Nuts & Bolts: laboratory testing and analysis

by Teresa Acklin
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Objective speck counting

    In 1996, Maztech developed the SPX, an automated speck counting instrument using a novel image analysis approach. The SPX is driven by Maztech's ScanPro Xpert software, which acquires, analyzes and enumerates specks by gray level and particle size. Custom sample holders designed for semolina compression are filled and placed in the special sample drawer. The semolina image is processed, specks counted and results displayed in less than 1 minute.

   The SPX is calibrated to the primary method — the expert human counter. Gray level settings for black and brown specks as well as particle size minimums and maximums are defined by the human counter. After adjusting the settings to match the expert counter, colored overlays in preview highlight the counted specks for easy reference.

   After settings are adjusted and saved, data files are named and associated with a specific settings file. The SPX is ready to count and can accommodate six sample holders in sequence (equivalent to 624 square centimeters). Results can be added or averaged by count only or by count per square area (inches or centimeters). Image display is optional. Results are text file formatted (*.txt) and imported into spreadsheets or databases.

   The SPX was designed to replace the current manual method of speck counting which is subjective, tedious and inconsistent. The benefits of the SPX to millers and food manufacturers are listed in the accompanying table. The SPX can quantify specks in such diverse products as maize grits and maize starch as well as in semolina. New applications include bran in flour, specks in noodles and in other dried and powdered ingredients.

   Maztech MicroVision Ltd., 1051 Baxter Road, Ottawa, Ontario, K2C 3P1, Canada.

    Tel: 613-596-5775.

   Fax: 613-596-5211.



Automated, rapid, desktop unit plugs into PC

   Trained by staff experts, password protected

   Objective counts based on 256 gray levels

   Uses Pentium PC and Windows 95 or NT

   24-hour operation

   Uses patent-pending digital technology

   Permanent record of results

   SPX hardware and ScanPro Xpert software


Saves time and resources, easy to use and maintain

   One-time set-up for each product, in-house control

   Eliminates inconsistencies and uncertainties

   Readily available and affordable

   Available at all times

   Proprietary and proven technology

   Spreadsheet and database accessible

   Maztech manufactured, warrantied and supported

Mycotoxin detection

   Combining the distinct advantages of portability, versatility, and cost effectiveness, VICAM has introduced the MF-2000 Mini Fluorometer, an instrument for the detection of mycotoxins. Currently available at the low introductory price of U.S.$1,295, the MF-2000 Mini Fluorometer offers the reliance of VICAM's proven affinity column chromatography with less capital investment in start-up equipment. The unit's portable test format affords users the coveted freedom of reliable testing wherever needed.

   The MF-2000 is an accurate, fully functional, limited feature fluorometer capable of running all of VICAM's mycotoxin tests with quantitative or semi-quantitative results. Purposefully crafted to offer only essential features, the MF-2000 offers quantification with a minimized initial capital outlay.

   Previously in the mycotoxin testing arena, there were only two major options: feature-rich, high priced fluorometry or subjective, low cost screening technology. Now VICAM has introduced a very viable third option.

   By not incorporating features such as printing or data storage found in comprehensive fluorometry, the MF-2000 offers a basic approach to quantitative mycotoxin detection. Thus, for customers in need of a lower cost alternative to comprehensive fluorometry but desirous of more reliability and less subjectivity of a screening test, the MF-2000 is the perfect pick.

   The MF-2000 has a small footprint, which saves bench space, as well as a battery pack, which makes it portable. Adding to its portability, the MF-2000 can operate on voltage supplied by a cigarette lighter.

   With the MF-2000, VICAM's affinity columns will be used in the identical manner as in the past, except instead of placing the sample in the Series-4 for measurement, the sample is simply placed in the MF-2000. The display contains a row of lights with a test-specific template that serves as an overlay. The unit will take the measurement and display a result by the light corresponding to the number on the template.

   VICAM markets rapid test kits for the detection of pathogens and agricultural toxins in food, feed and beverages and tests to detect listeria and salmonella. VICAM's products are distributed throughout 65 countries.

   VICAM, 313 Pleasant Street, Watertown, Massachusetts 02172,

   U.S. Tel: 800-338-4381, 617-926-7045.

   Fax: 617-923-8055.

   World Wide Web site: