Israeli tech firm Inspecto to fight food toxins with innovative nano-tech

One in ten people suffers from contaminated food illness, industry loses millions of dollars with food recalls

Inspecto uses SERS to offer an easy to use solution to ensure food is untainted and good to eat. (photo credit: INSPECTO PR)
Inspecto uses SERS to offer an easy to use solution to ensure food is untainted and good to eat.
(photo credit: INSPECTO PR)
Inspecto CEO Avner Avidan believes his company has perfected an innovative solution that will cut down on the production of contaminated food and reduce food-related illness around the world, not to mention saving the food industry millions of dollars suffered due to mass recalls of tainted products.
Roughly one in ten people will suffer at some point from eating tainted food, with children below the age of five and expecting mothers being the most vulnerable.
Currently, the complex food industry – which involves farmers, slaughterhouses, delivery trucks and food production centers – relies on professional lab services that offer parts-per-billion (ppb) and parts-per-million (pbm) checks.
These can take weeks and require checking a substance in a relevant solution to reach results.
For example, celiac patients would experience health risk even if 20 gluten particles out of a million are in the food. People with nut allergies are also very sensitive to even minute amounts. This is why chocolate bars carry a warning that they were produced in a factory next to nuts and other substances that can cause an allergic reaction.
A farmer might want to make sure that his tomatoes don’t contain harmful amounts of pesticide, and a biscuit factory owner would want to check for acrylamide. Created when starch is baked, acrylamide is suspected to cause cancer and infertility.
The weeks it takes to get an answer – and the fact that taking one sample out of so many kilograms of beef or lettuce means that all the other products “slip through the cracks” – means that food companies are always at risk of customers consuming tainted food, in which case they may need to recall everything they worked so hard to place on the shelves, costing them dearly.
“Our solution is based on spectroscopy,” Avidan explained. “When a laser beam hits any known substance, it bounces back according to the unique vibrations of that substance on the atomic level.”
If a sample contains acrylamide, for example, it would offer a unique signature vibration for the device to identify. This is known as its spectral footprint.
When the sample contains very low traces of the things being searched for, the solution uses Surface-Enhanced Raman Spectroscopy (SERS), where nanoparticles, usually gold or silver, are added to the sample to increase the vibration of the substances the testers wish to locate. The increased vibration means they are more easily detectable.
Avidan points out the many advantages of his company’s solution. It takes the test out of the lab and places it at the hands of people on the ground. The answer is obtained quickly and, using AI and cloud data storage services, can be easily applied to see, for example, which supplier brought tainted flour to the bakery, or whether a border inspector should allow eggs to pass through and be sold in her country.
Founded in 2016, Inspecto was able to make a lot of progress thanks to the generous help of the Strauss Food Lab, the Israeli Innovation Authority and others. It had recently closed a deal with one of the leading food analysis providers in the world to license its lab protocol so the provider could begin to use it next year for one of its biggest clients.
The Israeli firm hopes to introduce personal-usage devices to be used in factories and border checks in the future, and to help improve global food safety.
Avidan recently launched a new funding campaign via ExitValley to introduce the solution to more potential investors. The link can be seen here.