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BioCop - New Technologies to Screen Multiple Contaminants in Foods
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The Project

The Project Summary
Summary of the BioCop project.
The Project Objectives
Objectives of the BioCop project.
BioCop Structure
Shows the structure of the BioCop project and the organisations involved.
Work Packages
Information on the 13 different BioCop Work Packages.
Benefits to the Consumer
Benefits of the BioCop programme for Consumers.
Benefits for Scientists
Benefits of the BioCop programme for Scientists.
Benefits to the Food Industry
Benefits of the BioCop programme to the Food Industry.
Current BioCop vacancies.
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Consumer Benefits

                               Benfits of the BioCop Programme for Consumers

What’s the problem?

Consumer confidence in food safety across the EU and worldwide has been undermined by an extensive array of food scares over the past ten years – from benzene in soft drinks, pesticide and veterinary drug residues, illegal hormones in meat, nitrofurans in prawns and beyond.

When purchasing food to eaten at home, or when eating out, consumers want confidence that systems are in place to make sure the food on their plates is safe to eat.  And that in the longer term food will not cause any hidden health risks.

All types of food can be contaminated – either deliberately as an illegal act to gain more profit, or accidentally though some inadvertent or adventitious contamination.  Contamination of foods can occur at any point in the food chain, from production to consumption. 

Contamination is rarely severe enough to make someone acutely ill after eating the food, unlike food poisoning.  However, the longer term chronic effects of food contamination can be much more serious, potentially being a risk factor in a wide range of health conditions.

Why is detection of food contamination so important?

Detection of food contamination through surveillance and monitoring must be effective and seen to be so, for several key reasons.

Effective monitoring, surveillance and detection of food contaminants will:

  • Give consumers confidence in the food supply, and reduce their exposure to potential hazards and risks.
  • Act as a reminder to farmers and producers that their food products are being regularly monitored for residues and contaminants, and that these products must conform to the legal standards
  • Be a deterrent to a potential unscrupulous trader in illegal contamination of foods.
  • Alongside increased traceability, contamination can be traced back to its source and prosecutions will follow.

The European Union has agreed specific regulations to limit amounts or ban certain chemicals in our foods, to reduce the risks to very carefully and strictly controlled minimum levels. Extensive monitoring and surveillance is carried out across the EU to ensure that foods meet these safety standards.

Analytical techniques must provide regulators with foolproof tests to detect any contamination – this is the challenge for BioCop.

How will BioCop benefit consumers - delivering safer food and deterring unscrupulous contamination practices 

By developing new technologies for rapid testing and screening of a wide range of different contaminants in a wide range of foods, BioCop will deliver more effective consumer protection and better food law enforcement. 

Currently effective rapid screening tests are not available to detect all fraudulent and illegal contamination of foods: some chemicals, such as illegal hormones are broken down very quickly in the body and cannot be found in the resulting meat.  BioCop will, for example, look for markers in both live animals and meat, to check if illegal substances or contaminants have been used.  It will look for residues of pesticides and veterinary drugs and environment contaminants and deliver results for suspect samples much more rigorously than is possible with the tests we use now.

Quick, cost effective, easy to use tests will be developed to screen out suspect food, before it gets to the consumer.  This is what currently happens but the tests require specialist training, require long periods of time, and require expensive equipment. They need to be used much more extensively to act as an effective deterrent.

BioCop will use new analytical techniques to deliver rapid screening tests for multiple chemical contaminants in foods, which can be used much more extensively, as a low cost option for more general use. This will deliver more effective enforcement of food safety regulations, and ultimately better, safer food for consumers.

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