MRI Food Testing - cheese

MN Impact: Utilizing NMR and MRI Techniques in Food Safety Testing

November 22, 2014

The Issue

Consumers demand safer, healthier and higher quality food products. To satisfy those expectations, food scientists and engineers must be able to understand the problems caused to food products by processing and storage and develop solutions.

Nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) based methods are unique because they are non-destructive, non-invasive and fast compared with conventional food safety tests.

What Has Been Done?

Researchers studied NMR and MRI based techniques to characterize and evaluate the shelf stability of food products as affected by formulation, processing and storage conditions. This has led them to develop NMR/MRI based nano-particle sensor method for rapid detection of food-borne pathogens. This method will allow the identification of food-borne pathogen sources during processing and distribution in minutes to hours instead of days.


The benefits of prompt detection and corrective actions to producers, processors, distributors, regulators and consumers are enormous. Conventional detection methods involve multiple time-consuming and labor-intensive steps due to the difficulties in isolating the pathogens from the food and the fact that pathogens are usually present in extremely low numbers.

The new methodology combines nanotechnology, immunology, microbiology and advanced NMR/MRI techniques. It represents a new approach to a complex problem.

Yun Li placing food in MRI.

Yun Li with MRI used to analyze food products.