The standard methods of detecting the presence of E. coli O157 in meat products use cultures and microbiological assays and can take 48 hours or more to get a result. Meanwhile, the clock is ticking on a given product’s shelf life. As a result, according to a recent research report on the food safety testing industry published in QA Magazine, the technological focus has been shifting to faster techniques to get definitive results. “Rapid testing methods such as PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) and immunoassay-based techniques are used to ensure timely analysis of a larger sample size and thereby reduce the time for food safety testing. These advanced technologies also ensure the detection of food contaminants of biological as well as chemical origins,” the report stated. Researcher Yadira Tejeda, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Western Ontario in London, Ontario, has reportedly developed a method of more quickly detecting E. coli O157 contamination in meat products. The process is similar to a pregnancy test, where one line indicates a negative result and two lines indicates a positive one. She is now working with a small business to validate the method and test its feasibility. “I work with E. coli O157 because it has caused many epidemics, and has contaminated both raw and ready-to-cook meats; for example, burgers, sausages, beef and pork. In these circumstances, the products had to be removed from the market,” Tejeda says. She notes that there are several collaborative programs in Canada with other countries, including Mexico, her native country. “This is something that pleases me very much because there is a possibility of doing something to impact my home country,” she says.
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