3.4 Enabling tools for the monitoring of food quality in the Northern environment
Collaborators outside U. Laval
The health benefits of country foods from the land, the rivers and the sea as well as the harmful effects of contaminants that may be found in some of them are well documented in Nunavik. However, important aspects of country foods necessitate further study at community level. For example, contaminant levels in lake trout may change from one fish to another depending on location, age and size. A transdisciplinary team gathering U. Laval experts in analytical chemistry, photonic materials, engineering and instrument design, microfluidics, toxicology, psychology and public health, in collaboration with the Nunavik Research Centre, will develop a portable analysis platform for in-the-field testing of various metal contaminants and essential nutrients in country foods. In a second step, partnering with the Nunavik Regional Board of Health and Social Services, we will develop a knowledge user tool to support decision making for local community members and health professionals about the quality of foods in their community. The analysed chemical species will be mercury and lead. The platform will be designed to automatically handle all fluid mixing, optical readout and data logging, making it a user-friendly apparatus, easily operated by untrained personnel. This will be achieved by integrating species-selective capture and chemosensitive photonic materials in microfluidic devices for which the design will have been optimized. The platform and decision making tools will be field-tested and improved upon feedbacks from local community organisations. Fostering local capacities with respect to food analysis and improving access to local information about food quality will enhance Inuit autonomy with respect to food choices and the benefits and safety of their foods and, in the longer term, help to improve food security, health and well-being in Nunavik.