and relatively low cost and non-destructive to the tested food.

Olive oil, honey and apples

Initial work is at PerkinElmer’s lab in Waltham, Massachusetts. For this project, lab analytical results will be calibrated against their molecular spectroscopy results to facilitate fast, portable screening of foods for quality and safety threats. 

Pilot testing will be for olive oil, honey and apples with intent to extend analysis to other foods.

PerkinElmer and TeakOrigin will also aim to develop and validate hand-held spectroscopic devices and chemometric models.

Jim Corbett, executive VP and president, discovery and analytical solutions at PerkinElmer, said it brings experience developing instrumentation, software and services to help manufacturers better detect ingredients and adulterants.

“Working with TeakOrigin, we look forward to addressing key underlying issues in the food system, leading to better and healthier food decisions for grocery retailers and consumers.”

Overcash said systems amenable to field use typically have lower resolution and less sensitivity. 

“The challenge is to thoroughly characterize the samples to allow for correlations. Since this is meant as a screening tool, the precision and accuracy expected from a lab based method is not necessary.

“We expect that there will be some samples (especially for authenticity) that may be re-analyzed in a laboratory if screening suggests them to be suspect.”

Contrary to photonics

TeakOrigin is using traditional analytical techniques (HPLC, GC/MS, TGA, wet chemistry) to determine chemical properties of foods so the relationships to the spectra can be validated.

Contrary to the approach of photonics companies the firm is chemically characterizing the samples as the spectra are collected.

Overcash said a major challenge is that many analyses rely on sophisticated analytical chemistry that is not easily achievable in the field or by consumers. 

“The literature is full of methods to determine the authenticity and quality of various foods, many of which are carried out on PerkinElmer instrumentation,” ​he said.

“TeakOrigin has started with many of these plus developed its own proprietary processes to analyze key parameters and marker compounds using lab-grade techniques and then translating those to easier-to-use field instruments.

“Many photonics companies claim to be able to make optical measurements and then ‘decode’ those measurements against crowd-source data in order to establish quality or authenticity. Unfortunately crowd-sourced data-sets are unreliable since there is no quality control, no validation or if the crowd is even starting from a ‘known food’ since many labels are incorrect.” 

Related topics: Food Safety & Quality

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