The Centre for Advanced Photonics and Process analysis (CAPPA) is delighted to announce that they have recently received funding from the Department of Agriculture Food and the Marine for a new project focusing on investigating chlorates in foods using the dairy industry as a transferable knowledge model. The overall project received €600,000 in funding and CAPPA will receive €100,000 for their area of the project. The consortium members are Teagasc and Cork Institute of Technology.

Chlorine and chlorine – based detergents are the most common approaches used to disinfect water and assist in cleaning food – processing plants, including milking equipment on farms. The prevalence of commercial chlorine usage is attributable to its established ability to kill microbial pathogens and food spoilage organisms in a cost effective manner with minimal impact on product quality. However, there is increasing concern about the occurrence of disinfection by – products, including chlorate and perchlorate derived from chlorine – based disinfectants. Consequently, the EU commission as proposed imposing a Maximum Residue Limit (MRL) for chlorate of 0.01 mg – kg – 1 of food. It is established that many foods, including some edible horticulture, dairy products and processed meats may exceed this proposed MRL. There is particular concern in the Irish dairy industry regarding achieving this MRL as a significant portion of the milk and dairy ingredients produced here are used in the manufacture of Infant Milk Formula, a food destined for a particularly vulnerable consumer. Consequently, the Board of Ornua has recently passed a resolution to remove all chlorine – based detergents from the industry by the end of 2020. However, little knowledge is available on the impact of removing chlorine – based detergents and using alternative cleaning protocols on the microbiological quality of milk and subsequent food products and ingredients.

This project will seek to establish the baseline of chlorate and perchlorate in Irish milk and dairy foods, to investigate alternative non – chlorine based cleaning protocols for food processing equipment, to elucidate the impact of water chlorination under Irish conditions on chlorate levels in water and to use the findings to equip the food industry with mitigation strategies to ensure compliance with the new proposed MRL. CAPPA will be primarily focusing on the investigation on non – chlorine cleaning products as a source of alternative residues. CAPPA will also be involved in the formation of an industry focus group and development of a round table consensus approach to directional, operation and strategic solving of the chlorate residue issue in foods and dissemination of the information gained to the wider food industry.

Photonics provides a range of invaluable solutions to the food industry. CAPPA have worked with photonics in the dairy industry to investigate areas such as melamine detection, determination of butter adulteration, analysis of powder re-hydration, chemical characterization, mineral composition in cheeses and analysis of effluents generated by the dairy industry for fat determination.

CAPPA will be hiring two Ph.D. students as part of this project. If you are interested in learning more about the project, you can contact CAPPA here or learn more about CAPPA’s work in the food industry here.