In current industrial environments there is an increasing need for practical and inexpensive quality control systems to detect the foreign food materials in powder food processing lines. This demand is especially important for the detection of product adulteration with traces of highly allergenic products, such as peanuts and tree nuts. Manufacturing industries dealing with the processing of multiple powder food products present a substantial risk for the contamination of powder foods with traces of tree nuts and other adulterants, which might result in unintentional ingestion of nuts by the sensitised population. Hence, the need for an in-line system to detect nut traces at the early stages of food manufacturing is of crucial importance. In this present work, a feasibility study of a spectral index for revealing adulteration of tree nut and peanut traces in wheat flour samples with hyperspectral images is reported. The main nuts responsible for allergenic reactions considered in this work were peanut, hazelnut and walnut. Enhanced contrast between nuts and wheat flour was obtained after the application of the index. Furthermore, the segmentation of these images by selecting different thresholds for different nut and flour mixtures allowed the identification of nut traces in the samples. Pixels identified as nuts were counted and compared with the actual percentage of peanut adulteration. As a result, the multispectral system was able to detect and provide good visualisation of tree nut and peanut trace levels down to 0.01% by weight. In this context, multispectral imaging could operate in conjuction with chemical procedures, such as Real Time Polymerase Chain Reaction and Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay to save time, money and skilled labour on product quality control. This approach could enable not only a few selected samples to be assessed but also to extensively incorporate quality control surveyance on product processing lines.
Keywords: hyperspectral, multispectral, near infrared (NIR), index, chemometrics, nuts, allergy, adulteration