Measuring endotoxins level in food and environnement
Food and water represent optimal conditions for bacterial development. While most bacteria do not represent any major threat to Man, the dangerous nature of some of them requires keeping an eye on what we are eating, but also what kind of product we give back to nature.
When one talks about the toxicity of a bacterium, the dangerousness of its endotoxins is often mentioned, and most of the time there is a mix-up with lipopolysaccharides (LPS). It is therefore important to know that not all lipopolysaccharides are a threat to health. In fact, many of them are not toxic.
A good example is with E. coli, which is probably the most common bacterium. Everyone has millions of them in his gut microbiota, and there are absolutely no side effects to that. But in some cases, E. coli can present a danger; due to the presence of toxic lipopolysaccharides on the outer membrane of the bacteria, which vary according to serotype. For example, you could easily see a headline of a food poisoning incident involving Shiga-toxin producing (enterohemorrhagic) E. coli O157:H7. This serotype is responsible for the major cause of severe gastrointestinal disease in industrialized countries and a major public health problem.
So, the key is not to rule out all bacteria, but to be able to identify which ones are safe and which ones are not by analyzing their LPS structures. Thus, the safety level could be determined before engaging a potential removal.
Determine the endotoxin content in food & beverages
Food safety is a priority, regulated by the EFSA in the European Union. Thus, determining the endotoxin content of foods is a priority of the quality controls. It is not so much about whether food contains endotoxins or not, but rather to know if any of them can be dangerous if consumed. In this regard, providing the endotoxin content of foods is a must.
As a mapping of hazards in food, endotoxins detection can help to instantly identify food poisoning risks and take proactive steps to address the issue. Of course, water and beverages fall into the same category in terms of safety issues, and similar control procedures must be defined and applied, although LPS monitoring, and control are simpler in this category. Whether it comes from the raw material or from contamination in the production process, it is important to keep the endotoxins under control.
Resolve exogenous or endogenous contamination exposure
As mentioned earlier, the nature and quantity of endotoxins are important for food safety, but also for the environment. Effluents from industrial sites can be a potential source of endotoxins pollution for a nearby river or field, which can turn into a dangerous situation for humans and wildlife.
Also, airborne endotoxins can play a role as exogenous contaminants in the process. Therefore, controlled air environments are most often favored. Whether it is the final product that is contaminated, or the bioproducts/reagents/raw materials that end up in the process effluent, it is important to regularly monitor the production lines to ensure that no unwanted endotoxins are released into the production process.
These contaminations occur regularly, such as residual endotoxins stuck in filtration systems (in heparin columns, for example) which might lead to cross contamination with your final product. Sometimes neither high temperatures nor lasers are sufficient to remove these residual endotoxins. It is also necessary to distinguish between residual lipopolysaccharides from contaminations and potential endotoxins of interest in the product.
From both a safety and regulatory perspective, exposure to contamination can be a major issue. Identifying the nature of endotoxins at different stages of the process can help locate the source of the contamination and provide the appropriate information to resolve the problem.