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New way to find contaminants in meat.

New way to find contaminants in meat

When certain gases such as carbon dioxide are heated and compressed to densities that resemble liquids, they become "supercritical fluids" and suddenly assume the properties of solvents. Jerry King and his co-workers at the Agriculture Department's Northern Regional Research Center in Peoria, Ill., are adapting supercritical carbon dioxide to dissolve the fat out of meats--and with that fat any pesticides and drugs (such as antibiotics) that may be stored there. Because the method removes all available fat, it's not a technique for decontaminating foods that will be eaten. Instead, researchers envision it as a way for safety analysts to identify contamination when making random inspections of meats.

In tests conducted over the past several months, King pressurized carbon dioxide to between 5,000 and 10,000 pounds per square inch and passed it through samples of lard and ham that had been spiked with pesticides. One to two hours later, the supercritical fluid exited. As it depressurized back into a regular gas, microdroplets of the fat and chemical contaminants rained out, to be collected and quantified.

This process removed nearly 100 percent of the pesticides (lindane, endrin, heptachlor, TDE and dieldrin) present. King says the technique is about three times faster than extraction using conventional solvents and is potentially less costly and more effective at penetrating relatively low-fat meat products such as ham. Unlike chemical solvents, it poses no disposal hazard after use. Moreover, King says, this supercritical extraction is nontoxic--a major reason his agency asked him to explore the technology.
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Publication:Science News
Date:Jul 23, 1988
Words:258
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