News

4. December 2023

Biolytix: A new location for growth and innovation

Ansicht Biolytix LAge

The move from Witterswil to the canton of Basel-Landschaft is a milestone in Biolytix’s company history. Above all, the new location offers a lot of potential to grow and expand core competencies.

A mammoth task with tight timing and ongoing operations: Biolytix’s move was a challenge that the company successfully mastered thanks to a team of dedicated architects, craftsmen and specialist planners! After nine months of renovation and moving more than 1’000 testing and measuring devices, scales, centrifuges, microscopes and of course numerous pipettes, the laboratory was able to relocate into the new premises in Dittingen in the canton of Basel-Landschaft in the summer of 2023. The experienced specialist for microbiological and molecular biological analyses has thus completed an important stage in the company’s 25-year history. – A step that, according to CEO Marco Ferraro, had become inevitable. “We were at home in Witterswil for many years and grew up there. But in the long term the building was simply too small for the development plans with growing requirements,” reports Ferraro. The new company headquarters in the canton of Basel-Landschaft offers decisive location advantages and, above all, extensive opportunities for the future.

Lots of space with a lot of potential: location advantages in the new canton

25 years after the company was founded, Biolytix has literally outgrown its location in Witterswil. In addition, the former Sandoz building was not structurally flexible enough for the company. The challenges of adapting the premises to Biolytix’s evolving needs were too great, according to management.

The property in Dittingen (BL) was discovered in 2021 while looking for a location with modern and flexible infrastructure. “The potential of the former Novozymes building was immediately clear to us,” says Ferraro. “We were also able to quickly come to an agreement with the sellers.” Nevertheless, it still took a good year before the expansion of the building could begin. The reason: the corona pandemic. As the only speciality laboratory in the area, Biolytix supported all companies and schools in the canton of Basel-Landschaft, all schools in the canton of Basel-Stadt including schools in the canton of Thurgau with Covid tests. “A huge flood of samples that we first had to deal with,” reports the Biolytix CEO.

The renovation and expansion of the building could finally begin from summer 2022 – with a tight schedule: The rental agreement with the former landlord, TZW AG in Witterswil, ended in summer 2023. With the help of an experienced and motivated team of planners and implementers, the 26 employees were able to move into the new location on time in June 2023 “We were welcomed with open arms in the canton and felt welcome from the start,” said Ferraro. The fact that the new location in Basel-Landschaft also offers interesting opportunities from a tax perspective is also an important plus point from an economic perspective.

In Dittingen, Biolytix now has modern headquarters that meet its growing demands. The new building extends over four floors. Of the 1’800 square meters of usable space, 1’200 m2 are currently used for the laboratories. A further 600 square meters are still available and will be rented to industry-related partners in the near future. The building also has a canteen, which will be put into operation in the medium term and also open to neighbors in the Ried industrial area.

Continue to grow: future plans at the new location

Biolytix’s move is not just a change of location, but a strategic decision with clear goals. Above all, the laboratory needed an infrastructure that met its analytical needs and was flexible enough to be able to implement new analytical trends and business ideas in the future. “The requirements for microbiological services are constantly evolving. We want to ensure that Biolytix retains its place at the forefront in the long term,” explains Ferraro. At the new location, the laboratories and facilities could be adapted and expanded accordingly. However, Biolytix’s portfolio will not change for the time being, said the managing director. The priority is to arrive in Dittingen and consolidate the existing strengths. And for the future? – “There are plans to fill the additional reserve areas with new, exciting projects,” reveals Ferraro. Whether these involve new services, research facilities or partnerships remains to be seen. This means that Biolytix’s move is not just a step into a new environment. – Above all, it is a strategic milestone to prepare the company for the future.

 

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15. November 2023

Mold in the apartment: 5 frequently asked questions

Schimmel in Wohnung

Indoor mold growth is a common problem. It’s not just the supposed incorrect ventilation. Moisture and thus mold growth occur much more often due to structural defects or undetected defects. 

Indoor mold – a problem that almost every tenant or owner has experienced. After all, every fourth to fifth household is affected! People often try to remove the mold themselves using anti-mold sprays or other cleaning products. Although this removes the mold from the surface, the cause is not eliminated. Incorrect ventilation and heating are often suspected to be the main triggers for mold growth in the home. In fact, they are only responsible for around ten percent of mold cases. In a good 60 percent, the problem can be traced back to structural deficiencies. Since mold absolutely needs moisture in order to grow, it is therefore essential to get to the bottom of it in order to contain the infestation in the long-term.

What are molds?

Mold is a natural part of our environment. They occur almost everywhere and can be found in the soil, in the air and in nature. There they play a particularly crucial role. Ultimately, mold is largely responsible for the fact that organic materials are decomposed in the natural cycle.

Mold is very resistant – the fungal spores, the conidia, can survive for a very long time even in unfavorable dry conditions. However, they need moisture to spread. If the mold grows in a humid climate, for example indoors, the typical mold network (mycelium) forms on the wall.

How does mold develop in the home?

Since mold spores are found everywhere, the air also contains traces of them. Through ventilation, these enter the living spaces. If they find good conditions there – moisture and cold walls – they spread. In addition to high humidity, the temperature of the wall is particularly important. If the walls are colder than the air in the room, the air above the wall is colder. Cold air absorbs less moisture than warm air and releases it. The result: The wall first becomes damp, and later the typical mold spots form. Rooms that are particularly exposed to moisture, such as bathrooms and kitchens, are particularly affected by mold. In addition, leaky roofs, cracks in facades or leaky pipes lead to the formation of moisture in buildings. If these leaks remain undetected for a long period of time, there is a risk of mold formation.

Before the typical staining occurs, mold often becomes noticeable through a musty smell. If there is an unpleasant smell in the living room despite regular ventilation, this could be a sign of mold. In particular, hidden places behind cupboards or other furniture should be examined, as well as the corners of the room – above and below – especially on the outside walls. If tenants discover mold in the apartment, they are obliged to inform the landlord or the owner. He, in turn, is responsible for having the mold infestation professionally assessed and treated by experts.

What are the consequences of mold?

If mold remains undetected in the apartment for a long time and spreads unhindered, it can have far-reaching consequences for the masonry as well as health problems for the affected residents.

Health consequences of mold

Indoor mold can have long-term health consequences pull. The mold toxins, the mycotoxins, primarily put a strain on the respiratory tract. The permanent airway irritation can lead to asthma, chronic bronchitis and other respiratory diseases and allergies. If people are exposed to heavy mold infestation over the long term, their lungs and liver can be damaged. Non-specific symptoms such as headaches, nausea, chronic fatigue or constant colds can also be triggered by mold. Mold infestation is particularly dangerous for people with chronic asthma or a weakened immune system.

Structural consequences for affected buildings

If mold or moisture, the main cause of mold on walls and masonry, is not eliminated, the spores will spread uncontrollably. The infestation causes high renovation costs, especially if the masonry is affected. The increasing humidity also leads to increased heat losses as the insulating effect of the insulation is reduced. Very heavy infestations can cause lasting damage to the building and thus reduce the overall property value in the long term.

What are the benefits of mold testing?

If mold is discovered in the apartment, a mold analysis can be used to find out what type of mold it is and how high the contamination is. Even if mold infestation is suspected – for example because the people living there are experiencing health problems that cannot be explained in any other way – mold analysis can be used to determine whether there is a hidden infestation. Commercially available mold self-tests are generally discouraged. Rather, we should work with qualified experts and laboratories. Appropriate tests – for example by measuring mold/total spore count in the air or by measuring the number of cultivable molds in the material – are used to analyze the type of fungus and the extent of the infestation.

Important: A laboratory analysis provides information about whether it is actually mold. Furthermore, it can be analyzed what type of mold it is. However, the cause of the mold infestation cannot be determined.

 

 

How can mold be prevented in the apartment?How can mold be prevented in the apartment?

In order to prevent mold indoors, several preventive measures are necessary.

1. Proper ventilation:

Ventilate regularly, especially after activities that generate moisture, such as cooking or showering. This regulates humidity and reduces the risk of mold.


2. Controlled room temperature:

The interior rooms should be sufficiently heated, especially in the cooler seasons, to prevent condensation on cold surfaces.


3. Maintain dryness:

If leaks in lines or pipes or leaky seals are discovered, these must be remedied immediately. Dehumidifiers also help ensure a dry environment.


4. Monitoring Mold Prone Areas:

In particular, the so-called wet rooms – bathrooms and unheated, unventilated cellars – as well as the kitchen should be checked regularly for mold formation.

Conclusion: Get to the bottom of the mold

The fact is: mold indoors is not just due to incorrect ventilation. Structural defects and undiscovered sources of moisture are usually the main causes of mold infestation. Fighting mold with anti-mold sprays etc. is not enough. With the help of mold tests, the type and extent of the fungal infestation can be analyzed. In addition, it is imperative that the cause is identified and remedied, including with the help of experts. Since untreated mold causes both health problems and structural damage, early detection and reporting to the landlord is essential.

Regular ventilation, a controlled room temperature and monitoring areas susceptible to mold are effective measures to prevent mold growth indoors and maintain a healthy living environment.

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1. November 2023

PFAS in food: How dangerous are the chemicals?

PFAS in Schweizer Fischen

They are widely used in industry, but experts have long been warning about the risks PFAS pose to health and the environment. Traces of PFAS have now also been found in fish from various Swiss waters

Various foods, coated disposable paper cups or rainproof outdoor jackets: different products that have one thing in common: they all contain per- and polyfluorinated alkyl substances, or PFAS for short. They include a group of more than 10’000 substances, some of which are toxic. The controversial water-, grease- and dirt-repellent substances are used as standard in the industrial manufacturing process.

The European Environment Agency warns of sometimes serious health damage caused by PFAS. Switzerland responded to this and took appropriate measures to minimize the absorption of the chemicals. New maximum levels for PFAS in food will apply from 2024. The PFAS limits for drinking water are being examined and are expected to be adjusted from 2026. – A control of 17 fish species shows that these steps are urgently needed. They were tested for PFAS in various Swiss lakes, rivers and breeding facilities. The chemicals were detected in several samples – in some fish the contamination was above the EU maximum value.

Particularly alarming: PFAS residues were also found in fish stocks from Lake Constance – the most important drinking water reservoir in Europe.

PFAS – chemicals used in a variety of ways with risky effects

PFAS can be found in food packaging, cookware, fireproof materials and textiles. They are a key component of firefighting foam and are used in the electronics industry for the production of semiconductors. They are considered so-called “forever chemicals”: PFAS break down very slowly and remain in the body and in the environment for a long time.

The most thoroughly researched substances are PFOS and PFOA. They played an indispensable role in the industry for decades. Due to their proven health-damaging effects, the use of both compounds is now largely restricted or banned. However, they can still be detected in the environment, in the food chain and in the human organism. This is due to their resistance to natural degradation processes.

PFAS – these products are particularly affected

PFAS can be found in food and various consumer goods, especially in certain product categories.

  1. High-fat foods: PFAS are lipophilic, meaning they accumulate easily in fatty tissue. Therefore, they are more commonly detected in fatty foods such as meat, dairy products and fatty fish such as salmon and tuna.
  2. Food packaging: PFAS are used in the production of food packaging, such as coated paper cups and trays. This can result in small amounts of these chemicals being transferred to the foods they contain.
  3. Drinking water: In some regions, drinking water may contain PFAS, which can enter the water supply from sediment and wastewater. The results of the fish control suggest that there tends to be higher levels of PFAs in areas heavily populated by humans.

Health risks of products contaminated with PFAS

The Federal Office of Public Health (BAG) examined the blood of 789 adults from the cantons of Bern and Vaud for a pilot study. The result: At least three PFAS substances were detected in all people.

The health consequences of PFAS exposure are not acute problems, but rather long-term, chronic effects.

– Long-term exposure: Because PFAS break down slowly, repeated exposures over time can lead to accumulation in the body.

– Health consequences: There is evidence that high levels of PFAS may be linked to liver disease, thyroid disorders, immune disorders and even cancer. In children, a connection was also observed between PFAS levels in the blood and a reduced antibody response after vaccinations.

– Environmental impacts: PFAS can also impact the environment by leaching into waterways and soils, threatening the ecological health of habitats and aquatic life.

Given the environmental and health risks, it is essential to monitor PFAS in food to minimize exposure. Strict food safety requirements apply in Switzerland. However, the PFAS contamination in Swiss fish makes it clear that stricter measures and controls are essential.

PFAS testing in the food industry

PFAS chemicals sometimes occur in very low concentrations. Specialized analysis methods are required to detect them. Experienced laboratories like Biolytix work with established partners so that even the smallest traces of PFAS can be detected.

Analytical methods: Testing for PFAS in foods is carried out using complex analytical methods, including liquid chromatography (LC) and mass spectrometry (MS). These methods allow PFAS to be accurately quantified in samples.

Sampling and Preparation: Sampling is a crucial step. Food samples must be collected and prepared precisely to ensure test results are reliable. Specialized laboratories can offer valuable support with their experience and expertise.

Food Manufacturers and Compliance: PFAS testing is essential for food manufacturers to ensure products comply with applicable regulations and standards. Specialized laboratories play a key role in ensuring compliance. They ensure that the products can be offered to consumers without any health risks. In addition, the test results serve as a basis for manufacturers to make decisions and for the traceability of products.

PFAS in food: measures urgently needed

The article highlights the far-reaching impacts of PFAS chemicals in food and products. PFAS are present in various everyday items and especially in high-fat foods, food packaging and drinking water. The slow degradation time and proven health risks make PFAS a serious threat.

The recently discovered traces of PFAS in Swiss fish from various bodies of water, including Lake Constance, highlight the need for further measures. Although there are already strict food safety regulations in Switzerland, the results show that stricter controls and requirements are necessary.

The food industry must rely on specialized laboratories and analytical techniques such as liquid chromatography and mass spectrometry to detect PFAS and ensure their products meet quality standards. It is critical to monitor all PFAS to both protect consumer health and minimize environmental impacts.

Until PFAS are banned across Europe, the responsibility lies with manufacturers to research alternatives in order to largely reduce the use of PFAS. Collaboration between regulators, industry and experts is key to reducing the threat of PFAS in food and protecting public health.

 

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30. August 2023

Medical devices: Analysis for endotoxins and sterility

Medizinalplastik

Contaminated medical devices can have serious consequences for patient health and diagnostics. Modern analysis methods are an important part of quality management.

In modern medicine, high-quality medical products are crucial. In addition to perfect functionality, freedom from germs is particularly essential for safe use. Regardless of whether it is syringes, laboratory plastic or accessories for electrical inhalation devices and pumping systems for breastfeeding mothers: it is the responsibility of the manufacturers to ensure that their products are free of germs and endotoxins through comprehensive analysis. Collaboration with independent special laboratories and the most modern analysis methods are essential for the producers’ quality management.

What are medical devices?

“Medical devices” refers to a wide range of instruments, machines, software, materials and other items used for medical purposes. Medical devices play a crucial role in diagnosing, preventing, monitoring or alleviating diseases. The products range from simple dressing materials, cannulas or laboratory accessories such as Petri dishes or test tubes to complex implants and medical devices. In Switzerland, the Federal Law on Medicines and Medical Devices regulates the handling and requirements for medical devices. The focus is on protecting the health of people and animals.

The requirements for the reprocessing of medical products are regulated in Article 72 of the Swiss Medical Devices Ordinance. All medical products – whether single-use or multiple-use – must be prepared in accordance with current technical and scientific findings as well as the manufacturer’s information and hygiene requirements. This usually includes cleaning, disinfection, functional testing, packaging, sterilization, transport and storage. Appropriate methods must be used in all steps that correspond to current technical and scientific standards and whose demonstrable effectiveness is guaranteed in a comprehensible and repeatable manner within an appropriate quality management system.

Manufacturers of reusable medical devices – such as pumping systems for nursing mothers or electric inhalation devices – are obliged to provide users with the information necessary for professional sterilization.

 

How are germs and endotoxins detected on medical products?

To ensure that medical devices have the required purity and safety for their intended use, manufacturers work with specialist laboratories that specialize in medical device analysis. As part of the quality management of the production companies, the scope of the tests is based on the legal requirements and standards as well as individual manufacturer specifications.

The external analysis laboratories such as Biolytix play a central role in the safety of germ-free plastic products. They not only have the appropriate equipment, but above all the specialist knowledge to carry out various analyses. At the same time, consulting services and the development of test procedures individually tailored to the respective products are very important.

Since medical devices include a wide range of different products, the test procedures must be coordinated depending on the item and intended use. A common method for detecting endotoxins is, for example, the LAL test. There are also various options for identifying or eliminating germs on medical devices. Depending on the analyte, classic cultural methods are also used in addition to ELISA or PCR tests, although these take more time than, for example, the highly sensitive PCR test.

Important to know: Medical plastic includes a wide range of different items – from bandages to laboratory plastic to medical rental equipment. The analysis methods must always be chosen depending on the product and resources. Close coordination between the manufacturer and the respective laboratories is essential.

How does medical devices become contaminated?

Medical devices can become contaminated with different microorganisms in different ways. Bacteria such as Staphylococcus, Streptococcus, E. Coli as well as fungi and viruses settle on the surfaces or in individual parts such as tubes. When they come into contact with patients or users, they can cause infections and other complications.

In addition to contamination by germs, medical products can also contain traces of endotoxins. Endotoxins are toxic components of bacterial cell walls that, if released into human tissue, can pose health risks. The testing of endotoxins is not precisely regulated for medical devices. It is the responsibility of manufacturers to develop appropriate analysis methods for their products in collaboration with independent analysis laboratories and to integrate them comprehensively into quality management.

Endotoxins can get onto medical devices during the reprocessing process. This often happens through contact with bacteria or their cell components during the production, handling or storage of the products.

Germs and endotoxins on medical devices:

  • Inadequate cleaning and disinfection: Reusable medical devices must be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected or sterilized after each use. If this is not done properly, germs can remain and spread.
  • Contact with contaminated surfaces: Medical devices can come into contact with contaminated surfaces during use or handling. This can happen, for example, by placing the devices on surfaces that are not clean or by touching them with hands or gloves that contain germs.
  • Improper storage: If medical devices are not stored properly, they can come into contact with germs in the environment. This can happen when devices are stored in unsanitary environments or when storage conditions do not meet recommended standards.
  • Hygienic defects in production: In some cases, medical products can be contaminated with germs during the manufacturing process – for example due to inadequate hygiene measures in the production facilities.
  • Lack of quality management (maintenance): Medical products must be regularly maintained and checked to ensure both functionality and hygienic condition. Inadequate controls can lead to traces of endotoxin, bacterial contamination and technical deficiencies.

What danger does contaminated medical devices pose?

The quality of medical products such as laboratory plastic – pipette tips, sample tubes, etc. – is crucial to ensure accurate and reliable results in microbiological research. Germs or endotoxins on these products can distort the results and lead to incorrect conclusions.

Contaminated medical products that are intended for use on patients have particularly serious consequences. Infections can occur due to pathogenic microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses or fungi. Last but not least, contamination can impair the proper functioning of medical devices. The consequences: incorrect diagnosis, suboptimal treatment or inaccurate monitoring of patients or their disease progression.

To minimize the risk of contaminated medical devices, there are strict regulatory requirements and quality controls enforced by health authorities and medical regulators. Manufacturers of medical devices must ensure that their products comply with applicable norms and standards and undergo extensive testing before they are allowed to enter the market. Comprehensive quality management including regular medical product analysis for germs and endotoxins is essential for manufacturing companies and users such as care facilities and hospitals.

Ultimately, patients, medical professionals and manufacturers play an important role together in ensuring the safety of medical devices.

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21. July 2023

Mycotoxins in feed: an underestimated hazard?

Mykotoxin im Futtermittel

Rising temperatures and changes in rainfall are leading to an increase in mold toxins in corn and cereal crops. Preventive measures as well as professional controls ensure animal welfare and consumer health.

The quality of animal feed is crucial for the health of farm animals. – It is also the basis for healthy and uncontaminated products for consumers. However, in addition to pesticide residues, mycotoxins – the toxic metabolites of molds – are also repeatedly detected in food and feed. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) estimates that up to 25 percent of food worldwide is contaminated with mycotoxins. Around 1,000 million tons of food are lost each year as a result of the contamination.

But how do mycotoxins get into animal feed? What impact do they have on animal health? What role do proactive controls by manufacturers and modern analytical methods play?

Mycotoxins in feed and food

Mycotoxins are secondary metabolites formed by molds. They can form both on the harvested crop already in the field and during storage and thus contaminate food and feed. There are several pathways by which mycotoxins can enter food or feed. One of these pathways is the formation of mycotoxins on the still growing grain in the field, for example due to the presence of ergot. Another possibility is that mycotoxins develop in stored plant products. Additionally, mycotoxins can enter food through the food chain. This occurs when mycotoxins are transferred from feed to farm animals and eventually end up in final animal products such as milk, eggs, or meat.

Both mycotoxins (mold toxins) and plant toxins (toxins produced by plants themselves, also known as phytotoxins) are among the undesirable substances in food and feed. Prolonged periods of wet weather with a lot of precipitation combined with warm temperatures increase mycotoxin contamination in grain as well as in straw. In recent years, the problem of fungal contamination (mainly by Fusarium) has increased in terms of frequency and intensity. According to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), the fungal contamination caused by climate change promotes the spread of molds, especially in corn and cereals. The effects can lead to considerable economic damage in livestock farming.

In the context of feed and food monitoring, the following mycotoxin groups are particularly relevant:

  • Aflatoxins
  • Ochratoxin
  • Fusarium toxins
  • Zearalenone
  • Fumonisin
  • Deoxynivalenol
  • Ergot alkaloids
  • Patulin

 

A legal maximum value exists only for aflatoxin. For other mycotoxins, there are guideline values for the upper limit based on EU recommendations.

Mycotoxins – Impact on animal welfare

Mycotoxins in animal feed cause various health problems in animals. They can affect the metabolism, the immune system as well as the performance of the animals. Among other things, they can cause digestive disorders, liver damage, a compromised immune system, and reproductive problems. In particularly severe cases – for example, in dairy farming – mycotoxins lead to epidemic abortions as well as massive declines in milk production. The effects can be both acute and chronic and vary depending on the species and mycotoxin.

Mycotoxins pose a risk not only to animals – consumer health is also affected. There is a link between the consumption of mycotoxin-contaminated animal products and health problems in humans. In particular, mycotoxins such as aflatoxins, ochratoxin A and deoxynivalenol (DON) can cause cancer, liver disease and other health problems in humans. Therefore, the control of mycotoxins is of great importance not only for animal health but also for food safety.

 

Diagnostics of mycotoxins in animal feed

In addition to contamination in hay and straw, high mycotoxin concentrations often occur in silage. Green or blue discolored feed clumps are clear indications that close monitoring is required. If elevated contamination is suspected, it is imperative that a forage analysis be performed. Heavily contaminated parts should be disposed of.

The analysis and control of mycotoxins in feed are critical to ensure the health and productivity of livestock. Conventional mycotoxin detection can be performed by various laboratory analyses. Specialized laboratories such as Biolytix, for example, have many years of experience in feed analysis. By default, the ELISA method offers a good possibility to test the samples for mycotoxins. For extended analysis, chromatographic techniques are performed. Highly specialized analytical techniques such as liquid chromatography (HPLC) and mass spectrometry (MS) are particularly reliable and precise in identifying a wide range of mycotoxins in feed.

Preventing mycotoxins in feed

Regular checks can identify possible risks at an early stage and countermeasures can be taken. Preventive measures taken directly during cultivation also reduce the risk of mycotoxins. For example, crops should not be planted too densely. Corn should be avoided as a preceding crop before cereals, or the corn straw should be thoroughly chopped and incorporated. Moisture and temperature should be checked regularly during storage to prevent mold growth. Regular cleaning and disinfection of storage and processing equipment are other important steps to reduce contamination. Overall, good quality control of raw materials and careful selection and monitoring of suppliers are also essential to reduce the risk of mycotoxins in feed.

Since mycotoxin contamination can occur even with regular control as well as best raw material selection, some producers use so-called mycotoxin binders for particularly sensitive animal groups. These reduce the uptake of the contaminants into the animal metabolism by binding the toxins in the digestive tract.

 

Consistent controls along the entire supply chain

The control of mycotoxins in animal feed is an important part of animal health and welfare. Consistent diagnostics and preventive measures can minimize risks and improve the quality of animal feed. In the future, diagnostic methods are expected to evolve and become even more accurate. Innovative solutions to prevent mycotoxins, such as natural additives, could also be increasingly used to protect animal health.

Overall, the issue of mycotoxins in animal feed requires increased attention and conscious action by all stakeholders along the entire supply chain. Only through a combination of regular analyses, strict controls and preventive measures can the contamination of mycotoxins in feed be reduced and the health of livestock and the welfare of end consumers be safeguarded in the long term.

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12. July 2023

Pesticides in agriculture: implications and alternatives

Pestizide Landwirtschaft

Agricultural production is closely linked to the use of pesticides. In addition to pesticide residues in food and in groundwater, their use also has consequences for biological diversity. But what alternatives do manufacturers have and how do they ensure the safety of their products?

Around 2,000 tons of pesticides are used in Swiss agriculture every year to prevent crop failures caused by pests or diseases. It has long been known that the use of pesticides and the like is not only associated with risks in Switzerland. Pesticide residues are repeatedly found in groundwater or in food samples. Within the European Union, the use of pesticides is to be reduced by 50 percent by 2030. Switzerland established the pesticide action plan in 2017. Pesticide risks are to be halved and alternatives to chemical agents are to be promoted. In addition to the requirements of politicians and authorities, most of the responsibility lies with the agricultural producers themselves. Through responsible handling, openness to sustainable plant protection methods and careful analysis, they make a significant contribution to reducing the risk of pesticides in the long term.

Pesticides in Switzerland: Residues in groundwater and on food

Large quantities of pesticides are used in agriculture worldwide. In Europe alone it was almost 500,000 tons in 2020. The sale of pesticides in Switzerland fell between 2011 and 2019. – However, large quantities of pesticides are still used to control pests. The most commonly applied agents include fungicides, insecticides and the herbicide glyphosate. The chemicals are used in agriculture to control fungal diseases, pests and weeds.

Pesticide residues are repeatedly found in food samples. Fruit and vegetables are particularly affected, as are grain products. Residues of pesticides or their breakdown products, the metabolites, are also found in Swiss groundwater every year. The intensively farmed Mittelland is particularly affected. The problem: There are no defined maximum values for metabolites – although they are significantly more mobile and long-lasting than the actual active ingredients in the pesticides. Among other things, the active ingredient atrazine was detected in samples – a herbicide that has not been approved since 2007.

The impact of pesticides on humans and the environment

Regular consumption of foods with pesticide residues can pose potential health risks. Some pesticides have been linked to the development of cancer, hormonal imbalances, neurological disorders, and other health problems. Children are particularly at risk because their organism can react even more sensitively to harmful substances.

The environment and biodiversity also suffer from the use of insecticides, herbicides and fungicides. Since 1920, Switzerland has lost around 60 percent of its biodiversity in the fields. In addition, the use of pesticides in Swiss agriculture also affects soil fertility. Studies have shown that pesticides can also have a negative impact on soil organisms. But they are largely responsible for the natural nutrient cycle and soil quality. In the long term, this can lead to reduced soil fertility and thus endanger agricultural production.

Responsibility of the manufacturers: Reduced use and regular analyses

In addition to politicians and authorities, agricultural operations are also responsible for ensuring the safety of their products. One way is to reduce the use of pesticides and encourage alternative approaches such as organic farming and integrated pest management. The use of natural enemies of the pests or more resistant plant varieties can reduce the need for pesticides. In addition, careful application of the pesticides according to the applicable guidelines is important to minimize the risk of residues in food.

An important step is to regularly check the products for pesticide residues. For this purpose, analytical methods are used that enable precise quantification and identification of pesticides. Common analytical techniques include gas chromatography (GC) and liquid chromatography (HPLC) combined with mass spectrometry (MS). These methods allow sensitive detection and determination of pesticide residues in food. Laboratory service providers such as Biolytix specialize in pesticide analysis. The cooperation with special laboratories makes a significant contribution to independently checking the product quality of agricultural products. At the same time, they support manufacturers in interpreting the results and implementing suitable measures to reduce pesticide residues in the long term.

Establish effective alternatives – sustainable crop protection

There are alternative approaches and practices to promote more sustainable use of pesticides in agriculture. Organic farming, which does not use synthetic pesticides, is becoming increasingly important in Switzerland. Agroforestry is a modern method. Trees and shrubs are integrated into the agricultural areas to support natural pest control. Another approach is the promotion of ecological diversity on agricultural land. By creating habitats for insects and other animals, natural predators of pests can be encouraged to reduce pesticide use.

Overall, the use of pesticides – not only in Swiss agriculture – is associated with significant effects on the environment and biodiversity. Politicians and authorities are still obliged to promote alternative approaches or their development, to implement them and to establish far-reaching controls. Manufacturers are largely responsible for the safety of consumers. Through the proactive use of alternative methods as well as constant analyzes and cooperation with experienced service providers, they ensure that their products meet quality standards and legal limits are observed.

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1. June 2023

Salmonella in poultry: Protection against pathogenic germs in meat

Salmonellen Geflügel

In the past, there have always been infections from contaminated meat. Poultry in particular is considered to be at risk. Strict hygiene measures, regular checks and improved awareness are causing the numbers to decline.

Salmonella (Salmonella spp.): They are among the most common pathogenic bacteria in food. In 2019 there were more than 90,000 infections within Europe. Salmonella is found particularly often in meat (primarily poultry), in eggs and in non-pasteurized dairy products. Most recently, in 2021, frozen poultry meat from the UK led to more than 300 linked cases of salmonellosis in several European countries and Canada.

In Switzerland, salmonella is the second most common cause of foodborne diarrhea after campylobacter. However, the number of infections in poultry flocks in this country is declining – an indication that the legal safety mechanisms are working. Above all, the measures to combat the pathogen in laying hens have been decisively advanced since the 1990s.

Salmonella – a widespread pathogen

Salmonella occurs worldwide. The bacteria live, for example – just like E.Coli – in the gastrointestinal tract of various (farm) animals. The germs are robust and can also cope with strong temperature fluctuations and sub-zero temperatures. They multiply particularly frequently at temperatures between 20 and 40 degrees. In the summer months there are therefore particularly many salmonella infections (salmonellosis). They usually appear suddenly with severe diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, headaches and abdominal pain. The bacteria can have life-threatening effects in people with a weakened immune system, as well as in the elderly, pregnant women and children.

Those affected usually become infected by eating contaminated food. Poor hygiene such as dirty cutting boards or knives are also breeding grounds for pathogenic germs. Salmonella is one of the notifiable contagious diseases. They are transmitted from person to person through smear infections. Good kitchen hygiene, regular hand washing and heating food such as eggs or meat are recommended to protect consumers.

Particularly affected: pathogens in poultry meat

Poultry meat is considered risky. The animals can naturally contain pathogenic microorganisms such as Salmonella and Campylobacter. Contaminated water and feed, as well as infected animals that are asymptomatic, are common sources of Salmonella herd disease.

Infections in chickens are strongly influenced by transmission via the hatching egg. The pathogens are transferred to the egg and infect the chicks. The result: further infections in the hatchery. During slaughtering and processing, the salmonella finally get onto the meat products. If there is also a lack of hygiene in the production facilities, the germs have a good chance of surviving and multiplying.

Strict rules in Switzerland to protect against pathogenic germs

In recent years, the Swiss authorities have taken several measures to contain the problem. There are strict hygiene guidelines and quality controls, especially for poultry production. For example, every breeding farm is supported by a nationwide advisory service. In addition, training courses for poultry producers are carried out to raise awareness of the risk of infection and to implement appropriate precautionary measures. Poultry flocks are regularly checked for salmonella as part of a control program (TSV Articles 255-261).

In addition, the manufacturers have a duty: they must monitor their housing conditions on their own responsibility and, for example, prevent mice or birds from gaining access to feeding and water points. The stables must be disinfected regularly and strict hygiene guidelines must be observed during slaughter and processing. Poultry farmers who check their poultry for salmonella must also report the arrival of each flock in the animal traffic database (TVD).

Modern analysis methods reliably detect germs

Most manufacturers work with external providers to test their products. Special laboratories such as Biolytix use various analysis methods to detect salmonella. A common method is the cultivation of the germs on culture media in order to identify the isolated bacterial colonies. Pathogenic organisms can be identified particularly quickly (between 24 and 36 hours) using combined real-time PCR methods. Other, even more precise, time- and cost-efficient methods are on the rise. In cooperation with the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute (Swiss TPH), Biolytix is currently testing the implementation of cost-efficient next-generation sequencing analyzes (NGS). Using NGS, microorganisms can be analyzed extremely precisely and comprehensively; Germs can be detected reliably, quickly and efficiently.

Overall, the numbers in Switzerland are declining: The proportion of positive samples from Swiss poultry meat stocks is between 0.2 and two percent annually. The comprehensive surveillance program and the reliable self-control of the producers seem to be working. The percentages are significantly higher for imported poultry meat. On average, 15 percent of the samples are contaminated with salmonella each year.

Consistent hygiene measures, careful controls and suitable analysis methods will continue to be necessary in the future to minimize the risk of salmonella infections and to ensure the safety of poultry products.

9. May 2023

GMOs in feed and food: Challenges for producers and analytical laboratories

GVO in Futter- und Nahrungsmitteln

The cultivation of genetically modified organisms (GMO) is still prohibited in Switzerland. However, imports, tolerance limits and new plant breeding techniques make GMO analysis more important than ever.

Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) have long been a controversial topic in the food industry and in agriculture. Their use is heavily regulated in Switzerland. While the ban on growing GMOs in Switzerland has been extended until 2025, they can still be spread in animal feed and seeds and their imported grains – with correspondingly strict approval processes.

The problem: With an ever-increasing share of GMOs in agriculture – genetically modified plants are cultivated on around 190 million hectares worldwide – and ever longer transport routes, contamination or inadequate labeling can occur. In addition, new breeding methods are increasingly being used, which make it difficult to trace gene manipulations – challenging both for (agricultural) production companies and for analytics.

What does GMO mean?

GMOs are organisms in which the genetic material has been artificially modified. The aim of such a change is to add new properties to the genetic material. In a plant, for example, this can be a higher resistance to diseases. Pioneers among the cultivated GMOs are soya, corn and rapeseed. The change can take place using various technologies, for example the transfer of genetic material from one plant species to another. In recent years, however, genome editing has developed, which changes the genetic material without a trace using an enzyme system and thus poses new questions for risk assessment. The best-known new method is CRISPR/Cas9. This is a molecular-biological method to cut and modify DNA in a targeted manner. The purpose: to edit individual genes and make the breeding of useful plants more precise, faster and cheaper.

Which GMO guidelines apply in the EU?

In principle, GMOs may be cultivated and circulated in the EU. However, their authorization is subject to a strict and thorough risk assessment. For example, only one type of corn was approved as a GMO within the EU at the end of the 1990s – this approval has now expired. The other 58 approved organisms are imports – above all soybeans for use as animal feed.

All genetically modified organisms such as agricultural and horticultural crops must be labeled in the EU. This obligation also applies to products that contain genetically modified organisms or are manufactured from genetically modified organisms. Food, ingredients and additives that were produced with the help of genetically modified micro-organisms do not have to be labelled. Examples of this are carriers such as flavors or vitamins and technical auxiliaries. Foodstuffs contaminated with the smallest amounts of GMOs also do not have to be declared. The EU upper limit of 0.9% applies here.

Which GMO regulations apply in Switzerland?

In Switzerland, the cultivation of genetically modified organisms is only permitted for research purposes, with a few exceptions that require a permit. A moratorium on the cultivation of genetically modified organisms has been in force in Switzerland since the end of 2005 as a result of a referendum. So far, this has been extended four times – most recently until the end of 2025. At the same time, it is being intensively examined what future risk-based regulations for the new breeding methods could look like. By mid-2024, a decision should be made on how to deal with GMOs from new methods such as genome editing.

GMO products are not completely banned in Switzerland – four corn varieties and one soybean variety are approved as imported GMO products that must be declared for use in food. Genetically modified feed ingredients may also be imported after BLV approval. Basically, all GMO food and feed must be labelled. Regular and comprehensive monitoring of imported seed and plant material capable of reproduction is intended to ensure that the sectors comply with the law. Traces of approved GMOs of up to 0.5% in food and 0.9% in animal feed are tolerated. If the value is higher, food and animal feed must be labeled as genetically modified. Unintentional traces of previously unapproved genetically modified organisms can also be tolerated under certain circumstances. The condition: It is a plant approved by the FSVO, the proportion does not exceed the 0.5% limit and the producer or dealer can prove that all preventive measures have been taken. – Only then the product can be put into circulation.

Why is GMO analysis so important?

In particular, heavily processed products and new breeding methods challenge analytics. In addition, the increasing number of GMO cultivation areas worldwide increases the probability of the unintentional spread of genetically modified organisms. – It is becoming increasingly difficult to distinguish GMOs from conventional crops. These factors, in combination with the different GMO laws and regulations of the numerous importing countries, make comprehensive analysis unavoidable.

Specialized laboratories and highly professional analytical methods identify GMOs quickly and reliably and ensure that labeling requirements are met. Due to the current tolerance regulations, the quantification of the GMO components is essential for manufacturers or retailers in order to meet the declaration obligation. For agriculture, on the other hand, the GMO analysis enables this obligation to be checked and thus ensures the quality of its own production.

Experienced analysis laboratories such as Biolytix work with accredited methods to quantitatively and qualitatively identify even the smallest traces of GMOs. Various real-time PCR methods are used for screening. These detect individual GMO components even in complex and highly processed food and feed as well as in seed samples, tobacco or cut flowers and provide information on how high the GMO content is in the corresponding product.

What is the NON-GMO label?

Outside of Europe, for example in the USA, genetically modified foods are also the subject of much discussion. Manufacturers and processors who want to export their products to the United States and want to specifically label them as NON-GMO can be certified for the NON-GMO label. Biolytix, for example, works together with Bioaudix. The NON-GMO label was developed together. Bioaudix is part of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Process Verified Programs (PVP) and is regularly audited by the American authorities to ensure that the certification processes meet the standards. The program is intended to support companies and manufacturers in verifying certain production processes and in informing consumers transparently and reliably about the origin and quality of food. – The high European standard is particularly appreciated by consumers in the USA.

In addition to observing the legal regulations and the obligation to declare or NON-GMO labelling, GMO analysis of feed and food is primarily about one thing: risk minimization. Finally, the effects of GMOs on humans, animals and the environment are difficult to assess because there is a lack of corresponding long-term experience and research bases. The unauthorized release of GMOs can endanger both health and biodiversity. At the same time, a risk-based solution must be found with regard to the new breeding methods. Whatever this may look like: Well-founded GMO analysis will continue to be decisive for compliance with the regulations that have been passed and for the safety of consumers and nature.

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27. March 2023

Shelf life of food: 4 facts for producers and consumers

Haltbarkeit-Lebensmittel

Reliable information on the product shelf life is essential for consumer protection. The duty of care lies with the manufacturers – but the consumers must also change their awareness.

Food packaging contains a lot of information. The list of ingredients, possible allergens, information about the manufacturer, weight or quantity and the corresponding expiration dates all contribute to consumer protection. Manufacturers meet the legal requirements for food labeling by providing information on the shelf life of food. They thus comply with national and international food hygiene regulations – and inform consumers about how long a product will remain of high quality and safe for consumption.

But what exactly do notices such as “Best before” or “Use by” actually mean? Which processes do manufacturers use to determine the shelf life of their products and does expired food really have to be disposed of immediately? The following article provides important facts about the topic of food shelf life.

1. Best-before Date vs. Use-by Date

Most foodstuffs on the market such as yoghurt, butter, juices or grated cheese have a so-called best-before date (MHD). It states the date up to which the product will retain its specific properties such as taste, smell or color if stored properly. The best-before date is a guarantee from the manufacturer: the quality of a product remains unchanged until the relevant date is reached. If the specified minimum durability can only be guaranteed under certain temperatures or other conditions, a corresponding note must be attached. After the best-before date, most foods can still be consumed without hesitation – as long as they are unobtrusive in terms of smell and taste.

Easily perishable foods such as fresh meat or fish products as well as cream cheese or ready-made salads must be marked with a use-by date. This states the date up to which the product can be consumed if stored properly and refrigerated. After the use-by date, consumption of these products may pose microbiological risks to human health. The food may then no longer be sold or should no longer be used by consumers. The use-by date, in contrast to the best-before date, is crucial for food safety. The manufacturers guarantee the risk-free consumption of their products – if the cold chain is maintained accordingly.

Foodstuffs that have a very short shelf life, such as bread or fresh fruit and vegetables, as well as products that have a long shelf life, such as vinegar or sugar, do not require an expiration date. Consumers can decide for themselves by when they want to consume the food.

2. This is how the shelf life of products is determined

The shelf life of a food depends on various factors such as the composition, the degree of processing and the packaging and storage conditions. Since the manufacturers know the properties of their products best, it is their responsibility to determine the best-before or use-by date with the help of appropriate test procedures. While large companies often carry out the tests to determine the shelf life internally, smaller companies in particular are dependent on external service laboratories such as Biolytix. The quality of the products is evaluated in the laboratory and it is determined under practical conditions with storage or stability tests whether a foodstuff meets the shelf life specifications.

In the storage test, a product is stored for a defined period of time and under defined conditions. Its characteristics – color, taste and texture – are regularly examined. For example, if a food is to last 90 days at refrigerated temperatures, it is stored accordingly in the laboratory. Samples are taken both at the beginning and at various times during the shelf life. Storage tests allow manufacturers to assess how their product will perform over time.

A stability test is a more comprehensive test. Other factors are also considered that can influence the shelf life – such as humidity or strong temperature fluctuations. The product is stored under different conditions to determine how its properties behave over time. The stability tests enable manufacturers to specify optimal storage conditions and shelf-life recommendations on their packaging.

3. The shelf-life labeling of food is becoming more and more challenging

The implementation of comprehensive storage and stability tests is becoming increasingly important as part of the manufacturer’s duty of care. For example, the demand for natural products with a high degree of freshness is increasing. At the same time, the delivery areas are expanding, the transport routes are becoming longer – with strongly fluctuating climatic conditions. Short-term changes in recipes due to a lack of raw materials also pose a challenge for manufacturers. The demands on the quality and shelf life of food are increasing. Microbiological special laboratories such as Biolytix analyze products and ingredients with regard to possible quality changes along the entire value chain. With the help of the latest analysis methods, the shelf life of products is determined and solutions for extending the shelf life are examined.

4. Food shelf life and food waste are related

Manufacturers must both meet consumer expectations and guarantee that they are bringing safe food to market. To be on the safe side, manufacturers often mark their products with a use-by date, although a best-before date would be sufficient. The result: a lot of food that could still be eaten ends up in the garbage. But consumers are also often unsure about the best-before date. Most of them are based on the best-before date. Once this has expired, the products are disposed of. In total, almost three million tons of food are thrown away in Switzerland every year. These include numerous products for which the best-before date has expired but which would still have been edible. According to a study from 2019, around one million tons of food are thrown away in Swiss private households every year – partly because consumers lack knowledge about storage and shelf life. Improved consumer awareness and changes in manufacturers’ dating behavior could help curb food waste. For example, a specialist group at the Zurich University of Applied Sciences has drawn up two guidelines with specific recommendations for action. The goal: to optimize the dating of food and counteract unnecessary waste. In addition to recommendations for freezing products on the use-by date, it also contains suggestions for the appropriate dating type depending on the food category.

The consideration of appropriate recommendations for action and simultaneous cooperation with laboratories for comprehensive shelf-life analysis as well as heightened consumer awareness can make a decisive contribution to minimizing food waste in the future. – A goal that now also has a high priority on the agenda of the Federal Council. The aim of the action plan against food waste is to halve avoidable food losses in Switzerland by 2030.

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20. February 2023

Gluten-free beer: The alternative for allergy sufferers

glutenfreies Bier

The market for gluten-free foods is growing. In the meantime, people with celiac disease no longer have to do without certain stimulants.

While per capita alcohol consumption in Switzerland has been falling for years, it has remained stable for beer at around 51 liters. This makes it the most consumed alcoholic beverage in Switzerland. However, people who suffer from gluten intolerance have to do without the classic beer refreshment. Finally, beer grains such as barley or wheat contain gluten. The alternative for allergy sufferers: gluten-free beer. In addition to bread, pizza or cake without gluten, the stimulant is now a niche product on more and more supermarket shelves.

Gluten – the common sticky protein

Gluten is a protein found in many grains such as wheat, rye and barley. Due to its shaping properties, it is also referred to as glue or adhesive protein. For example, if grain flour is mixed with water or another liquid, the gluten from the flour forms an elastic mass – the dough. In Switzerland, around 80,000 people suffer from gluten intolerance, known as celiac disease. The gluten damages the mucous membrane of the small intestine. Typical complaints are diarrhoea, nausea, abdominal pain, and an overall poor general condition. Because the small intestine becomes permanently inflamed in celiac disease, the nutrients are no longer absorbed by the body to the normal extent – deficiency symptoms occur. While people with lactose intolerance can take lactase tablets before eating lactose-containing foods to avoid symptoms, there is only one effective treatment for people with celiac disease: a gluten-free diet. If all foods containing gluten are consistently avoided, those affected can usually live a healthy, symptom-free life.

Gluten-free beer: How it’s brewed

According to EU guidelines, in order to be declared gluten-free, a beer must contain less than 20 milligrams per kilogram (0.002%) of gluten. Since classic beers are made from barley or wheat, they usually contain gluten – depending on the type of beer and type of grain, around 10 to 20 mg per kilogram. Normal wheat beer contains a lot of gluten. With a good 250 milligrams per liter, its consumption must be avoided in any case by allergy sufferers.

Brew beer from corn, millet, and others

There are several ways to make gluten free beer. For example, types of grain such as rice, millet, corn, or soya are used. The advantage: the later beer is completely gluten-free. In terms of taste, however, it cannot be compared to traditional beer. – At least if standard European taste is assumed. As newcomers, corn and millet beers have only been available on the market in Europe for a few years. In other parts of the world, however, they have been around for a long time. For example, corn beer is a popular traditional drink among some peoples in South Africa.

Brew traditionally and remove gluten

Western breweries in particular want to taste as close as possible to the original with the gluten-free beer – similar to the non-alcoholic versions. Therefore, the beer is first brewed traditionally. By adding enzymes, the gluten is removed during the manufacturing process, and the typical beer taste is retained. The enzymes break down the gluten into small peptides that are tolerable for people with celiac disease. Important to know: Even after the enzymatic degradation, these beers still contain small traces of gluten. People with a pronounced gluten intolerance should therefore resort to grain alternatives.

Innovative processes and new breeds

In the beginning it was small breweries that brought gluten-free beer onto the market as a niche product, but nowadays there are also offers from large breweries. After all, the market for gluten-free food and beverages is becoming increasingly popular. Therefore, research into innovations in the manufacturing process continues. For example, some breweries use specially bred gluten-free barley as a raw material in order to be able to produce the popular standard beer without gluten. Others rely on traditional raw materials but change the brewing process. Instead of working with enzymes, the beer is boiled more intensively and for longer and stored at a colder temperature. Finally, it is filtered to comply with EU guidelines.

What many people don’t know is that there are also traditionally brewed beers that are low in gluten. For example, a Pilsner lager beer contains only 1.2 milligrams of gluten per 100 grams – and can therefore be labelled as gluten-free according to the EU directive.

Production of gluten-free beer – what manufacturers have to consider

Both conventional and gluten-free products are often produced in one company. Manufacturers must ensure strict controls and absolute hygiene. All means of production must be cleaned regularly – even in inaccessible places. In the entire supply chain and in the brewing process, all ingredients must be strictly separated from raw materials containing gluten. In principle, gluten-free beer should be brewed in equipment that is used exclusively for this purpose. This is the only way to avoid contamination.

Important for export: Different requirements apply to gluten-free foods in different countries. If a beer is to be sold within the EU, the limit of 20 mg/kg must not be exceeded. In the USA, on the other hand, the same limit applies as in the EU, but if the gluten has been removed during the manufacturing process, a beer cannot be declared gluten-free there. – Even if it contains less than 20 mg of gluten.

In addition to strictly separate production and high hygiene standards, manufacturers have to use specialized random tests to ensure that their products are gluten-free. Special laboratories such as Biolytix offer reliable evidence for various foods. With tried and tested methods such as the ELISA TEST, the gluten content in the beer is determined and it is ensured that the end product is free of the sticky protein and is allowed to bear the seal with the crossed-out ear of corn.

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25. January 2023

Nutrition labeling: What manufacturers need to know?

Nährwertkennzeichnung

The nutritional value table on food packaging is mandatory. The responsibility for correct information lies with the producers.

In Switzerland, the nutrients contained in food must be labeled in accordance with the Food Information Ordinance. The goal: to ensure consumer health protection by enabling them to obtain comprehensive information before purchasing products. For manufacturers, this means that detailed labeling of their food can have a significant impact on the decision to buy or not a product.

Big 5 or Big 7: The Swiss nutrition label

The nutritional values of food are given per 100 g or per 100 ml. A basic distinction is made in Switzerland between the large and the small nutritional value declaration. The difference between the so-called Big 5 and the Big 7. lies in the number of nutrients listed.

Big 5 – the small nutritional value declaration:

  • Indication of energy value
  • fat content
  • carbohydrates
  • protein
  • salt

Big 7 – the big nutritional value declaration:

  • Indication of energy value
  • fat content
  • saturated fatty acids
  • carbohydrates
  • sugar
  • protein
  • salt

The basis for the Big 7 are the previously mandatory Big 8, which also contained the fiber. Their declaration is no longer mandatory.

Important: The small nutritional value label is only possible if no nutritional or health-related information is provided. If, for example, the gluten or lactose content is stated in a pre-packaged food, a large nutritional value declaration – the Big 7 – is mandatory. Even if products are to be exported to the EU, manufacturers have to fall back on them. In addition to the mandatory information from the Big 5 or Big 7, additional information on mono- or polyunsaturated fatty acids, starch, dietary fiber and significant amounts of vitamins and minerals can optionally be provided.

The nutritional value table – mandatory for pre-packaged food

Nutritional labeling is mandatory for pre-packaged food in brick-and-mortar retail and for food sold online. Swiss food law prescribes the declaration on the back of the packaging. The information on calorific value, fat and Co. must be applied in a clearly visible and legible font. An x-height of 1.2 mm is considered the minimum font size, which roughly corresponds to the Arial font with 7 pt. If the label does not offer enough space for a table, the nutritional values can also be placed as continuous text. All nutritional information must always be in the same field of vision. Consumers should perceive this without turning the packaging.

The nutrients are listed in the order of the Big 5 or Big 7. If individual nutrients are not present, they are declared as 0 g (ml).

Unprocessed and unpackaged – these products do not need to be labeled

Unprocessed single-ingredient foods are exempt from nutrition labelling. As well as processed foods that consist of one ingredient class and have been aged, such as cheese. Artisan food sold locally also does not require a declaration. For example, a salami from the in-house butcher’s shop is exempt from labelling. The analytic effort would be disproportionate for the predominantly small companies.

But: If the products are labeled voluntarily, the same requirements apply as for the mandatory information. Manufacturers should reliably check whether their product falls under the exemption. The labeling requirement can also apply to products that are also sold online, since they are no longer exclusively offered locally.

The nutritional value tables of food – responsibility of the manufacturer

In principle, the manufacturers are responsible for correct, truthful information on the packaging. In order to declare the nutritional values of products, the corresponding nutritional values must be calculated. Manufacturers can do this themselves, for example by using special databases. – Or they have the food analyzed by specialized laboratories such as Biolytix https://www.biolytix.ch/en/service/hygiene-food-and-product-quality/. Smaller companies that always work with the same few raw materials can use the Swiss nutritional value database https://naehrwertdaten.ch/en/, for example. The data collection of the Federal Food Safety and Veterinary Office (FSVO) currently contains information on more than 1,000 foods. In addition to information on macronutrients such as fat, sugar or protein, micronutrients such as vitamins or minerals are also listed for most foods.

Important for food producers: A correct nutritional value calculation – either in-house or by a special laboratory – can only be carried out with standardized manufacturing processes. This means that the nutritional value analysis is only possible for products for which both the recipe and the manufacturing process are known. If these change, the food must be analyzed again. In addition, the nutritional values must be within the tolerance range during the product’s shelf life. Manufacturers therefore need to be aware of possible changes during storage of their food.

The Nutri-Score: future replacement for the nutritional table?

The classic nutritional value table has been criticized for a long time. Although it offers more information, it is often perceived as confusing due to its structure and size. According to surveys, consumers want simpler labeling of food. The Nutri-Score now supplements the obligatory nutritional labeling on many products. The graphic is placed prominently on the front of the packaging. On a color scale from red to green, the Nutri-Score shows how balanced a processed food is. The score is calculated using a scientific formula. It is intended to help consumers to quickly compare similar foods and choose healthier ones. But there is also criticism of the traffic light system. The Swiss Farmers’ Association, for example, points out deficiencies in labeling. For example, the degree of processing and the use of additives are not included in the calculation algorithm. The Nutri-Score would oversimplify in its current form. Fruit juices, like fruit spritzers, received a poor Nutri-Score, while artificially produced zero or light products received a positive traffic light color. Nutritionists endorse the Nutri-Score as a step in the right direction. Nevertheless, it is feared that it could send consumers on the wrong track. The EU has responded to the criticism and announced an update of the Nutri-Score. Individual foods are to be recalculated according to health aspects.

For consumers, this means: It is still worth looking at the nutritional value labeling of the products!

 

 

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13. December 2022

Pesticides in Wine: How dangerous are they really?

Pestizide im Wein

For decades, conventional viticulture has used large amounts of pesticides to ensure a rich harvest.

Red, white or rosé: In Switzerland, almost 100 million liters of Swiss and almost 170 million liters of foreign wines are consumed every year. In 2021, Switzerland had around 15,000 hectares of vineyards. With almost 5,000 hectares, the canton of Valais is one of the largest growing areas. However, even the finest wines have a problem: Hardly any other food is treated with pesticides as often as wine. Again and again residues of various pesticides are found, above all fungicides – chemical agents against fungal infestation.

But why are pesticides used so heavily, especially in viticulture? What consequences do they have for soil, the environment and consumers? What alternatives are there to chemicals and how can winegrowers ensure safe products?

Which pesticides are used in winegrowing and why?

Pesticides protect plants from pests and diseases. Their use is widespread in fruit and vegetable cultivation throughout Europe. The goal: to avoid yield losses in agricultural production caused by various pests, microorganisms and weeds.

Almost 480,000 tonnes of pesticides were used across Europe in 2019 – most commonly on apples and grapes. Around four million tons of pesticides are used annually worldwide. In 2020, more than a thousand tons of fungicides and bactericides were used to combat pests in Swiss agriculture.

In 2020, more than half of the 15 types of wine tested from the major Swiss wine-growing regions contained five or more pesticides – mainly fungicides against fungal infestation. But also acaricides against mites or herbicides against weeds are used to protect the vines and are detectable as traces. Fungicides are mainly used due to the long growing season of the vines: from April to September, leaves and grapes must be protected from fungal attack.

What are the effects of pesticides on people and the environment?

Around 385 million people are poisoned by pesticides every year. It is not primarily the consumers who are affected, but rather the people who work in rural areas, particularly in the Global South. However, the consumption of wines contaminated with pesticides can also have health consequences for consumers. Pesticides are partially enriched by the human organism and can cause long-term damage to health. Above all, the mixture of several substances in a wine is questionable. If too many different pesticides appear in a wine, interactions between the individual residues can occur. But how does the dubious mix in one variety come about? The reason: Grapes from different vine growers are used for some wines. These in turn use other pesticides. – Or some pests develop resistance, then the winegrowers resort to another chemical.

In addition to the impact on consumers, pesticides have an impact on the entire ecosystem. After all, the active ingredients don’t just stay where they are applied. Glyphosate and other substances are washed away by rain. They seep into the ground or are transported further through the air – some up to 1,000 kilometers away.

Are there alternatives to the use of pesticides in viticulture?

According to Agroscope, the research center of the Swiss Federal Office for Agriculture, it would be possible to do without synthetic pesticides, especially in viticulture. The researchers analyzed which pesticides with particular risk potential could be replaced. While the cultivation of foods such as sugar beets, corn or rapeseed would be much more difficult without pesticides, there are hardly any difficulties in viticulture. – And organic viticulture shows that it can also be done without the use of questionable chemicals. In biodynamic viticulture, no pesticides, weed killers or artificial fertilizers are used at all.

But organic winegrowers also have to protect their harvest from pests. Instead of chemicals, sulfur and copper preparations are used as biological pesticides. However, these are not completely harmless. Copper in particular is controversial. The heavy metal can accumulate in the soil due to the rain and harm earthworms and other microorganisms there. For this reason, alternatives are still being sought in organic viticulture. For example, some Swiss winegrowers spray their vines with a mixture of milk and water to protect against powdery mildew. The microorganisms contained in the milk fight the mildew fungus.

Beneficial insects are also increasingly being used as an alternative to chemical substances. This includes organisms that are useful for agricultural production due to their predatory or parasitic way of life. For example, the lacewing (Crysopa spec.) feeds on spider mites, their eggs, and hayworms and sourworms. The larvae of the warbler beetle (Rhagonycha fulva) live mainly on the ground, where they eat snails, among other things.

Ecological pest control in viticulture is one solution, the breeding of particularly robust wine varieties is another. So-called Piwi grape varieties  are considered to be very resistant to fungi. Less pesticides are needed to grow them, and the soil and environment are protected. In addition, the care of the vines is less complex for the winegrowers – energy and resources are saved.

What can manufacturers do to protect consumers?

Winegrowers who want to stick to conventional cultivation for economic reasons should have their products analyzed for residues more often. Independent specialist laboratories such as Biolytix, for example, offer various methods for determining pesticide contamination in wine. With liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry, for example, laboratories can determine whether legal limit values for foreign substances are being complied with. The highly sensitive method detects even the smallest traces of pesticides.

There is still no binding international agreement to reduce the use of pesticides. It is therefore the responsibility of the winegrowers to organize their cultivation as gently as possible and yet economically. – These seem to have a clear trend, at least in Switzerland. According to the agricultural structure survey, the organic cultivation area continued to increase in 2021 and organic viticulture has doubled within four years.

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12. December 2022

Christmas / New Year's 2022: What you need to know for your planning and logistics

Schneeflocke

Christmas and the end of the year are fast approaching. Would you like to use our services during this time and have samples analyzed in the laboratory? – You’re welcome to! So that you can plan accordingly, we ask you to observe the following information on our sample submission and opening times.

For your Christmas and year-end 2022 planning and logistics, please note the following:

– In calendar week 51 (19.12. – 23.12.2022) we will have normal opening hours.

– On Monday, the 26th of December 2022, the laboratory will be closed.

– From Tuesday, the 27th of December 2022, to Friday, the 30th of December 2022, we will have normal opening hours.

Note for drinking water samples with result request before Christmas – Microbiology:
In order to guarantee result reports for drinking water analyses before Christmas, we need the samples by Tuesday, 20th of December 2022.

Note for GMO and allergen samples in express mode with result request before Christmas:
For super express, express and next-day express samples, we can only guarantee a result before Christmas if the samples arrive at our laboratory in Witterswil by 2 pm on Thursday, the 22nd of December 2022.

From Monday, the 2nd of January 2023, we will be back with normal opening hours for you.

Thank you for your understanding.

We wish you happy holidays and a happy new year!

Your Biolytix Team

30. August 2022

Applied Biosystems™ GeneChip™ (Affymetrix GeneChip): Established microarray method provides important approaches

DNA

The Applied Biosystems GeneChip system (formerly Affymetrix GeneChip) supports both DNA and RNA analysis and offers crucial added value for numerous applications.

Molecular genetic studies are often carried out with the help of so-called gene or biochips. The modern systems enable the parallel analysis of several hundred thousand individual proofs using the smallest blood or tissue samples. The Applied Biosystems GeneChip technology is a proven method to quickly generate large amounts of data and to obtain valuable starting points for further investigations.
Dr. Anna Henger
Since 2009, Dr. Anna Henger is responsible for gene expression and genotyping at Biolytix. The chemist has been involved in working with the GeneChip system from the start. As an expert in gene expression analysis, she provides answers to basic questions about microarrays in an interview and explains why Applied Biosystems not only offers important added value for medicine and research. Microarrays are also used in genome analysis and diagnostics. Not only human samples can be analyzed with them. They are used in many studies involving animals, plants or pathogens.

What is the rationale behind Applied Biosystems GeneChip technology?

The Applied Biosystems GeneChip system is a commercial microarray platform. There are different forms of microarrays, which – as with Applied Biosystems – are also referred to as gene chips or biochips. Like a computer chip, they contain a lot of information in a small space. Using the microarray method, specific genes can be identified and their activity measured. In molecular biology we speak of gene expression analysis. For example, we can show how cells respond to a specific treatment.

In gene expression analysis, the focus is on gene products as well as “splice” variants. In this context, statements about gene regulation are possible. This gives us an overview of cellular functions. For example, different tissues, tissues of different developmental stages, normal and pathological tissues, or treated and untreated cells can be compared.

What are the key benefits of Applied Biosystems GeneChips?

The Applied Biosystems Arrays can be used on both the RNA and DNA levels for samples from different species – that means for humans, animals, plants or pathogens. Although different kits are required for sample preparation, the procedure is basically very similar. And: all microarrays can be processed with the same apparatus. With the Applied Biosystems Arrays, we can generate large amounts of data that allow statements to be made about the entire genome in order to elucidate complex mechanisms underlying biological processes or diseases.

 

In which areas is the Applied Biosystems GeneChip technology used?

GeneChips have a wide range of applications – from drug research and pharmaceutical studies to clinical research at universities and diagnostics.

As already mentioned, a large area of application is gene expression analysis to determine induced or repressed genes, which provides an overview of cellular functions.

In the diagnosis of genetic diseases, the Applied Biosystems GeneChip can identify even small deviations in the gene sequence when genomes from patients are compared with samples from healthy people. Other areas of application are toxicological analyzes or the validation of drug targets for certain drugs.

GeneChips are also used in agricultural genomics or agrigenomics. Using this technology, relevant genetic markers for economically important species (animals, plants, etc.) can be easily identified and thus cultivation and breeding decisions can be made.

Why are the Applied Biosystems GeneChips so important for personalized medicine?

In the field of gene expression analysis, the data provide insight into the expression level of the entire transcriptome and enable the identification of RNA biomarkers, splice variants, pathways (signal transduction pathways) and gene regulation https://assets.thermofisher.com/TFS-Assets/LSG/brochures/gene-expression-microarrays-assays-brochure.pdf. In toxicogenomics, the GeneChips are used to investigate gene expression patterns and their changes as a result of therapeutic or environmental influences.

In genetic diagnostics, the samples are analyzed for single nucleotide exchanges (SNPs) and copy number variations (CNVs). In genome-wide association studies (GWAS) on large collectives of patients and test persons, DNA variants can be identified in the entire genome that are associated with diseases on the basis of statistical analyses. After further clarifications, this can be the approach for the therapeutic application of individualized medicine. Patients can therefore receive a therapy that is suitable for them more quickly and the healthcare system becomes more efficient.

What can microarrays technology do better than other molecular genetic methods?

With the microarrays, we quickly obtain a large amount of data from the smallest sample material – and thus different approaches or an overview of what is happening in the entire genome and transcriptome. With the help of further procedures, it is then necessary to filter, analyze and verify them. There are specific microarrays for different questions. In addition, the technology has been on the market for more than two decades. So there are numerous databases that researchers can access and exchange ideas with.

As a special laboratory, what added value does Biolytix offer its customers with regard to GeneChip technology?

GeneChip technology is a tried and tested system. The arrays have been steadily improved and updated over the last twenty years. Biolytix as a company has been working with the technology since its inception and has seen its progress. That means: We know the development, the updates and, above all, the possibilities that the Applied Biosystems GeneChip process offers. As a specialized laboratory, we at Biolytix can and have examined smaller samples as well as several hundred samples – such as in larger clinical studies. We generate the data in our laboratory and, after quality control, hand over the raw data to the customer.

Can the customer evaluate the data received himself?

There is now user-friendly software for initial analysis. For example, for gene expression analysis, the Transcriptome Analysis Console (TAC) software provides a fast, easy solution to analyze and visualize global expression patterns of genes and signal transduction pathways, as well as exons and splice variants. But of course the tools are only applicable to a certain extent. They provide a good overview. In order to go deeper, the know-how of a biotechnician or bioinformatician is required, who starts with additional tools and the corresponding experience and goes deeper.

Are there comparable methods that could compete with microarrays in the future?

A possible competing product could be Next-Generation Sequencing (NGS). This is a new type of nucleic acid analysis technology. However, I don’t necessarily want to see NGS and microarrays as competition because the methods are fundamentally different. Statements about the entire genome and for all species are also possible here. In contrast to other sequencing methods, several hundred million fragments can be sequenced in one sample. The NGS technology is used, for example, to identify relevant genes – among other things for the early detection of tumor diseases.

NGS can also shed light on new regions in the genome, additional differentially expressed genes, and signal transduction pathways. But much of the additional data would not be relevant to the statement in many studies. So unlike NGS, with microarrays only the region of the genome that is represented in the individual samples can be analyzed.

Nevertheless, microarrays offer some advantages: In terms of size, microarray data are easier to handle than NGS datasets. The huge amounts of data from next-generation sequencing  can be an advantage, depending on the question. At the same time, they can also pose a challenge even for simple studies due to the amount of data, because the software development is not yet advanced enough to ensure automatic evaluation.

A large number of microarray-based studies have been performed in the last two decades. Standards have been introduced that allow the quality of the data to be assessed. These datasets, supplemented by public databases such as GEO and Array Express or DrugMatrix, have created easily accessible and analyzable databases that serve as an important reference for new analyzes and interpretations of the data.

In contrast, no such reference databases are available for NGS data, which currently limits the interpretation of the data. There is a clear need to build these databases to make better use of microarray data, to facilitate the interpretation of NGS data, and to allow seamless translation and comparison of NGS and microarray data.

Ultimately, both methods have their justification and are used depending on the question. But: The Applied Biosystems GeneChip technology currently simply offers a stable, continuously updated construct from two decades of research and development.

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15. August 2022

Contaminated drinking water: How do coliform bacteria and enterococci get into the water?

Verunreinigtes Trinkwasser: Was sind die häufigsten Keime?

Strict guidelines apply to drinking water. Nevertheless, germ contamination can occur. Coli bacteria and enterococci are detected particularly frequently.

Drinking water in Switzerland is one of the most strictly controlled foods. It consists of 99.9 percent water and is therefore one of the purest foods of all. Drinking water must be inconspicuous in terms of taste, smell and appearance. It must not endanger health with regard to the type and concentration of the microorganisms, parasites and contaminants it contains.

The Federal Food Safety and Veterinary Office (BLV) defines the legal provisions to ensure the high drinking water quality in Switzerland. The maximum values for the germs are specified in the Drinking Water Ordinance. Nevertheless, contaminated drinking water occurs again and again, as for example in August 2022 in Lucerne. E. coli bacteria and enterococci were also detected in several towns in canton Bern in the summer of 2022.

How is drinking water contaminated? What measures are taken to restore drinking water quality and who is responsible for quality control?

What germs are found in drinking water?

First of all: Drinking water is never completely free of germs. Even after proper treatment by the water supplier, it still contains microorganisms. These are either harmless water dwellers, bacteria or viruses that are present in such low concentrations that they pose no health risk. There are strict microbiological requirements and controls to ensure that the germ load is as low as possible and does not pose any health risks. In addition to legionella, which mainly enter the water through contaminated pipes or outdated installations, coliform germs and enterococci are the most common. These intestinal bacteria enter the water environment mainly from human or animal faeces. In most cases they are not hazardous to health but serve as an indicator of faecal drinking water contamination in water analyses.

Legionella in the water pipes

Legionella are among the most well-known germs in water. The moist germs multiply particularly well at temperatures between 20 and 25 degrees and are therefore mainly found in hot water systems. The biofilm in the pipes serves as an ideal breeding ground. Legionella enter the human body as an aerosol when water containing bacteria is inhaled and can trigger what is known as Legionnaires’ disease, a form of pneumonia. Especially in the summer months, house pipes and water pipe systems in holiday homes are often affected. For example, if the holiday home is empty for a long time, boilers or air conditioning systems are potential breeding grounds for legionella. Holiday home owners should therefore regularly turn on the taps and let the hot water run for a while – even in the shower, as legionella die off at temperatures above 60 degrees Celsius.

  1. coli bacteria in drinking water

Escherichia coli bacteria, also known as E. coli, are among the coliform germs (coli bacteria) that are not allowed to occur according to the Drinking Water Ordinance. The limit value is zero. E. coli is a widespread intestinal germ and a natural component of the human and animal intestinal flora. Basically it is not dangerous. If E. coli bacteria are ingested through the drinking water, this can lead to diarrhoea and other gastrointestinal problems. Often there are no symptoms and the bacteria are excreted again. However, risk groups such as pregnant women or people with weak immune systems should observe the safety precautions when drinking E. coli-contaminated drinking water. In addition, the detection of E. coli is an indicator that other germs can also be found in drinking water.

Enterococci in drinking water

Enterococci are lactic acid bacteria that occur in the human and animal intestines and support the digestive processes there. The bacteria themselves cannot multiply in drinking water, only in the human or animal intestine. As with E. coli, the limit for enterococci in drinking water is zero. As an indicator organism, enterococci contamination in drinking water points to other potentially pathogenic bacteria. A quick water analysis and appropriate measures are therefore mandatory. Unlike coliform germs, enterococci can survive for a few weeks outside the intestine. In the case of contamination with these germs, it is difficult to define the time of contamination. If the bacteria are ingested through drinking water, they can lead to urinary tract infections or inflammation of the fallopian tubes in women. Wound infections and abdominal abscesses are also possible consequences of an enterococci infection.

How do the germs get into the drinking water?

Basically, the water quality in Switzerland meets very high standards. For example, the environmental organization WHO obliges Switzerland to report all drinking water data every three years. In addition, laws and standards regulate the limit values that must be observed in order to ensure water quality in the future.

The cause of germs in drinking water cannot always be traced back. While legionella in drinking water usually thrive on the biofilm in the water pipes themselves, bacteria such as E. coli  and enterococci enter the drinking water systems from outside. If they are found in water analyses, they are considered an indicator of faecal drinking water contamination.

Contamination in drinking water is often detected after very heavy rainfall. With normal rainfall, the layer of earth serves as a reliable filter. If there are large amounts of water at once, this mechanism does no longer work. Storms such as heavy rain can overload the sewage treatment plants or flood the sewage system. As a result, bacteria from the wastewater can get into rivers or bodies of water from which drinking water is obtained.

Other reasons for faecal drinking water contamination are accidents, renewal work on the main water connectors  or new connections in the house. Old sewers or leaking cesspools can also cause wastewater and drinking water to mix and lead to E. coli or enterococci contamination.

Contaminated drinking water – how is the quality restored?

Normally microbial contamination is quickly detected and the contaminated drinking water is not even fed into the network. In some cases, the water is also sterilized and cleaned as a prophylactic safety measure – for example during floods. If contaminated drinking water is suspected, only a professional drinking water analysis can provide information about the contamination with microorganisms. If germs are detected, the corresponding wells are provided with appropriate information boards until normalization. The water is discarded – it is directed into a stream instead of a well.

In the case of drinking water contamination due to leaks, it is important to locate the leak as a source of contamination, flush the pipes thoroughly and seal them. Multiple follow-up samples ensure that no more contamination can be found. In the event of serious incidents, a chlorine-containing network protection is added and, if necessary, a boil-off regulation is issued. The population in the affected areas is informed via the media that the water from the pipes can be contaminated and is only suitable for consumption after boiling. It can take several days before the drinking water has the usual quality again.

Drinking water quality: laws and obligations for water suppliers

The water quality in Switzerland is regulated nationally, the supply runs on a cantonal basis. The legal requirements for drinking water are regulated by a large number of laws and ordinances. The drinking water must meet the legal requirements defined in the Food and Commodities Ordinance (LGV) and in the EDI Ordinance on Drinking Water and Water in Publicly Accessible Baths and Shower Facilities (TBDV). The water suppliers and the owners of public buildings are responsible for the quality of the drinking water and must have this checked regularly, for example by independent special laboratories such as Biolytix.

The cantonal water suppliers are obliged to set up a quality assurance system to guarantee that the ordinances are observed. As part of the overall operational hazard analysis, they must periodically conduct an analysis of the hazards to water resources. The laboratories examine drinking water, well water, spring water and groundwater to guarantee microbiological safety in the water supply.

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30. June 2022

Hidden allergens in food - what manufacturers need to know

versteckte Allergene

The strict rules in the allergen labeling of food ensure transparency. However, they do not offer complete security.

Around three million people in Switzerland have a food intolerance or a food allergy. Children and young people are particularly affected. In order to rule out risks and avoid allergic reactions, allergy sufferers often have no choice but to eliminate certain foods from their diet. To do this, however, they must know exactly what is contained in the products. Although there is a food law labeling requirement for the most common allergens in food, allergy sufferers unfortunately cannot completely rely on the information in the list of ingredients. Especially with processed foods and spice mixtures, it is worth taking a closer look and knowing that allergens can often be hidden behind other terms.

The most common allergens in food

An allergy is an excessive reaction of the immune system to actually harmless, foreign substances. Common allergy triggers are, for example, proteins, pollen, house dust mites or certain foods. If those affected come into contact with the allergens, the body reacts by trying to ward them off. An allergic reaction occurs. Food allergies can manifest themselves as gastrointestinal complaints, respiratory problems or skin rashes. In rare cases, a drop in blood pressure and anaphylactic shock may occur.

In theory, many foods can trigger allergies. In practice, however, a few foods are responsible for more than 90 percent of allergies – for example cow’s milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, mustard, celery, wheat, fish, and shellfish. According to the Food Information Ordinance (LIV), these must be clearly advertised as such on the packaging.

Hidden allergens: study the packaging carefully

Hidden allergens in food are allergy-triggering components in compound or processed foods that are not recognizable to the consumer. They also get into foodstuffs where they would not actually be expected in a wide variety of ways. Not only the problem of deliberately wrongly declared food can become a danger. Manufacturing-related existing contaminations with allergenic foods are also considered hidden allergens. Since the companies usually manufacture a large number of products and allergenic and non-allergenic foods are produced on the same plants, small amounts of an allergenic ingredient can unintentionally end up in another food. Possible contamination with various allergens is marked at the end of the list of ingredients with the note “May contain traces of…”.

Food producers are obliged by the prescribed allergen labelling laws to list the most common allergens in the list of ingredients. Collective terms such as “spices” are not allowed. But: Special wording is not specified. A consumer who does not tolerate gluten must also pay attention to terms such as “wheat”. In addition, the 14 allergens in food that must be labeled in the declarations also hide many designations that the layperson cannot clearly assign at first glance, but are also among the most common allergens. For example, the ingredient casein hides one of the main milk allergens, although the list of ingredients does not have to explicitly state that it is a milk protein. Ingredients with the term “Ovo” always indicate that they contain chicken eggs. Food allergy sufferers must inevitably acquire a sound knowledge of allergen labeling and technical terms. Specialized nutritional advice is a useful tool for many people in order to be able to correctly interpret the information on the packaging in a targeted manner in everyday life.

“May contain traces of…” – how reliable is the hint?

The information “May contain traces of…” draws the consumer’s attention to the fact that allergens may have gotten into the food as a result of production – but not necessarily. In contrast to the prescribed allergen labeling, the additional trace information relates exclusively to ingredients that are not included in the recipe. For example, if nuts are used in a production facility, traces of them can also get into foods that are prepared without nuts according to the recipe – for example in milk chocolate.

A long list of possible traces of allergens, which do not necessarily have to be included, is often given as a precautionary measure. This is intended to counteract liability claims – however, this often leads to an unnecessary restriction for consumers with food allergies or intolerances. In contrast to other countries, Switzerland has defined limit values for the so-called traces. In the event of a possible contamination of more than one gram per kilogram of food, the note “May contain traces of…” must be given. The limit for sulfur is 10 mg/kg and for gluten 200 mg/kg. Possible mixtures below this limit can be voluntarily reported with such a note.

In principle, manufacturers must be able to prove that all precautions have been taken to prevent contamination during production.

Reliable allergen management by the manufacturing companies is essential

In order to both meet the legal requirements and to avoid hidden allergens caused by contamination, manufacturers must establish reliable allergen management in their companies – be it through in-house or external laboratories and tests for allergen detection. This is the only way for producers to fulfill their responsibility to consumers.

According to the HACCP concept (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points), food producers must prove that their production facilities are allergen-free. After a system cleaning, residue analyzes are necessary. Since it is usually uneconomical to shut down the system for the time of the analysis, there are test systems that can be used directly on site (strip test). ELISA test procedures or PCR tests are also important procedures for allergen analysis. Thanks to many years of experience in food diagnostics, special laboratories such as Biolytix offer tailor-made analysis and a wide variety of methods with very low detection limits for the analysis of allergenic proteins.

 

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31. May 2022

Food Fraud: A global problem not only for olive oil

Food-Fraud Olivenöl

The number of deliberately incorrectly declared foods is increasing worldwide. Stricter measures are required for Switzerland to combat food fraud.

Horsemeat in ready-made lasagne: probably one of the most well-known cases of food fraud in recent years. Although the waves surrounding the meat scandal have long since calmed down, the number of food fraud cases is increasing worldwide. The business with incorrectly declared food is considered to be extremely lucrative. In addition to olive oil, which is considered the most counterfeited food in Europe, a wide variety of products are affected, from sprayed shrimp to incorrectly declared fish to herbs stretched with leaves. With stricter control mechanisms, the EU has been trying to detect counterfeited or altered food at an early stage and to protect consumers over the past two years. – Measures that have so far been lacking in Switzerland and are clearly called for by critics.

But where does food fraud begin and why are some foods particularly affected? What are the EU countries doing to counteract this and how could Swiss retailers and consumers be better protected? An overview.

What is food fraud?

Food fraud has a long history. As early as the Middle Ages, high-quality goods were being replaced by cheaper ones. The innkeeper diluted the red wine with water, the baker mixed sawdust into the bread to lengthen the flour. Back then as well as now, food fraud is hardly or not at all recognizable to consumers from a sensory point of view. It is also difficult for food producers and traders to uncover fraud – for example in the raw materials supplied.

Although food fraud causes around 30 billion francs in damage worldwide every year, there is no official definition of the term in either Switzerland or the EU. Rather, it has become established in general usage in recent years – at least since the horsemeat scandal. Food fraud occurs when food is deliberately placed on the market with ingredients that do not match those stated on the packaging. As a rule, expensive products are mixed with cheaper ones in order to keep the production costs down and the sales price up. The following rule of thumb applies to food fraud: The more expensive or popular a product is, the more worthwhile the food fraud is.

Foodstuffs such as spices, which are sometimes mixed with illegal additives, can – in the worst case – have serious health consequences for consumers. If a product contains an unidentified allergenic ingredient (allergen), this can be life-threatening for allergy sufferers.

Why Are Herbs Like Oregano Affected by Food Fraud?

Olive oil is diluted with inferior oils, shrimp are injected with water and expensive spices such as saffron are enriched with starch, onions or coloured grass: the list of food fraud cases is long. In addition to the expensive groceries described, fraudsters also focus on products that are in high demand, such as oregano. The demand cannot be covered by the share of imported herbs. By adding other dried plants, the quantity is to be increased and the demand satisfied. Around 100,000 tons of herbs and spices are produced annually in the European Union and over 300,000 are imported. The problem: Herbs and spices in particular usually go through a long supply chain through several countries. They are mostly grown in small agricultural developing countries and migrate through numerous intermediate trading posts, making monitoring much more difficult.

What is being done to combat food fraud with herbs and co.?

Within the EU, several measures have been established in recent years to uncover and specifically combat food fraud cases. A new EU regulation has been in force since 2019. Among other things, this stipulates that official controls not only check food safety, but also pay particular attention to the risk of fraudulent practices. Various control programs are now being used to combat food fraud. In 2021, for example, the EU initiated the first EU-wide coordinated control plan for the authenticity of spices and herbs. A total of almost 10,000 analyzes were examined on around 1,900 samples from 21 EU member states as well as Switzerland and Norway. In addition to oregano, saffron, chili and pepper were also analyzed. Olive tree leaves were found in almost 50 percent of the oregano samples examined.

What is the criticism of Switzerland regarding the fight against food fraud?

To combat food fraud in Switzerland, the federal government created the “Coordination Food Fraud” (COFF) platform. This is made up of various federal offices and cantonal food enforcement authorities. Depending on current issues, further control programs are implemented, such as the above test for the authenticity of spices and herbs. In addition, the Federal Food Safety and Veterinary Office (FSVO) operates an early warning system for food safety. With the help of databases and the exchange with various experts, social and ecological changes, technological developments and economic trends are monitored and discussed. The aim: to identify new dangers such as food fraud at an early stage and to take precautions to ensure consumer safety.

According to the Federal Commission for Consumer Affairs (EKK), these measures do not go far enough. The regulations in Switzerland are not strict enough to uncover the majority of food fraud cases – the legal basis is not sufficiently adapted to the increasing threat of food fraud. A unit specializing in food fraud, of the kind that has already been established in several European member states, has so far been lacking in Switzerland. The information on cases of international food fraud is exchanged via a platform of the EU Commission, from which Switzerland is excluded due to the lack of bilateral agreements. It is therefore hardly or only after a delay informed about cases of fraud in neighboring countries, according to the EKK.

The formation of an inter-agency team of experts is recommended and demanded – for example by expanding the COFF – as well as stricter legal foundations in order to take targeted action against food fraud in Switzerland.

How can companies protect themselves within the supply chain?

According to the BLV, the food companies themselves are responsible. Through reliable self-checks, they should ensure that their goods meet the legal requirements and are not hazardous to health. In accordance with Good Manufacturing Practice (GHP), companies must regularly inspect their food or have it inspected and document the results. Using various molecular biological methods, specialized laboratories such as Biolytix can analyze the individual components of products and thus make a significant contribution to food safety. In any case, companies should prick up their ears when suppliers offer high-quality raw materials at low prices. In addition to random sample analyzes of the products themselves, the entire supply chain must be monitored in order to uncover potential weak points where adulteration can occur. Databases containing known food fraud cases and other relevant information are helpful for this.

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30. April 2022

The Tick bite: Answers to frequently asked questions

Zecken-Test

Why the arachnids are spreading more and more, why their sting is so dangerous and what measures can be taken to protect against tick bites

Whether in forests, in the undergrowth, near rivers or in parks: ticks can be found almost everywhere in nature. In spring and autumn, between March and November, their occurrence is highest – the arachnids love it warm and humid. In recent years, the occurrence of ticks has increased massively due to increasingly warmer temperatures as a result of climate change. The habitat suitable for ticks in Switzerland increased by around 4,000 square meters between 2009 and 2018 alone. The number of tick bites has also increased by around 40 percent in the last decade. One of the main reasons – in addition to the improved living conditions for the insects: people are spending more time outdoors in nature. Especially due to the corona pandemic, forests and meadows have become popular destinations in the past two years.

But what should nature lovers know about ticks? How do possible Lyme disease or TBE infections manifest themselves after tick bites and what measures can children and adults take to protect themselves effectively outdoors?

Do ticks bite or sting?

The most widespread type of tick in Switzerland is the castor bean tick. The arachnids are particularly active in spring and autumn, they are found on grass and shrubs close to the ground as well as on plants up to about 2 meters above the ground. In all stages of development – from the larva to the nymph to the adult tick – it needs blood. When people and animals roam through nature, the insects infest the body in a suitable place and attach themselves there. Colloquially, it is usually referred to as a tick bite.

Strictly speaking, however, the insects sting their victims to get at the blood. Ticks have a proboscis – with the help of their scissor-like mouthparts they simply tear open the skin of the host, then pierce it with their proboscis and attach themselves.

How quickly does a tick bite become noticeable?

Tick bites often go unnoticed. The reason: There is an anesthetic in the saliva of the tick. Other substances prevent the blood from clotting or the puncture site from becoming inflamed. In extreme cases, the tick can remain on the host for up to 15 days. With a hearty meal, ticks can theoretically survive for up to ten years without any other food. In nature, the common wood tick survives an average of three to five years. An adult female tick needs a blood meal to be able to lay her eggs – up to 3,000. After laying the eggs, the female dies; the male tick dies immediately after mating.

Why do ticks transmit diseases?

The tick filters out the substances that are important for it from the blood and digests them. Unneeded fluid is returned to the host via the proboscis. This process is repeated throughout the suction period – various pathogens can be transmitted here. Around a third of all ticks in Switzerland carry viruses and bacteria. Lyme disease and tick-borne encephalitis (TBE) are typical tick diseases.

What are the first signs of Lyme disease?

Lyme disease (Borreliosis) is one of the most common tick-borne diseases. It is transmitted by Borrelia (Borrelia burgdorferi). The bacteria reside in the gut of the tick. Depending on the area, five to 50 percent of ticks in Switzerland carry the pathogen. A Lyme disease infection often goes unnoticed at first. About three to 30 days after the tick infestation, the bite reddens, so-called erythema and sometimes flu-like symptoms occur. Even a long time after the tick bite, problems in the nervous system or inflammation of the joints can occur in those affected. A blood test can detect Borrelia and  the disease can be treated with antibiotics.

How dangerous is a TBE infection?

Another typical tick disease is meningitis (TBE). It is transmitted by viruses in the saliva of the bloodsuckers and thus usually directly after the tick bite. The number of cases has quadrupled in the last eight years – last year there were almost 400 cases. With the exception of a few cantons, all of Switzerland is considered a TBE risk area. Similar to Lyme disease, TBE often goes unnoticed at first. In the second phase after the tick bite, symptoms such as severe headaches, fever, paralysis and impaired consciousness can occur. Severe courses can lead to permanent damage and even death. Meningitis cannot be treated with antibiotics, only the symptoms are alleviated with medication. The TBE vaccination offers reliable protection against illness. In Switzerland, this is recommended by the FOPH for all adults and children over the age of six who live in risk areas or spend some time there.

By the way: In Switzerland, a tick bite is considered an accident. It is the only country in Europe where accident insurance is responsible for tick-borne diseases and their consequences.

How can I protect myself from tick bites?

Especially in the main tick season between March and November, long and well-fitting clothing and a hat should be worn when staying in nature. The small insects are clearly visible on white or beige fabrics and can be shaken off before they attach themselves to the skin. Tick repellents such as sprays and creams also protect against tick bites. In the evening, the entire body should be checked for ticks – preferred places are the back of the knees, armpits and groins, and often the head of children. Since ticks can survive for a few days on clothing indoors, depending on the humidity, clothing should be shaken out carefully and placed in the tumble dryer for at least an hour. The hot temperatures usually kill the bloodsuckers reliably.

Important: Pets in particular, such as dogs, like to bring ticks home with them after long walks in the forest. Their fur should always be checked thoroughly and combed out if necessary.


What is the correct reaction after a tick bite? 

If a tick is discovered, it should be removed immediately with tweezers or tick tweezers perpendicular to the skin surface. The region around the puncture site should be marked and carefully observed for some time after the puncture. If there is noticeable reddening of the skin or flu-like symptoms, we recommend contacting your family doctor. The problem: The infections often go unnoticed, and symptoms may only appear weeks, months or even years after a tick bite. If you want to know whether the tick you found carries Borrelia or TBE viruses, you can send it to special laboratories such as Biolytix. It is true that a borreliosis finding in the tick does not automatically mean that the disease will break out in the person who has been bitten. However, such tick tests can make an important contribution to diagnosis and treatment for early detection and sensitization to possible later symptoms of Lyme disease. Since TBE cannot be treated, vaccination against meningitis is the only reliable protection to prevent serious disease progression with sometimes dramatic consequences.

 

 

 

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31. March 2022

Listeria in salad bags: A literally dangerous mixture

Listerien im Salat

Product recalls caused by pathogenic germs in food make it clear how important strict hygiene standards and controls are throughout the supply chain.

Fresh, healthy and made quickly: so-called fresh-cut salads from the bag are extremely popular convenience products. Unfortunately, the supposedly digestible mixtures often contain fewer vitamins, but even more germs. At the beginning of 2021, various large manufacturers in Switzerland recalled their products because the corn in their ready-made salads was contaminated with listeria. The problem is not limited to Switzerland – German studies, for example, also deal with the germ load of convenience food. A study of the Max Rubner Institute in Karlsruhe already confirmed in 2019 that above all ready-cut salads from the bag are microbiologically contaminated.

But how do pathogenic germs such as listeria get onto the products or into the packaging? How harmful are they to health and what do manufacturers and consumers need to know and observe about Listeria? Below we have compiled answers to some important questions about pathogens in food.

What is Listeria?

The rod-shaped bacteria Listeria monocytogenes are widespread in nature. As niche germs, they survive in environments where other microorganisms cannot survive. They require few nutrients and reproduce even at low temperatures or low oxygen levels. Listeria can be found both in the soil and on plants as well as in the animal and human intestinal tract. They get into food through the harvesting or processing of animal products, such as slaughtering or milking. Dairy products, meat and fish are particularly affected, as is convenience food – for example, sliced salad from a bag.

Why is Listeria so common on bagged salads? (H3)

Since listeria occur everywhere in nature, the salad can come into contact with the bacteria either in the field or later during or after the harvest – among other things due to contaminated water or a lack of hygiene during cooling. A major problem, for example, is irrigation with contaminated water. Farmers’ fields may be watered with treated water from sewage treatment plants during droughts. In addition to listeria, other pathogens such as salmonella or coli bacteria get onto the food in this way.

In the case of the fresh-cut products, the salad leaves are cut up during the processing for bag salads. This destroys the natural protective layer of the plants against bacteria and fungi. The escaping cell juice serves as food for microorganisms such as listeria, and the humid atmosphere in plastic bags also promotes their growth.

How dangerous is Listeria for humans?

Listeria are the cause of the infectious disease listeriosis. This is particularly dangerous for the elderly, infants and pregnant women, as well as for people with a weakened immune system. In people with normal immune systems, infection is usually mild. A listeriosis infection can cause flu-like symptoms or diarrhea. Serious courses of the disease include meningitis, blood poisoning or pneumonia – in the worst case, listeriosis can be fatal for risk groups. A listeriosis infection during pregnancy can lead to damage to the unborn child and even miscarriage.

According to the Federal Office of Public Health, there are around 80 proven cases each year of listeriosis bacteria in Switzerland. While outbreaks are rare, when they do occur they cause large numbers of deaths and hospitalizations. In the 1980s, for example, there was a severe outbreak of listeriosis in Switzerland – the bacteria were then found in a raw milk soft cheese. A total of 33 people died from eating the contaminated cheese. In 2014, 32 people fell ill with listeriosis after eating salad, and between 2018 and 2020 several cases of listeriosis and deaths were reported after Listeria were found in products from a Swiss cheese dairy in Steinerberg.

How can consumers protect themselves from Listeria?

Listeria colonize food very easily and quickly. Whether a food is contaminated cannot be seen, smelled or tasted. Salads that look fresh on the outside can also be contaminated. Therefore applies: ready-to-eat salads should only be bought from the fridge in the supermarket and eaten as soon as possible. All in all, preventive hygiene measures are also indispensable in the kitchen at home. Not only the hands, but also fruit and vegetables should be washed thoroughly before they are eaten or processed. To avoid cross-contamination, meat or fish products should always be cut on separate boards and with different knives than fruit and vegetables. Good cooling and the quick consumption of finished products also keep the risk of listeria small. However, the only reliable protection to really kill Listeria is heating. Since this is not possible with products such as ready-made salads from the bag, they must be kept cool and eaten as quickly as possible. Risk groups, however, should completely avoid cut mixed salad made of plastic packaging to be on the safe side.

What can manufacturers do to prevent Listeria in their products?

After the severe cases of listeriosis, strict hygiene measures were enacted, particularly with regard to cheese production, and regular controls were introduced. So far, these standards have not been used in the production of cut salad. The producers themselves are in the driver seat: Defined hygiene standards as well as continuous monitoring and random checks of the production and supply chains are essential for food manufacturers. Specialized laboratories such as Biolytix offer various methods to detect pathogenic germs in food. Common methods are, for example, microbiological analysis using culture medium plates or immunological (ELISA) and molecular biological (real-time PCR) test methods. The producers are obliged to have a functioning self-control concept in order to produce hygienically perfect food or to detect microbiological contamination with Listeria and Co. at an early stage.

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22. February 2022

Cadmium in chocolate: new study identifies key factors

Cadmium in Schokolade

American analysis examines soil factors in cocoa growing countries and shows ways for farmers to minimize cadmium intake

Around ten kilos per capita: that’s how much chocolate the Swiss consume every year. This makes Switzerland the front runner among European countries. In general, it is considered a chocolate nation – after all, some of the largest chocolate producers in the world are based in Switzerland. They are all repeatedly confronted with a well-known problem: the cadmium content in cocoa products or in the cocoa beans, which has already been examined in numerous studies. American researchers have now specifically analyzed the soil factors that influence the path of the heavy metal cadmium into the cocoa bean. The total cadmium content in the cultivated areas and the pH value of the soil were identified as key factors. The goal of the new analysis: to show farmers ways of minimizing cadmium intake during cocoa plant cultivation.

Economic risks from contaminated cocoa beans

EU limits for cadmium in chocolate have been in effect since 2019. They force the manufacturing companies to limit their cocoa imports from the affected countries and to monitor the heavy metal contamination in their cocoa products through regular product controls. The cadmium contamination of their beans poses an economic problem, especially for the approximately eight million small farmers in Central and South America, for whom cocoa is the most important source of income. They earn less income with contaminated cocoa. Instead of being able to sell the cocoa beans to producers of fine chocolate at significantly higher prices, the farmers are only able to sell to wholesale traders. They buys cocoa beans from different growing areas and mix them to keep the cadmium content in the products low.

New analysis considers global acreage

While previous studies dealt with the occurrence of cadmium in the cultivation areas of individual countries such as Bolivia or Honduras, the American researchers from the University of Illinois examined the entire cocoa belt for their analysis. The 2,200 kilometer wide belt stretches around the globe and crosses four continents relevant to cocoa production. The scientists analyzed thousands of data points from numerous published studies on cocoa cultivation systems around the world.

Cocoa beans from Latin America are particularly contaminated with cadmium. The region of origin of the cocoa bean is known for the so-called fine flavor cocoa. These particularly aromatic varieties come for example from Peru or Mexico – countries whose cultivation areas often have a high cadmium content due to geogenic conditions. Heavy metal pollution is due to the natural occurrence of cadmium in the volcanic soils of Central and South America.

Cadmium in chocolate as a health hazard

Cadmium is a toxic heavy metal that enters the environment from both natural sources – through volcanic emissions and through weathered rock – and from industry. In the human body, the heavy metal accumulates primarily in the kidneys or in the bones and can be harmful to health in high doses. Through regular consumption of contaminated cocoa products, consumers can ingest considerable amounts of cadmium over a period of years. The EU maximum values are intended to minimize the intake of cadmium from chocolate products for end consumers. They depend on the type of product. Cocoa powder may contain a maximum of 0.6 milligrams of cadmium per kilo; 0.08 milligrams of cadmium is the limit for a 100 g bar of dark chocolate with more than 50 percent cocoa content.

Important findings for future research

The results of the American researchers show that the total cadmium content and the pH value in the soil have a significant impact on how much cadmium gets into the cocoa beans. At acidic pH values, cadmium is more soluble and therefore more readily available for the plant – it takes up more cadmium from the soil via the roots. As the most viable, soil-based mitigation strategy, the scientists recommend raising the pH of the soil by liming the cultivated areas, thereby lowering the acidity in the soil. In addition to the soil factors, the analysis also makes it clear that the cadmium uptake varies depending on the cocoa variety. So one solution could be to breed cocoa varieties that are less susceptible. However, investing in new seeds may not be viable for most small farmers in the poverty-stricken regions of Central and South America.

Even if the analysis by the American researchers does not offer a final way out of the problem of cadmium contamination in chocolate, it does point out new directions, establishes connections and paves the way for future, targeted research to reduce the cadmium content through practicable reduction measures to reduce in the long term during cultivation. Specialized laboratories such as Biolytix use the latest analysis methods to support chocolate producers in checking raw materials and finished products and reliably complying with the specified cadmium limit values.

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10. January 2022

Lactose-free products: important facts about food labelling

Lactose-free Milk

In order to advertise special products in the trade accordingly, manufacturers must comply with legal limit values

Lactose intolerance is one of the most common food intolerances worldwide. In Switzerland alone, every fifth person is affected. It has now been proven that almost all people become lactose intolerant in the course of their life and that they can no longer tolerate dairy products or tolerate them significantly worse. The reason: In order to process milk sugar (lactose) in the body, the enzyme lactase is required. Its production, however, declines with increasing adulthood. Because lactose is found in many products to improve consistency or as a carrier, the population comes into contact with it significantly more than in previous generations – an explanation for why the number of lactose intolerant people is increasing.

In contrast to cow’s milk allergy, in which the body reacts to the milk protein, the immune system is not involved in lactose intolerance; the body simply cannot process the milk sugar. Lactose intolerant people can therefore replace appropriate foods such as milk with lactose-free products if necessary. Grocery stores now offer a large selection of appropriately declared special products.

But when can dairy products be described as lactose-free? Who is responsible for correct food labeling and do all dairy products automatically contain lactose?

We have put together answers to some important questions about the legal requirements for manufacturers of food labeling.

Food labeling of packaged goods

The European Food Information Regulation regulates what information product packaging must contain. Among other things, it is important for manufacturers to list all ingredients according to their proportion of the total weight in descending order as well as all additives (emulsifiers, flavors).

Particularly strict rules apply to allergen labeling. It currently comprises 14 substances to which people may be allergic or oversensitive. In addition to milk, these include soy, wheat and peanuts. Allergenic ingredients must be clearly highlighted in the list of ingredients – for example in bold or capital letters. If a product contains milk or milk components, these must be explicitly named as such.

The labeling obligation for food also applies to operators of online shops who sell prepackaged food. All mandatory information about ingredients, allergens, etc. must be made available to the consumer before the purchase is made.

Limits for lactose-free products

Unprocessed products such as cow’s milk have the highest lactose content. In cheese, on the other hand, the milk sugar is only present in small quantities. In general, the longer a dairy product has matured, the less lactose it contains, as the lactose is broken down into its components during the maturation process. Milk chocolate, for example, still has a lactose content of around 13 percent, while cheeses such as Parmesan or Gouda usually have less than 0.1 percent lactose.

Food retailers now offers a variety of lactose-free products. In contrast to foods labeled as vegan, which are often based on plant-based milk alternatives such as soy, oats or almonds, lactose-free milk or yoghurt are also made from cow’s milk. The lactose contained is split into the building blocks glucose and galactose during the manufacturing process, which means that the products can be consumed by lactose intolerant people without any problems.

According to the ordinance of the Federal Department of the Interior (FDHA) on special foods, a food is considered to be lactose-free if the ready-to-eat product contains less than 0.1 g of lactose per 100 g or 100 ml. Only then can manufacturers advertise and declare their dairy products as lactose-free. Products such as hard cheese, which generally contain little or no lactose due to the long ripening time, can be described as “naturally lactose-free”.

Trace information on food packaging

Traces of lactose cannot be ruled out in many industrially manufactured products – a company often produces both lactose-free products and foods containing lactose. Mixing (contamination) can therefore occur during transport, storage or during the manufacturing process. According to food legislation, a so-called “may contain” (may contain milk, may contain traces of milk) must appear at the end of the list of ingredients be advised of unintentional mixing if the lactose content could exceed 1 gram per kilogram or liter of ready-to-eat food. Possible mixtures below this limit can be voluntarily shown with such a notice. In principle, manufacturers must be able to prove that all precautions have been taken to prevent contamination during production.

Reliable quality management through regular analyzes

The manufacturers themselves are responsible for ensuring that their products are correctly labeled, that all ingredients are identified and that they are entitled to use the “lactose-free” label. In order to meet the legal requirements, the food labels should be checked by professional service providers. Depending on the manufacturing process, special laboratories such as Biolytix rely on tailor-made analytics: Lactose-free testing of foods is offered for all work steps in the food manufacturing process – from the raw material to the end product and in addition to hygiene tests.

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16. November 2021

Christmas 2021: What you need to know for your planning and logistics

Weihnachten 2021: Öffnungszeiten

Christmas and the end of the year are fast approaching. Would you like to use our services during this time and have samples analyzed in the laboratory? – You’re welcome to! So that you can plan accordingly, we ask you to observe the following information on our sample submission and opening times.

Our laboratory will be open Monday through Friday the week before Christmas and after Christmas.

Note for the delivery of microbiological samples on Friday, 24.12.2021:

Food, drinking water and legionella samples can only be accepted until 12 noon.

Note for drinking water samples with result request before Christmas – Microbiology:

In order to guarantee result reports for drinking water analyses before Christmas, we need drinking water samples by Tuesday, December 22.

Note for GMO and allergen samples in express mode with result request before Christmas:

For express, next-day and superexpress samples, we can only guarantee a result before Christmas if the samples arrive at our laboratory in Witterswil by and including Thursday, December 23, 2021 by 12 noon!

From Monday, January 3, 2022 we will be back with normal opening hours for you!

Thank you for your understanding, we wish you happy holidays!

-Biolytix Team

5. November 2021

Legionella in the dental practice: Self-control through regular water analyzes

Legionellen in der Zahnarztpraxis – Selbstkontrolle durch regelmässige Wasseranalysen

The dentists’ water systems in Swiss dental practices are sometimes heavily contaminated with germs. The hygiene in the dental practice can be actively improved through water tests and hygiene management.

The water quality in dental treatment units: a topic that has been discussed for years because it is inadequate in many Swiss dental practices. Of over 260 samples from 21 dental practices in German-speaking Switzerland, almost 60 percent were heavily contaminated with germs last year. Many samples had values of tens to hundreds of thousands of colony forming units (CFU) per milliliter of water. For comparison: the legal upper limit of 300 CFU/ml applies to drinking water.

Since there are no binding legal standards, the dental practices themselves have to take action and establish reliable hygiene controls – for example through cooperation with independent analysis laboratories such as Biolytix. With “Dentalytix”, the laboratory for molecular biological and microbiological analysis has specialized in testing the quality of the water in dentist chairs and in comprehensive hygiene monitoring for dental practices and dental hygiene businesses.

Legionella in dental practices – dental units provide an ideal breeding ground

As so-called environmental germs, Legionella can be detected in almost all natural humid environments in mostly small quantities. On the other hand, artificial man-made water systems offers them best conditions to multiply extensively. The legionella concentration in the water is strongly dependent on temperature, the bacteria prefer values between 25 and 45 degrees Celsius. The numerous small tubes through which the fresh water runs within the dental equipment of a dental practice, form an ideal breeding ground for the Legionella pneumophila bacterium.

Dental treatment often results in minor injuries or larger wound areas in the oral cavity, through which various germs can get into the human bloodstream. In addition, the water is atomized into fine aerosols during dental treatment by rapidly rotating devices such as the drill. These aerosols are absorbed through the respiratory tract and are a frequent route of infection for the life-threatening Legionnaires’ disease. Lung disease caused by Legionella has increased in Switzerland in recent years.

In 2019, 582 cases of Legionnaires’ disease were recorded; five to ten percent of the diseases were fatal.

Comprehensive practice hygiene and regular water analyzes by independent laboratories

In response to the increasing number of diseases caused by Legionella, the FSVO, which is responsible for drinking water, set two maximum values for Legionella in water from sanitary facilities in 2017 – these are regulated in the food legislation.

However, there are no binding standards based on defined limit values – such as for the bacterial load in water systems in dental practices. Dental practices are also not obliged to test the water quality regularly. The problem of contaminated water in dentists’ chairs has been known for a long time and is not limited to Switzerland. In Germany, for example, Legionella was detected in every fourth dental chair in 2013 by the Hessian Center for Health Protection.

So what can practices do to improve water hygiene and thus protect the health of patients and practice employees? – In addition to the daily rinsing of the dental units for at least three minutes before starting work, the cooperation with independent analysis laboratories such as Biolytix serves to prove correct operation through regular water tests. The company offers comprehensive hygiene monitoring for dental practices and dental hygiene businesses. The professional cleaning of surfaces and devices as well as the water quality on the dentist’s chairs and the hygienic status of the hands of the staff are tested. The total number of germs can be reduced by taking appropriate measures.

At least once a year, the water in dental units should be microbiologically examined using water tests – embedded in a comprehensive hygiene plan for dental practices. As a long-term goal, the practice staff must be given guidelines that have long been used for the sterilization of practice devices, for example. Clear guidelines and checklists are required in order to document the tests of the water and therefore the water hygiene, to reduce the total number of germs in the future and to actively contribute to the prevention of Legionella diseases through reliable hygiene controls.

It is very important to adhere to the hygiene standards, especially during the corona pandemic. That is why we recommend regular hygiene checks! We are happy to answer any questions you may have.
Contact us!

20. November 2020

Biolytix: Opening hours over Christmas and New Year 2020

Schneeflocke

Our laboratories are only open on certain days during Christmas and New Year. Please note the adjusted dates for your planning and logistics:

Biolytix will be closed on the following days:

– Christmas: Friday, 25. December 2020
– New Year: Friday, 1. January 2021

Please note the following for sample delivery:

Drinking water samples before Christmas – Microbiology
To guarantee results before Christmas, we need drinking water samples by Monday, 21. December
Food, drinking water and legionella samples can be taken up to and including Thursday, 24. December until 12 noon.

GMO and allergen samples in express mode
For Express, Next-Day and Superexpress samples, we can only guarantee a result before Christmas if the samples arrive at our laboratory in Witterswil by and on Wednesday, 23. December 2020!

From Monday, 4. January 2021 we will be back with normal opening hours!

Thank you for your understanding, we wish you a Merry Christmas!

-Biolytix Team

21. October 2020

CertiQua awards quality label "very good" to the company Biolytix AG

Witterswil, 20. October 2020 – Biolytix AG from Witterswil has received the award “very good” from CertiQua – it is one of the top companies within its industry.

The CertiQua quality label only awards this distinction to companies that regularly receive top marks from their customers. CertiQua is an independent organization and ensures that the performance of the companies is evaluated based on real customer feedback. The survey focuses on the factors of adherence to delivery dates, competence, customer orientation and price-performance ratio.

“An excellent performance” emphasizes Caroline Roosens of CertiQua, “this proves that for Biolytix AG the satisfaction of its customers is the top priority”.
Even after the awarding of the label CertiQua continuously checks if the customers are still satisfied. Private and business customers are thus always informed about the best qualified companies.

Adrian Härri, CEO of Biolytix, is happy about the label: “This award shows us that we fulfill the wishes and needs of our customers and that our work is appreciated”.

The current rating of Biolytix can be viewed here:
Biolytix AG – CertiQua Firmendetails

About CertiQua

 

The independent evaluation portal CertiQua determines the customer and quality orientation of trade and service companies. Customers of these companies receive a unique link for each order, where they can rate the order fulfillment, competence, customer orientation, price-performance, etc. Companies that are continuously rated “very good” by their customers receive the CertiQua quality label. The awarded companies can be easily searched for by zip code on the CertiQua website. www.certiqua.ch

2. September 2020

Microbiological testing of hygiene masks according to ISO standards

Hygienemasken

Witterswil, 2. September 2020 – Hygiene masks are now an everyday product. However, masks of varying quality are found in circulation. This fact was also discovered on 1. September by the Swiss program “Kassensturz”.

If you would like to check whether your masks have been stored properly and whether the regulations according to ISO standards have been fulfilled by the producer, we are the right partner.

For medical protective masks of type II, a test of the germ content according to EN14683 with examination of the microbiological purity according to ISO11737-1 is required for official marketing. The test according to ISO 11737 also determines the presence of mould and fungi.

We can offer the following analyses: Microbiological purity (bioburden) according to ISO11737-1

An identification of morphologically different moulds can then be carried out using mass spectroscopy (MALDI-TOF-MS/MS). A classification of the pathogenic potential for the detected moulds is also possible afterwards.

Further analyses:
– Bacterial filter performance according to EN14683 Appendix B
– Determination of breathability (differential pressure) according to EN14683 Annex C
– Testing against penetration/ splash protection according to ISO22609
– Biocompatibility test for medical devices: Cytotoxicity test according to ISO10993-5

 
 

Quelle:
– Kassensturz – Hygienemasken vom 2. Sept 2020 (in German)- https://srf.ch/play/tv/redirect/detail/359852c4-4410-4984-b88f-741fb6a774a6
Photo by Noah on Unsplash
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15. July 2020

Coronavirus Health Monitoring for Employees and Companies an important component of personnel hygiene concept

Coronavirus

Witterswil, 15 July 2020 – Since mid-June 2020 many measures to combat the new coronavirus in Switzerland have been relaxed by the Federal Council, but a residual risk still remains.

The restrictions and additionally implemented hygiene rules required process adjustments in many companies. The individual rules of conduct as well as the absence of numerous customer visits have changed the daily business routine for many companies.

With the notification dated 24. June 2020, the federal government, based on the updated sampling strategy of the FOPH, assumes the costs of molecular biological and serological analyses performed on an outpatient basis and related services for SARS-CoV-2 for persons who meet the suspicion, sampling and notification criteria of the FOPH dated June 24, 2020.

Unfortunately for many companies and enterprises the criteria of the FOPH are not fulfilled, but the daily business must continue nevertheless; Biolytix has put together a special offer for exactly these affected companies.

Companies that want to combine preventive corona measures with a systematic and pragmatic monitoring of their employees can contact us. This ensures not only the safety of the employees, but also the general process safety of the company.

Example of a Possible Monitoring Process

We examine your throat swab samples, which are taken by your company physician, for SARS-CoV-2 using molecular biological methods and thus detect acute infections or potential virus excretion.

In addition, we can also test blood samples taken by your in-house medical team for specific SARS-CoV-2 IgG and IgM antibodies. These indicate survived infections and thus a possible existing immunity.

We would be pleased to prepare a customer-specific offer for the systematic testing of your employees.

BAG_Coverage Analyses for SARS-CoV-2
Photo by CDC on Unsplash
Please contact us.

1. July 2020

GobiX GmbH and Biolytix AG join forces to deliver turn-key CE-certified COVID-19 test kit production systems

Biolytix_Gobix

Enabling independent onsite production of test kits anywhere and on demand

Baar, Switzerland – 30 June 2020 – GobiX GmbH, a MedTech start-up, and Biolytix AG, an ISO 17025-accredited service laboratory based in Switzerland, announce their partnership to address the global shortage of COVID-19 test kits.  This initiative is empowered by Formlabs, a leading 3D printing company.  The partnership will allow GobiX GmbH to quickly provide COVID-19 nasal testing swabs, virus-deactivating and conserving lysis buffer for fluid collection and knowledge transfer to ramp up independent testing facilities anywhere in the world where they are needed.

The multi-disciplinary team of experts from GobiX GmbH and Biolytix AG quickly came together in Switzerland following a shortage of COVID-19 test kits – particularly the nasopharyngeal (NP) swabs – during the peak of the outbreak in Switzerland in March.  In less than a month, Switzerland had sufficient means and know-how to produce its own test kits to cover the testing of people with COVID-19 symptoms.

The swabs and viral-collection fluid normally used in Switzerland prior to the COVID-19 crisis were produced in other countries, leaving Switzerland vulnerable to supply chain disruption. Because of global shortage, and in order to be independent of international supply chains, the Surgeon General of the Swiss Armed Forces, responsible for coordinating preparations and the deployment of Swiss public health resources in special and exceptional situations, launched a collaborative effort to develop production inside Swiss borders.

Thanks to swift collaboration between the Swiss Armed Forces, GobiX GmbH, its partner Biolytix AG, and volunteer healthcare experts, Switzerland now has a COVID-19 test production chain enabled by Formlabs 3D printing technology within its borders that was put in place in less than a month.

During this time, GobiX GmbH applied its medical and engineering expertise, and tapped into its network to create a scalable, fast system for swab and transportation fluid production. The swab design – developed by GobiX GmbH co-founder Patrice Gobat, a mechanical engineer and 3D printing expert from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (ETH) – can be printed at scale on demand, with each office-printer sized printer having a capacity of up to several hundred swabs per day.

Physician and GobiX GmbH co-founder, Michel Bielecki, said that who lead the prototyping and deployment of the solution, said, “Two of the big problems with COVID-19 testing are 1 –  the availability of testing kits because we rely on external production and 2 –  accuracy and comfort since the use of a cotton swab, currently widely-used due to no other options, can be very unpleasant and is highly inaccurate for diagnostic purposes. Our solution doesn’t completely solve the shortage, but it ensures that we have an efficient and comfortable swab and can bypass short-term shortages during times when timing is crucial.”

The swabs, designed by GobiX during the first Swiss COVID-19 outbreak in Ticino, Switzerland, and clinically-tested by a team of ten doctors and medical laboratory analysts for collection efficiency, testing ease, and patient comfort, are CE-certified as a Medical class I device and in full production.  GobiX GmbH produces and packages the swabs for distribution among test locations across the country.

Adrian Härri, CEO, Biolytix AG, said, “Today, the key to fighting COVID-19 is simply identifying those who are infected as early as possible.  This is the motivation behind our collaboration with GobiX and Formlabs – we are teaming to address the critical need for tools and equipment needed to safely collect and transport viral samples.  One of the big challenges is getting the test samples to the analysis facility, without the risks involved of transporting a pathogenic virus.  Our sample collection fluid deactivates the virus upon contact, preserves the viral RNA for up to four days and does not require cooled transportation – greatly facilitating testing in remote locations and the safety of anybody involved.  Additionally, comparative tests have shown that the 3D printed swabs yield a higher amount of RNA, compared to its traditional counterparts, significantly improving the accuracy of the real-time PCR tests. We are extremely proud that our solution will contribute to accurate testing during this global crisis.”

Stefan Holländer, General Manager of Formlabs EMEA, explained, A single Form 3B printer can produce hundreds of swabs a day using our Surgical Guide resin, a certified biocompatible Class 1 material. The Form 3B printer enables fast, localized production of critical tools needed to support healthcare workers on the frontline of the COVID-19 pandemic. We are delighted that 3D printed swabs by GobiX GmbH in Switzerland have now become a segue to expand COVID-19 testing to save lives in hard-hit areas, around the world, quickly and economically.”

GobiX GmbH is now spearheading a partnership with Inqaba Biotechnical Industries (Pty) Ltd to distribute swab production systems throughout sub-Saharan Africa. Dr Oliver PreisigExecutive Director of Inqaba Biotechnical Industries (Pty) Ltd, explained, “All of the African continent is impacted by the shortage of COVID-19 test components, compounded by border closing. We have a unique ability to make widespread testing possible throughout Africa thanks to this strategic partnership with GobiX GmbH for the swab production systems and our own infrastructure with offices in Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, Senegal and Tanzania and staff in Namibia, Uganda, Cameroon, Mali and Zimbabwe. This unique network for a life science company is currently essential to support the COVID-19 testing efforts in sub-Saharan Africa as we have team members in each of these countries. We are poised to implement the swab production system immediately and without delay, get people tested and help control the pandemic.”

Prof. Patricia Schlagenhauf, Co-Director of the WHO Collaborating Centre for Travellers’ Health, at the University of Zurich (UZH) and COVID-19 research collaborator with GobiX co-founder M. Bielecki, said “Having access to tests and test kits is so important especially in resource limited, vulnerable countries. Without tests, developing countries will not be able to monitor and control the spread of COVID-19.”

Press Release (EN)

2. June 2020

Food Supplements Purity Testing in NMN and Heavy Metal Screening

Nahrungsergänzu

Swiss law defines dietary supplements as foodstuffs intended to supplement the normal diet. They consist of single or multiple concentrates of vitamins, minerals, or other substances with a nutritional or physiological effect and are marketed in dose form.

The law also makes a distinction between dietary supplements (for example low dose vitamin products and enriched foodstuffs) and medicinal products (for example high dose vitamin products and their claims of medicinal effects).

Many food supplements, nutritional additives and other non-regulated dietary supplements go through cycles of popularity. Biolytix observes these cycles through the different customer requests it gets. One particularly common question is to verify the purity content of Nicotinamide Mononucleotide or NMN.

Nicotinamide Mononucleotide (NMN) is often sold through internet marketplaces, with promises to slow down the pace of ageing and claims to promote a longer life. Because of high demand and cost of this compound, it seems that some untrustworthy companies have begun selling fake NMN supplements.

 

Testing Purity of NMN and the absence of Heavy Metals

 

We offer NMN purity analysis and strongly suggest to also test for heavy metals, to make sure that the product contains what it promises.

  • Nicotinamide mononucleotide Analysis (HPLC-MS/MS)
  • Heavy Metal Screening

We analyze the following elements:

 

AluminiumManganese
AntimonyMolybdenum
ArsenicSodium
BariumNickel
BerylliumPhosphorus
BismuthPlatinum
LeadMercury
BoronRhodium
CadmiumSelenium
CalciumSilver
CaesiumStrontium
ChromiumThallium
IronThorium
GalliumTitanium
GoldUranium
PotassiumVanadium
CobaltTungsten
CopperZinc
LanthanumTin
LithiumZirconium
Magnesium

 

Disclaimer / Sources
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24. April 2020

Biolytix: Opening hours over 1 May - Swiss Labor Day

Our laboratories will be closed on 1. May 2020 – Labor Day. Please note the adjusted dates for your planning and logistics:

Water and food samples – Microbiology
In order to guarantee results Labor Day, we require drinking water and food samples by Monday, 27 April 2020 until 12:00 noon:

Water samples to test for drinking water hygiene:
– Samples received Monday, 27. April 2020 -> Analysis report 30. April 2020
– Samples received from Tuesday, 28. April – 30 April 2020 -> Analysis report 4. May 2020

Sampling Water – Microbiology
Water samples for testing for drinking water hygiene and legionella can be accepted in the week of the 27. April until Thursday 30th April at 15:00.

Allergen and GMO samples
Friday, 1. May 2020: no reception, analysis and processing of EXPRESS and NEXT-DAY samples

From Monday, 4 May 2020 we will be back with normal opening hours!

Thank you for your understanding and stay healthy!

-Biolytix Team

6. April 2020

Opening hours over Easter holidays 2020

Due to the Easter holidays Biolytix AG will be closed on Friday, 10 April 2020 and on Monday, 13 April 2020.

For your planning and logistics we therefore ask you to observe the following information:

Microbiology – water and food samples 
Please note that in week 15 (before Easter) we can only accept drinking water and Legionella samples until Thursday, 9 April 2020 at 16:00 for the corresponding analyses.

Microbiological results will be available for completed orders from Tuesday, April 14, 2020.

Express: Allergen food samples, as well as feed and seed samples
24-hour express: If samples are received by Wednesday, 8 April 2020, the result can be guaranteed on Thursday, 9 April 2020

8 hours super express: If samples are received by Thursday, April 9, 2020 by 11:00 a.m., the result can be guaranteed on Thursday, April 9, 2020 in the evening.

From Tuesday 14 April 2020 we will be back with normal opening hours!

Summary
Biolytix is closed on the following days:
– Friday, 10 April 2020 Good Friday
– Monday, 13 April 2020 Easter Monday

18. March 2020

Coronavirus / Covid-19 Biolytix is open and continues to analyze

Biolytix AG remains open and offers its services as usual. We do not expect any significant delays.

Contact us!

20. November 2019

Biolytix AG can detect Xylella fastidiosa and produces kits on request

Xylella in Olive tree in South italy

Xylella fastidiosa causes major damage to cultivated plants in Europe, especially in Italy, Spain and France
– Real-time PCR analysis kits for Xylella fastidiosa available on request

Witterswil, 20 November 2019 – Xylella fastidiosa, a vector-transmitted bacterial plant pathogen, is currently causing major problems in parts of Europe. Xylella fastidiosa was first detected on olive trees in southern Italy in Europe in 2013. Since then, the pathogenic bacterium has also been reported in France, Spain and Germany.

In Salento in southern Italy, the pathogenic bacterium has led to the so-called “Olive Quick-Down Syndrome” (OQDS), which results in the death of the leaves and branches of the olive tree, so that the trees can no longer produce olive plants.

“Plant pathogens such as Xylella fastidiosa can have serious effects on the economy of entire regions, especially if the disease is transmitted to important crops,” says Dr. Ralf Seyfarth, CSO of Biolytix.

The speed and presentation of symptoms on the plant depends very much on the following factors: host plant species, the level of bacterial inoculum, the subspecies involved and even the specific recombinations within the same or different subspecies as well as climatic conditions. (see Agroscope Fact Sheet (in German): Das Feuerbakterium – Xylella fastidiosa)

Thanks to our team of dedicated scientists, we are able to offer an analytical method for the detection of Xylella fastidiosa. If Xylella is suspected and you want to make sure that it is not Xylella fastidiosa – contact us!

For analytical laboratories and institutes: We also manufacture Xylella fastidiosa real-time PCR analysis kits for all common PCR devices.

Contact us!
Sources:
  • https://www.blw.admin.ch/blw/en/home/nachhaltige-produktion/pflanzenschutz/pflanzengesundheit-eidg-pflanzenschutzdienst/schutz-vor-besonders-gefaehrlichen-schadorganismen/xylella-fastidiosa.html
  • https://www.researchgate.net/figure/Xylella-fastidiosa-the-causal-agent-of-Pierces-and-other-diseases-Credits-Dr_fig1_237746731
  • https://ec.europa.eu/food/plant/plant_health_biosecurity/legislation/emergency_measures/xylella-fastidiosa_en
  • https://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/topics/topic/xylella-fastidiosa
  • http://www.confor.org.uk/media/246789/9-things-you-need-to-know-about-x-fastidiosa.pdf

7. December 2018

Death of Board Member Prof. Dr. Oreste Ghisalba

The management and board of directors of Biolytix have the painful duty to inform that Prof. Dr. Oreste Ghisalba, founding member of Biolytix, board member and longtime friend, unexpectedly died on 4. December 2018 at the age of 72.

The entire Biolytix team express their sincere condolences to Oreste’s wife and family.

With Oreste Ghisalba we lost a good friend and competent colleagues. His many years of experience and his network have shaped the Biolytix from the beginning and were essential for the success of the company.

The board of directors will announce Oreste’s replacement in due course.

18. October 2018

Accumulation of listeriosis cases in Switzerland

– Federal Office of Public Health informs: Unexplained accumulation of listeriosis cases
– Listeriosis is caused by the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes
– Biolytix routinely analyzes foods for Listeria monocytogenes

Witterswil, 18 October 2018 – Since mid-2018, the weekly statistics of the Swiss Federal Office of Public Health have shown an unusual increase in listeriosis cases. The bacterium Listeria monocytogenes is found almost everywhere in the environment and can lead to listeriosis in humans.

Transmission takes place through the consumption of contaminated food. Listeriosis is a rare infectious disease, but it can have severe consequences in immunocompromised individuals. In women who become infected with Listeria during pregnancy, it can also lead to infection of the child.

The sources of infection are animal foods such as meat, sausages, fish, raw milk and dairy products (e.g., soft cheeses), but also vegetable foods (e.g., precut salads or fruits).

Biolytix routinely analyzes various foods for Listeria monocytogenes and can offer qualitative and quantitative test methods.

The result is available within 3-4 days. If interested, send us your food samples using the order form attached below.

Detection of Listeria monocytogenes

Method:
real-time PCR, after enrichment acc. EN / ISO 11290-1, qualitative
Duration: 3-4 days
Analysis code: Lmo

Method:
Germ count according to EN / ISO 11290-2, quantitative
Duration: 3-4 days
Analysis code: Lmo quant

(Source in german: BAG Bulletin 42/18: https://www.bag.admin.ch/bag/de/home/das-bag/aktuell/news/bag-bulletin.html)

Other microorganism analyses.

2. July 2018

Biolytix AG celebrates its 20th anniversary with a new logo, new website and new projects

– Anniversary celebration in the Technology Center Witterswil with over 100 invited guests
– New logo, new website, new customer portal – were unveiled and presented at the anniversary
– Speeches by Christoph Keigel (President of the Board – Biolytix AG), Dr. Remo Ankli (Kanton Solothurn Governing Council) and Adrian Härri (Founder and CEO Biolytix AG).

Witterswil, 2 July 2018 – Biolytix AG celebrated its 20th anniversary at the Technology Center Witterswil on June 29, 2018 with a big party. The service laboratory for molecular and microbiological analyzes has made a name for itself nationally and internationally over the past two decades and was able to thank over 100 international invited guests for their trust and loyalty.

What began twenty years ago with two employees and an idea is today a company with over 20 employees. In order to reflect the innovative progress of recent years in the appearance, Biolytix unveiled their new brand at the festival in front of gathered audience.

«The new appearance of Biolytix transports the old logo into a new and digital world. It stands for the digitization and modernization of the company, “says Adrian Härri, CEO and founder of Biolytix.

At the same time, the Biolytix website was re-launched with the new brand and a new customer portal was announced for the customers. The new customer portal will be presented to selected customers for the first time in the third quarter of 2018 and should significantly facilitate and improve data transfer and communication.

Christoph Keigel, President of the Board of Biolytix AG, highlighted in his address various bright spots of the last 20 years of Biolytix and thanked the management and the employees.

Dr. Remo Ankli, Kanton Solothurn governing councilor for education and culture, was able to underline the importance of the SME role in the Swiss economy.

Media requests to:

Marco Ferraro
+41 61 725 20 70
marco.ferraro@biolytix.ch

13. June 2018

Ethoxyquin in Fish Feed

Ethoxyquin in Fisch

Ethoxyquin is a Antioxidant that delays the oxidation of lipophilic Vitamins (Carotine, Xanthophylle, Vitamin A und Vitamin E). It was widely used for the preservation of fishmeal (especially feed for fish farms). Prior to its ban as a plant protection product, ethoxyquin was also used as a post-harvest treatment against tan in apples and pears.

In June 2017 the European commission has formally suspended the authorization for the antioxidant ethoxyquin (EQ) as a feed additive with the publication of Regulation (EU) 2017/962.

Biolytix can help check the Ethoxyquin values in fish feed and fish meat. The detection limits are extremely sensitive (µg/kg = parts per billion).

Detection Limits

Ethoxyquin + Ethoxyquin-Dimer: 10 µg/kg
BHA (Butylhydroxyanisol / E320):  10 µg/kg
BHT (Butylhydroxytoluol / E321):  10 µg/kg

(Source: https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=uriserv%3AOJ.L_.2017.145.01.0013.01.ENG)

Contact us today to get a quote!

24. May 2018

Arsenic found in soil of municipality of Liesberg

Arsen Analyse

According to a newspaper article in the Basellandschaftliche Zeitung, arsenic was found in the soil in the municipality of Liesberg.

The authorities warn against eating and growing vegetables in the affected areas.

“Unfortunately, it often happens that we find harmful substances in everyday life.” says CEO Adrian Härri, “We can provide certainty with our analyzes.”

We support in soil analysis. If you want to analyze your soil (for example, earth, sand, mud, ..), or even vegetables or fruits, send us 10 gram. You will receive the result in 2-5 working days. The cost is CHF 60 (excluding VAT).

Offer is valid until the end of June 2018.

(Source: https://www.bzbasel.ch/basel/baselbiet/arsen-in-boeden-von-liesberg-verzicht-auf-gemueseanbau-empfohlen-132600705)

Contact us today!

26. April 2018

Spring is here, time to tidy the allotment garden

Schrebergarten

Spring is here and summer is around the corner. Time to clean up the allotment garden and sow the first salad and carrots.

However, caution should be exercised when applying pesticides. In Switzerland, up to 200 tonnes of pesticides are used annually for private purposes.

“We have often measured elevated pesticide levels in regional gardens.” says CEO Adrian Härri, “Unfortunately, hobby gardeners are often unaware of how many pollutants are in their soil.”

Biolytix analyzes the vegetables and soil for pesticides and heavy metals (lead, cadmium, copper and zinc) to make sure that the hard-working vegetables can be enjoyed without worry.

(Source in German: www.zeit.de/2018/16/schrebergaerten-schweiz-umweltschutz)

Contact us today!

13. April 2018

Dentalytix - Now part of Biolytix

Dentalytix - Now part of Biolytix

We are pleased to announce that on 1 April 2018 the Dentalytix business of Prochema AG, Allschwil, was handed over to Biolytix AG.

As a regional ISO17025 accredited service laboratory, Biolytix has established itself in the field of molecular and microbiology analyses in Switzerland over the last 20 years. Especially in hygiene control and monitoring, Biolytix has a lot of experience.

“Dentalytix was professionally managed and built by Prochema. We are pleased to continue the good work and expand the range of services for our customers” said Adrian Härri, CEO.

In the future, we look forward to offering hygiene monitoring in dental surgeries under the Dentalytix name. We not only offer the monitoring of surfaces and equipment hygiene, but also test the water quality and the hygiene status of the staff’s hands.

7. December 2017

"Traces of poison in organic salmon" Biolytix Quoted in Tages-Anzeiger

Adrian Härri, head of Biolytix, a company that conducts molecular biological and microbiological analyzes, repeatedly proves the poison in biofish.

“We have never had a sample that did not contain ethoxyquin,” says Härri. Anyone who thinks that the organic salmon is free of pesticides is wrong. “In fact, consumers are misled with the organic label,” says Härri.

Read full article

11. May 2017

GMO petunia on the European market!

Evira (Finnish food safety authority) has published on their web page on April 27th, 2017, that genetic engineering changes could be detected in petunia. These were petunias with orange-colored flowers which are merchandised in Finland under the trade names Pegasus Orange Morn, Pegasus Orange, Pegasus Table Orange, Potunia Plus Papaya, Go!Tunia Orange, Bonnie Orange, Sanguna Patio Salmon and Sanguna Salmon.

Biolytix AG is now able to carry out appropriate analyses for testing for GMO petunias in its ISO 17025 accredited laboratory. All it takes is 10 g of plant material. In addition to plant parts, seed can also be examined to determine whether the corresponding GMO markers are detectable. The analysis is carried out in 2-5 working days for 162 CHF. Express analyses are possible upon agreement within 24 hours or within 8 hours as a super express analysis.

Offer is valid until end of December 2017

Contact us with Questions.

14. January 2016

Bacteria: Biolytix in SRF 1 "Einstein"

Einstein Biolytix Video

On 14 January 2016 Biolytix was invited to be part of the television program Einstein as a bacteria expert. (Biolytix appearance at 04:34)

Go to the Video

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