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Case 1: Nanotechnology in food diagnostics Steven Vermeir, Jeroen Pollet, Nicolas Vergauwe & Jeroen Lammertyn BIOSYST-MeBioS, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, W. de Croylaan 42, 3001 Leuven E-mail: Introduction Recent food crises have increased consumers’ awareness with respect to food safety and quality. An important requirement to guarantee a high quality and safe food chain is the possibility to measure in a fast, reliable and cost-effective way. Most conventional analytical methods, applied in food chain analysis, display a high sensitivity and accuracy but are however expensive in use. Recent developments in nanotechnology and bionanotechnology allow the design of a novel class of analytical systems including biosensors and micro total analysis systems. They offer some interesting advantages such as a high selectivity and specificity, a low cost of production, a high degree of automation and the possibility to execute the analysis on a miniaturized scale. Because of these characteristics, an increasing number of devices have been reported for use in food diagnostics (Valdez et al., 2009). The medical sector has played a prominent and an indispensable role as driving force in the development of many of these new technologies. A lot of research effort is spent in the development of biosensors for monitoring blood glucose levels in diabetes patients. Later, this knowledge finds its way to other application fields like food and environmental diagnostics. In this paper we will shortly introduce some aspects of biosensor technology with respect to its potential in food diagnostics. We first elaborate on the basic principles of biosensors. Next we introduce the concept of lab-on-a-chip technology and discuss how nanotechnology opens up possibilities to design sensors with improved sensitivity. In a concluding paragraph, we give an example of an optical biosensor for the detection of peanut allergens in food. 37

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