Fourier Transform Infrared spectroscopy, or FTIR analysis, may someday be used at your local grocery store. According to Ashraf Ismail, associate professor in the Canadian Department of Food Science and Agricultural Chemistry, in the future, FTIR analysis could be used in supermarkets to identify bacteria in food before it kills you!
Ismail should know; he has been working with FTIR analysis for 20 years. Identifying spoiled food quickly before anyone eats it is one his department’s most important projects.
“Every organism has an infrared signature that is as unique as a human fingerprint,” explains Ismail. FTIR analysis is the preferred process for detecting this fingerprint.
FTIR Analysis is Fast and Accurate
FTIR analysis would be a great tool to check for bacteria in food products because of the speed and simplicity of the process. It’s a particularly precise tool for identifying food bacteria in order to enhance quality control.
FTIR analysis measures the range of wavelengths in the infrared region that are absorbed by the food sample. This is accomplished through the application of infrared radiation (IR) to the sample. The sample’s absorbance of the infrared light’s energy at various wavelengths is measured to determine molecular composition and structure.
FTIR Analysis Trumps Traditional Approach
FTIR analysis provides swift, reliable identification of food-born microbes at low cost. Identifying hidden bacteria takes less than two minutes. Traditional lab analysis, using a variety of biochemical tests, takes a minimum of 24 hours.
“Smear a sample on a slide, shine infrared light on it, and you’re done,” says Ismail. “It doesn’t get much easier to use — and there’s basically zero overhead.”
Last year, for a series of Health Canada challenge studies, the researchers placed known bacteria into five different types of foods. They then extracted the organism, cultured it, and identified it using both the two-minute FTIR analysis and the traditional 24-hour method. FTIR analysis hit the mark 100 per cent of the time.
Possessing such a time advantage makes FTIR analysis vital to their project. Being able to recall contaminated products quickly diminishes the potential adverse health effects of food-born bacterium.