Scientists have come up with a fast, inexpensive dipstick test which can identify traces of pesticides in food and beverages.

Their paper-strip test is more practical than conventional tests, producing results within minutes rather than hours by means of an easy-to-read colour-change, the scientists said.

John D. Brennan, chemist and chemical biologist at McMaster University in Canada who conducted the research with colleagues, noted that existing tests for detecting pesticides rely on expensive and complex equipment, taking hours to produce results.

The test strips, which produced results in less than five minutes, could be particularly useful in developing countries or remote areas that may lack access to expensive testing equipment and electricity, an American Chemical Society (ACS) release said.

These findings were published in the November issue of the ACS journal Analytical Chemistry.