The BioFish solution by Biolan: Certified technological innovation to guarantee the quality and safety of seafood
by Biolan, Spain
The impact of technological innovation and modernisation in the productive and extractive sectors to achieve the levels of competitiveness and sustainability that the global market requires, is undeniable.
Nowadays, in order to be competitive, it is not enough to achieve maximum productivity, unthinkable cost savings, or efficiency levels never seen before. The key to competitiveness in the extractive fishing sector, aquaculture or seafood canning industry, as in any other field, lies fundamentally in the valorisation of the quality and guarantees of the product by the final customer, in order to prioritise it over the huge offers that arrive every day.
The challenge must be to achieve solid and long-term customer loyalty. And this, in a global market and focused to reach important shares in international markets, requires us to ensure that the product arrives in optimum conditions and complies with the legal requirements of each destination.
And it is in the seafood quality and safety sector where so many factors influence and condition a satisfactory final result, which forces the industry to implement procedures that facilitate optimal and efficient control of the resulting product. It is in this field that technological innovation must play a fundamental role, trying to respond to the needs in the productive or extractive fishing systems.
In this sense, the technology suppliers must guarantee that the innovative solutions comply with the reliability and precision required by the operational process.
Biolan Microbiosensores, a Basque biotechnology company, as technological supplier to the food industry for more than ten years, from the beginning has been aware of the difficulty to provide technological products with an absolute guarantee.
As a world leader in the application of biosensor technology to the monitoring of food quality and safety, Biolan dedicates great efforts to accredit the precision, reliability and repeatability of its based-on biosensors for quantifying analyses in food.
A biosensor is based on a biological detection element coupled to a physical-chemical transducer that converts the biological signal, originated by the interaction between this detection element and the analyte, into a quantitative result. Biolan Biosensors combine the high specificity and selectivity of specific enzymes with an amperometric transduction of the signal, easily detectable and quantifiable.
Based on this biosensing technology, Biolan has progressively developed new applications for the food industry, such as the BioFish line that offers biosensors for the quantification of histamine in fish and sulphite in crustaceans, in a precise, fast and simple way, at any point in the production, processing or commercialisation chain.
Histamine, the best indicator of fish freshness and quality
Histamine, whose maximum levels are regulated by regulatory statements, has become the key parameter for the determination of freshness and quality of fish, being the cause of food poisoning similar to those produced by food allergens.
Histamine, that continues being the protagonist of several episodes of food safety alarm, is considered the main indicator of deterioration in some fishing species. The histamine content in freshly caught fish is so low it practically doesn't exist as a traceable substance.
After the fish's death, microorganisms begin to transform the free histidine present in fish into histamine. The bacteria related with post-capture handling join to the already-present bacterial population in the fish, so there is an exponential growth of bacteria while the freshness is continually reducing, and as result the histamine concentrations could exceed 2,000ppm (2 grs/kg) in 24 hours at room temperature.
High concentrations of histamine in foods, particularly levels between 200-500 ppm, can cause intoxication in consumers, appearing through symptoms of undesirable physiological effects. For this reason, the analysis of histamine content in food is important for food safety, through having its levels regulated by legislation.
The European Community (EC No 2073/2005) establishes a maximum content between 100 and 200 ppm of histamine in fish. Being a thermostable molecule, it remains in the fish after undergoing heat treatments. Therefore, histamine is a very effective marker to ensure food safety and quality in fish.
Until recently, only complex analytical techniques were used for the detection of histamine such as high-precision liquid chromatography HPLC, ELISA-type immunoassays, and enzymatic methods, all carried out mainly in specialised laboratories.
However, more than four years ago, Biolan revolutionised the sector with the launch of its own differentiated method, BioFish 300 HIS, which allows the quantification of histamine in fish and fish derivative products in a precise, simple and fast way. Its low cost and the possibility of real time analysis in just two minutes, without pre-treatment of the sample, means that it can be manipulated by unqualified personnel, enabling the fish industry to carry out its own controls.
But Biolan has gone further, and recently launched BioFish 700 HIS, a portable solution for even faster and more accurate analysis at any fish processing point, providing an integral quality control, based on disposable screen-printed electrodes), which are already calibrated and ready to use in one single step.
Integral monitoring of sulphite in crustaceans, a guarantee of maximum quality
Sulphite is used as a food additive because of its antioxidant and antimicrobial properties that help preserve the quality and appearance of foods (crustaceans, wine, beer, meat products, dried fruits and vegetables). As such, it is included in European Commission Regulation (EU) 1129/2011 (amending EC 1333/2008), which lists the authorised food additives and establishes the maximum levels of SO2 per food category (mg/kg or mg/L).
However, the already proven hypersensitivity to sulphites of many consumers, especially people with respiratory problems which can trigger respiratory alterations and skin reactions, has led to them being considered food allergens by the main international organisations that ensure food safety: the European Commission in accordance with Directive 2000/12/EC; Codex Alimentarius Commission; Food and Drug Administration FDA-USA 1986.
Consequently, the concentration of sulphite must appear on the labelling of food, complying with EU Regulation 1169/2011, on the information and labelling that the food industry must comply with in relation to allergens. Similar regulations on food allergen labelling and consumer protection apply in the US. (FDA, Public Law 108-282 of 2004) or Canada (Food Allergen Labeling Regulations in the Canada Gazette, Part II, 2011).
In the crustacean industry, sulphite is added to prevent melanosis after capture of the crustaceans and throughout the production and handling process. Melanosis is an enzymatic oxidation reaction that is triggered by the death of the animal and although it does not affect the taste of the food or the health of the consumer, it does have a drastic impact on the visual acceptability of the product and, therefore, on the perceived value in the market.
European regulation establishes the maximum level of sulphites (E-220 - E-228) in fresh, frozen, deep-frozen and cephalopod crustaceans at 150mg/kg to be consumed as food. Therefore, the industry must monitor the concentration of sulphite throughout the production process to comply with existing regulations. In addition, sulphite levels higher than 10mg/kg or 10 mg/L must be declared on the label to inform about the risks to a potential hypersensitive consumer.
Compliance with all this legislation represents yet another challenge for the crustacean production industry, which must implement internal monitoring and traceability procedures for sulphite content throughout the production chain, usually integrated into their HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points) systems, and consequently they must be simple, fast and obviously precise.
Currently the most used method for the determination of sulphite is called Monier-Williams (AOAC 962.16). The length of time needed for analysis is extensive and the accuracy is questioned by issuing false negatives, which is also a concurrent incidence using other methods. That is why Biolan developed BioFish SUL to quantify sulphite in crustaceans, in a fast, precise and simple way, both at laboratory level, with a table top biosensor (BioFish SUL 300), and in water tanks where shrimp are treated by means of a portable biosensor (BioFish SUL 700), based on disposable and pre-calibrated screen-printed biotests. In this way, an integral control of the sulphite in the whole process is facilitated, even in the most critical points, avoiding the excessive presence of sulphite in the different stages of the shrimp processing.
Biolan biosensing technology certified at the highest level
In addition to the multiple external validations that Biolan carries out for each of its products, the company's strategy is to achieve maximum and worldwide recognition of its technology, and this has already been achieved on two occasions.
In 2016, BioFish 300 HISTAMINA obtained the AOAC® Performance Tested SM certification, license 05160, from the AOAC Research Institute, and in 2018 BioFish 300 SUL obtained also the AOAC® certification, license 031802, for the detection of sulphite in shrimp in the ranges 30-150 and 50-300mg/kg, established in current legislation. Both certifications show that BIOLAN biosensors have an accurate sensitivity comparable to official reference methods.
Therefore, the BioFish method, both in the 300 series for laboratories, and in the 700 series as portable field equipment, provide speed and precision in the process of ensuring food safety, without using chemical reagents and therefore, without