New test to detect E. coli in food quickly
Toronto : Researchers have developed a novel testing kit that can detect Escherichia coli (E.coli) -- a deadly pathogen -- much more quickly than existing methods.
The kit detects E. coli 0157, commonly found in ground meat, and is considered more likely to cause severe illnesses than other forms of the bacteria.
The test detects a protein unique to the pathogenic E. coli bacteria and shows results in hours rather than days.
"Our goal is to get the testing to occur as close as possible to the source," Michael Rieder, Professor at the University of Western Ontario in Canada, said in a statement on Friday.
"This technology is not only faster, but it's less expensive, it's easy to use, and it can occur right in the processing plant."
Food samples to be tested are incubated for a few hours. A sample is then placed on a pad. After 15 minutes, the pad displays one red line to show it worked properly - and a second if the sample contains E. coli O157, the CTV reported.
"It's very much like a pregnancy test," Rieder was quoted as saying.
Current food testing methods typically rely on culture, which requires samples to be sent away for testing, with results taking up to two weeks to come back. By that time, the food has often been shipped to markets and large recalls have to occur.
The quicker testing ensures that results are received long before contaminated products make it to the market, thus reducing the risk to the public and the need for large-scale food recalls.
"We are looking at this specific biomarker because it is unique to this pathogenic bacteria. The presence of bacteria itself isn't bad, but we want to be able to identify specific bacteria that will cause people to get sick," Rieder said.
"The goal is a safer food chain for everyone so that public safety can be assured."
The kit has been approved by Health Canada and translated for commercial use.