Science News 14/01/2012

Safer honey on the breakfast table

PRLog (Press Release) - Jan 11, 2012 -
The new tests will save time in the production cycle and also increase the number of samples monitored, significantly increasing food safety.

The tests have been developed as part of the four-year CONffIDENCE project which began in May 2008 with the aim of developing inexpensive detection methods for contaminants in food and feed.

Heightened concerns about food safety in Europe inspired the project, which, by its completion in May 2012, will have cost a total of €7.15 million; €5.8 million coming from the European Commission’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7).

“There’s a big market for honey in Europe, and there are a lot of alerts about the levels of antibiotics present in it,” explained project co-ordinator Dr Jacob de Jong.

Antibiotics are used to treat or prevent infection in beehives, but residues can be passed on to humans through the honey, and there are obvious implications for the development of antibiotic resistance in humans.

The new multi-dipsticks can test eight samples in under 45 minutes, and are able to detect four different types of antibiotics: chloramphenicol, sulphonamides, fluoroquinolones and tylosin.

Honeys contaminated with such chemicals are banned from import into the European Union, and entire batches can be spoilt if the contamination is only discovered late in the distribution chain, with severe financial implications.

Dr de Jong, who works at RIKILT, the Institute of Food Safety in the Netherlands, said: “Until now there haven’t been any rapid tests that can detect more than one antibiotic at once, but this new test not only does that, but it can be used in field conditions.”

Currently in the final validation stages, the multi-dipstick assay will then be trialled in a number of laboratories to ensure the results are reproducible, and the producers, Unisensor, hope it will be on the market early next year.

The key to CONffIDENCE’s work is that the tests developed are rapid, simple and cheap, and can be used by workers at all stages in the food production process.

CONffIDENCE is a collaboration between eight research institutes, five universities, two large food and feed companies and one SME across ten countries, whose work covers detection of a wide range of contaminants, including heavy metals, organic pollutants and biotoxins. Dr de Jong believes that the implementation of such cost-effective, robust and rapid tests will save the European food industry millions of Euros.

The CONffIDENCE website can be found at

di S. C.