Toxin Alert!

A new Canadian company called Toxin Alert, has divulged that it has developed a technology called Toxin Guard that has the ability to detect and identify the presence of specific foreign materials in packaged products. Detectable foreign materials include: bacteria, pesticides and proteins resulting from genetic modification.

As an example application of Toxin Guard, grocers and their customers would be able to readily determine if a specific bacterium (such as Salmonella and E. coli) is present in a packaged food.

Toxin Guard is not a replacement for flexible packaging, but is merely a safety feature added to existing packaging. The application of Toxin Guard to existing flexible packaging should represent a relatively small increase in the present cost. The Company’s preliminary estimates are that the addition of Toxin Guard to flexible packaging would add 15%-25% to the materials cost.

So how does it work? Well, The Toxin Guard system is constructed by immobilising a capture ligand, (usually an antibody), onto flexible packaging film. The capture ligands are specific for each specific foreign material (i.e. a pathogen) and are immobilized in distinctive icons to create a test site.

A detector ligand (usually an antibody), suspended in a nutrient gel, is coupled to a visual or luminescent chromophore. This reagent is then applied over the capture ligand previously immobilized on the packaging film.

The test site is then compartmentalised by the application of a protective gel coat. The gel coat permits the passage of specific foreign material through to the active layers of the test site on the packaging film. The film is then used in a conventional manner to package a product requiring protection.

When a specific foreign material passes through the protective coat, the foreign material becomes bound to the detector ligand. In the case where the foreign material is a pathogen, the nutrient gel supports rapid growth of the pathogen. This induced rapid growth acts to amplify the reactions within the test site.

The specific foreign material, now bound to the detector ligand, migrates through the nutrient gel to the capture ligand. This migration is as a result of the affinity of the capture ligand for the specific foreign material. The result of this migration is the focusing or concentration of the detector chromophore into the distinctive icon shape of the capture ligand. The now visual distinctive icon indicates the presence of the specific foreign material.

All of the methodology and apparatus used in the manufacture of Toxin Guard are covered under US Patent #6.051.388 and entitled ‘Method and Apparatus for Selective Toxin Detection’.

The target market for Toxin Guard is the manufacturers of packaging materials. The markets served by the manufacturers of packaging would include the food, pharmaceutical and medical industries.

According to the Flexible Packaging Association of America (FPAA), the market for flexible packaging in the United States in 1997 was approximately US$ 17.5 billion. Approximately 50% of this was food packaging and 25% was for pharmaceutical and medical purposes. Flexible packaging is any form of packaging that conforms to the shape of the product being packaged. About 80% of flexible packaging is in the form of polymer films the balance being of other flexible materials such as metallic foils and papers.

On the web they are at www.toxinalert.com