On-the-spot: German firm takes nutrient measurement to the field

By Shane STARLING contact

- Last updated on GMT

'You just need the device, a vial and a sample and you are away.'
'You just need the device, a vial and a sample and you are away.'

Related tags: Nutrition

German firm BioAnalyt’s portable nutrient testing kits are making much-needed food and nutrient analysis affordable – especially in places like Africa and Asia – and playing a crucial role in the global fight against micronutrient deficiencies.

The kits offer analysis potential for most nutrients – iron, iodine, zinc, beta-carotene and vitamin A are examples – to provide on-the-spot analysis at a fraction of regular lab analysis costs.

Governments and NGOs like the World Food Programme (WFP), Helen Keller International (HKI) and the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) are utilising the portable and affordable data potential to back fortification programmes and inform dietary studies – and make an impact on nutrition development goals such as those established​ by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

NutraIngredients visited the 8-year-old firm’s Berlin base where managing director Dr Simone Frey summed up the company’s mission: “We do hardware to measure nutrients at a fraction of the price of traditional lab analysis. And a fraction of the time.”

Simone-Frey-iron
BioAnalyt MD Dr Simone Frey with an 'iCheck' iron measurement kit.

“You just need the device, a vial and a sample and you are away. That’s what we offer.”

GAIN, HKI and others have worked with BioAnalyt on projects in Ghana, Cameroon, Mozambique, Indonesia, Vietnam and other nations that are yielding impressive results and giving life to the company slogan: ‘Making nutrition visible’.

“We need to find models that can deal with these complex problems,” ​said Marc van Ameringen, ex-GAIN executive directive director, of the technology. “And then it is also to show that there has been an impact.”

The kits can also be used for quality control (QC) purposes in any food matrix - including breast milk - and at customs checks for potentially contaminated foods and supplements. Feed is another application area with the firm working with the likes of DSM and BASF to customise feed solutions.

It also has food customers including some of the biggest food companies in the world and conducts training to use its kits.

Making it personal

The fact a kit can be quickly developed for any nutrient means it has application potential in personalised nutrition although for now B2C is not part of the business plan.

“There can be a test kit that measures a certain nutrient – for example omega-3,” ​said technical director Dr Anna Zhenchuk.

“Having a device that measures all nutrients is the thing that everyone wants but we are not there yet. That’s a bit too much to develop for now.”

Other applications have included hospitals which do not typically have equipment to measure vitamins and other nutrients in a wide variety of food matrices.

“For vitamins and minerals there are lab service providers but at point of care there are no methods in hospitals,” ​said Dr Frey.

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