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Laser scanning technology developed by VUB B-PHOT keeps fries safe

June 19, 2017 at 18:40

In recent months, several warnings have been published about the potential risk of fried food for the health of millions of consumers. A sensitive subject in a country as Belgium where fries are recognized as a national symbol. That's why Minister Ben Weyts sent a writing to European Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis, responsible for health and food safety, to safeguard the traditional way of baking Belgian fries.

We understand the concern of both the European Union and the Minister, the food chain is of undeniable importance in the protection of public health. Good news: photonics ensures the future of traditionally baked Belgian fries in a safe way, being a relief for every chip shop holder.

At the Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Dr. Lien Smeesters, researcher at B-PHOT Brussels Photonics team led by Prof. Hugo Thienpont, developed a new laser scanning technique that allows fast and accurate detection of hazardous substances such as acrylamide and aflatoxins in among others food such as potatoes, nuts, cereals or corn. 

This new optical detection technique, an application within the field of photonics, measures the risk of acrylamide formation in raw potatoes thoroughly, through a laser scanner at a speed of tons per hour without the use of any chemical agents and without damaging the product itself. Potatoes with a risky composition, unsuitable for high baking temperatures, respond differently to a light measurement than "fries-suitable" potatoes. In a split second, unsuitable potatoes are extracted from the production and food chain. These potatoes are still useful for other preparations, at temperatures below 120 ° C, such as, for example, mashed potatoes.

Lien Smeesters recently received the European Student Innovation Award from Photonics21 for new optical sensing technique, developed in collaboration with TOMRA Sorting Solutions, that provides sensor based sorting equipment for recycling, mining and food.

The laser scanner technology is ready for integration into industrial applications of food processing companies.
In the future, miniaturized applications will be developed for domestic use, within the concept of Internet of Things and Smart Homes.

No worries about the safety of Belgian fries, we can keep eating fries regularly at home, at the restaurant or on the corner of the street in chip shops thanks to laser scanners and light technology.

Dutch speaking readers can also listen to Lien's interview where she explains her research and opportunities to Radio 1 - Nieuwe Feiten: VUB redt Belgische friet . Listen up how enthusiastic the reporter was to hear about the rescue of the Belgian fries! 

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Hugo Thienpont
Prof. Dr. Ir.
Hugo Thienpont
Managing Director
Nadia Cornand

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