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21st July 2020  Editorial by: Paul Carton

EU Food Funds Real-Time COVID-19 Detection Project


Food processing facilities are deemed an essential service during the latest pandemic. However, it has been shown that social distancing in these environments is hard to maintain, as we continuously hear about clusters in these facilities. 

To tackle this problem, funding for projects to prevent COVID-19 spreading within the food chain has been launched by the EU's Institute of Innovation and technology in Food (EIT Food), a body set-up to address issues of low consumer trust in the food system.  The funding project entitled 'A Rapid Response Call For Innovation' saw an automated testing platform developed to help food companies quickly detect SARS-CoV-2 on food processing surfaces. 

The joint project between SwissDeCode, Microbion, IATA CSIC, the University of Helsinki (UH) and Eurofins was awarded €790,000 from EIT Food.  The device can be installed directly at food processing facilities, providing results in less than 1 hour with no need for complex instrumentation or specialized personnel.

In light of the challenges faced by the food industry due to the COVID-19 crisis, monitoring of the virus will continue to be a must, even in a post-crisis phase. The platform developed will allow the food industry to minimise the chance of disruption caused by contaminated working environments or food products.

The flexibility of this technology allows the incorporation of a varied group of tests within the food industry, including other emerging viruses. The development and validation of the device will be ongoing during the next few months, and the partners expect that it will be market-ready by the end of the year.

This project will build a diagnostic platform that:

  • Meets specific requirements of the food industry (low cost and low limit of detection);
  • Is not subject to shortages due to clinical testing demand;
  • Can improve the on-site testing capacity of food industries;
  • Provide resilience to new pandemics and increase microbial contamination monitoring.

Next to diagnostics, they will also use a surrogate of SARS-CoV-2  to validate sanitisation procedures and allow challenge-tests. The combination of these deliverables will place European agri-food system at the highest level of security and prevent disruption due to microbial contaminations.


    

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Date Published: 21st July 2020

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