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Americas: Sensor that detects toxins in beer

Scientists have developed a portable sensor that can help minimize the risk contamination by mycotoxins during beer production.

Their report appears in American Chemical Society’s Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

Because of its alcohol content and the high temperatures required to make beer, most consumers might assume that contamination by biologically derived compounds is not an issue.

However, mycotoxins can survive the brewing process and end up in the final product.

Some mycotoxins have been shown to cause genetic damage in cells and cancer in animals.

Currently, methods to detect mycotoxin contamination in beer are costly and require in-laboratory analysis.

Sweccha Joshi, Teris van Beek and colleagues wanted to come up with a less expensive, portable alternative.

Building on technology used to detect mycotoxins in grains, the researchers developed a biosensing chip that can bind these compounds when they are present in beer samples.

The team also could reuse the chip 450 times before it started to fail.

Testing on commercial beer and barley showed that the portable instrument detected levels as low as 0.2 nanograms/milliliter of ochratoxin A and 120 ng/mL of deoxynivalenol — respectively, the estimated safe limits for these mycotoxins.

The authors acknowledge funding from the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research.