Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Cheap 'dipstick' test for pesticides in food

Researchers from McMaster University in Canada are developing a cheap "dipstick" test that can detect pesticide residues in food and drinks in less than 5 minutes. In contrast, conventional mass spectrometric testing typically takes hours to complete. The experimental paper-based test strip detects acetylcholinesterase (AChE) inhibitors, including organophosphate pesticides, and changes color depending on the amount of pesticide present. The test has pesticide detection limits on the order of 1-10 nM (bendiocarb 1 nM; carbaryl 10 nM; paraoxon 1 nM; malathion 10 nM) and should be suitable for the rapid screening of trace levels of organophosphate and carbamate pesticides.

Their work has been published in the journal Analytical Chemistry.

While the test won't be able to tell us exactly what types of pesticides are present in our food, it would be pretty neat if the test strips could eventually be available to the average consumer so that we can check the levels of pesticide residues in the stuff we buy, and make better choices about the foods we eat.

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