By Dr Ananya Mandal, MD
Biosensors have extensive applications in the food and agriculture industries. The devices contain a transducer and a biological element, which may be an enzyme, antibody, microbe, or organelle. The biological element (bioelement) interacts with the analyte being tested and the biological response is converted into an electrical signal by the transducer.
Some of the uses of biosensors in the agricultural and food industry include:
- Enzyme biosensors based on the inhibition of cholinesterase enzymes are used to detect traces of organophosphates and carbamates from pesticides that may be present as poisonous and harmful residues on farm produce.
- Some microbial sensors are selective and sensitive in the detection of ammonia and methane.
- Biological oxygen demand (BOD) analyzers use a bacteria such as Rhodococcus erythropolis immobilized in collagen or polyacrylamide. These devices are widely used to test the quality of waste water. BOD biosensors can analyze 2 to 20 samples every hour.
- Biosensors may be used to measure carbohydrates, alcohols, and acids in fermented foods. The devices are mainly used for quality control processes in food production. The devices, however, need to be kept sterile, frequently calibrated and require analyte dilution. Enzyme-based biosensors can be used in food quality control to measure amino acids, amides, amines, carbohydrates, heterocyclic compounds, carboxylic acids, gases, inorganic ions, cofactors, alcohols and phenols. Biosensors can also be used in the assessment and analysis of produce such as wine, beer and yoghurt.
- In food quality assessment, antibodies or immunosensors may be used in assays to detect small molecules such as water-soluble vitamins and chemical contaminants. They may also be used to detect any pathogenic organisms present in meat, poultry, eggs, and fish.
Reviewed by Sally Robertson, BSc
Last Updated: May 2, 2014