Electronic Nose Knows When Seafood Is Safe

March 17, 1998

GAINESVILLE---To combat the rise in food-borne illnesses, University of Florida scientists are the first in the nation to begin testing highly accurate electronic noses that sniff out fishy seafood before it gets to the consumer.

"The electronic nose gives us nearly 100 percent accuracy and could be just what we need to help seafood inspectors handle their growing workload," said Murat Balaban, a food processing engineer with UF's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. "It could be a major step forward in ensuring seafood quality if the federal government and the seafood industry accepts it.

"More than 70 percent of our seafood is now imported, but the number of experienced inspectors has not increased. We need some help," he said.

The electronic devices have a big advantage over conventional testing methods in detecting pathogens that could cause disease, Balaban's colleague Maurice Marshall said. "In just a few minutes, we can tell what is good product and what is bad," said Marshall, a professor of seafood chemistry. "You don't have to do bacteria counts, which can take days."

The noses, now widely used in Europe, are computerized tabletop units with sensors that detect odor molecules. They are also being used to find bacteria in wounds, inspect toxic waste sites and check the quality of wine and coffee.

Balaban and graduate student Diego Luzuriaga programmed or "trained" a nose to mimic judgments that inspectors make. In 43 tests on good and bad shrimp last month, the electronic nose was in perfect agreement with Food and Drug Administration inspectors who visited the UF campus.

"We call the odor of some spoiled shrimp wet dog, but my wet dog may smell different than someone else's wet dog, and that is where this device can help us most," he said.

"Once an electronic nose has learned enough seafood odors, it can be more objective than human inspectors," Balaban said. "And we don't have to worry about it catching a cold or retiring."

Walter Staruskiewicz, research chemist with FDA's seafood inspection program, said his agency has only three seafood inspectors with more than 20 years experience at the "top national level," and they are nearing retirement.

"We never have close to enough inspectors, and that's why I'm glad UF is doing this work," he said.

However, more testing is needed before electronic noses can replace federal seafood inspectors, Staruskiewicz said. "When I make a finding against a company, I have to be ready to go to trial."

Balaban said federal inspectors should find it easy to defend electronic noses as the databases of various seafood odors become standardized. "Once you've trained a nose, it's objective and highly reliable."

Although federal inspections may not use the electronic noses right away, Balaban said seafood companies could use them to decide which catches to reject and when to process seafood instead of selling it fresh.

British manufacturers Neotronics Scientific Inc. and Aromascan Inc. are assisting in the UF research on the electronic noses, which now cost about $40,000. Balaban expects the devices will become the standard for inspecting seafood when prices drop.

Research at UF's Aquatic Food Products Laboratory includes tests on other devices to help seafood companies and grocery chains maintain quality. They include computerized units the size of a matchbox that record temperature changes during shipping and packets that change color when seafood gets too hot.

Balaban also is developing a digital camera system to replace visual inspection of seafood, now the second most popular line of defense against spoilage.

"We're excited about cloning the eyes as well as the noses of inspectors," Balaban said. "We don't want to replace them, just help them do their job."

University of Florida

Related Food Articles from Brightsurf:

Brain region tracking food preferences could steer our food choices
Researchers discovered that a specific brain region monitors food preferences as they change across thirsty and quenched states.

Rates of food insecurity remain high despite expansion of NYC food assistance programs
In the latest COVID-19 tracking survey from the CUNY Graduate School of Public Health & Health Policy conducted from September 25 to 27, 34% of the sample of one thousand New York City adults reported that their households had received SNAP benefits since September 1st, 2020.

Food mechanics recipe to serve up healthy food that lasts
Researchers are investigating the science of food drying to design faster, cheaper and better ways to store food.

Economic and food supply chain disruptions endanger global food security
COVID-19 has led to a global economic slowdown that is affecting all four pillars of food security - availability, access, utilization, and stability.

'Building wealth and health network' reduces food insecurity without providing food
As the coronavirus pandemic forces so many to reckon with growing food insecurity and increased health challenges, the Building Wealth and Health Network program of Drexel University's Center for Hunger-Free Communities is reducing food insecurity and improving mental health - without distributing any food or medicine.

Novel DNA analysis will help to identify food origin and counterfeit food in the future
Estonian scientists are developing a DNA-based method of analysis that enables them to identify food components and specify the origin of a foodstuff.

Holders of negative opinions towards GM food likely to be against other novel food tech
Scientists at NTU Singapore and the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health have found that people who hold negative opinions of genetically-modified (GM) food are likely to feel the same about nano-enabled food -- food with nano-additives to enhance flavor, nutrition or prolong shelf life.

UMD researchers seek to reduce food waste and establish the science of food date labeling
Minimizing food waste is top of mind right now during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Territorial short food supply chains foster food democracy and sustainability
A University of Cordoba study analyzed the governance mechanisms in territorial short food supply chains in Córdoba and Bogotá.

First study on human-grade dog food says whole, fresh food is highly digestible
some pet food companies are developing diets that more closely resemble human food, incorporating human-grade meat and vegetable ingredients that pass USDA quality inspections.

Read More: Food News and Food Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.