Researchers have evaluated a handheld DNA sequencing device for use in environmental monitoring at food factories.

The study, by researchers from the Teagasc food research program and APC Microbiome Ireland’s Science Foundation Ireland Research Centre, tested portable DNA sequencers as a routine microbial monitoring tool in food production facilities. It was funded by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM).

Small, portable, DNA sequencers provide the first steps toward real-time industry paced microbial classification and analysis, said researchers in the journal npj Science of food.

Microbes in food can cause spoilage and disease, so routine checks in
Continue Reading Scientists test handheld DNA sequencers for microbial monitoring

Mars Inc. and IBM Research have teamed up for an ambitious food safety whole-genome sequencing project. The Consortium for Sequencing the Food Supply Chain will study the the microbial ecology of foods and their processing environments. Having a much deeper understanding of the populations in these ecologies — bacteria, fungi, viruses, and other microorganisms — and how they interact with each other can then be used to develop new methods for keeping food safe, said Dave Crean, Mars’ global head for research and development. The science itself is similar to what the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is
Continue Reading Industry Consortium Begins Enormous DNA Sequencing Project for Food Safety

After months of uncertainty over the future of the program, the Agricultural Marketing Service’s Microbiological Data Program, which tests produce for disease-causing pathogens like E. coli O157:H7, Salmonella, and Listeria, has officially gone into shutdown mode, a U.S. Department of Agriculture official confirmed Tuesday.

Department officials told states that participate in the $4.5 million program to stop pulling produce samples on Friday Nov. 9 to “ensure an orderly shutdown of the program by December 31.”

According to an analysis by Food Safety News, ending MDP will eliminate more than 80 percent of public produce testing for pathogens. The U.S.
Continue Reading Cutting 80 Percent of Pathogen Testing for Produce, USDA Begins Shutdown of MDP

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition just published the second edition of the Bad Bug Book, which now includes a separate “consumer box” for each chapter to provide more non-technical explanations.

badbugbook.jpgThe book provides current information about the major known agents that cause foodborne illness, according to FDA.

“The information provided in this handbook is abbreviated and general in nature, and is intended for practical use,” said the agency this week in a release. “It is not intended to be a comprehensive scientific or clinical reference. Each chapter in this book is about

Continue Reading FDA Releases Second Edition of the ‘Bad Bug Book’

In an effort to communicate a more complete understanding of E. coli bacteria, the American Academy of Microbiology (AAM) released a colloquium report titled “E. coli: Good, Bad & Deadly” on Tuesday. Focusing on the fact that deadly, Shiga toxin-producing strains account for a small minority of E. coli types, the report presents the full picture of E. coli’s relationship to human health and food.

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The 13-page report is the end product of a September 2011 AAM meeting between microbiologists, food safety experts and bacteriologists who set out to set the record straight — or well-rounded — on

Continue Reading E. Coli Primer: ‘Good, Bad & Deadly’

In the wake of May’s European E. coli outbreak, microbiologists worldwide have sped up efforts to prevent a similar disaster from happening again. Among them, a team of collaborators from universities in the U.S. and Canada may be on the trail of a tiny protein that could render E. coli and other pathogens weak against our inherent defense: human digestion. A new study published in July’s edition of Microbiology focuses on a novel peptide — a protein too small to merit the title.  Known as wrwycr, it has proven to disrupt E. coli bacteria’s natural ability to repair its DNA
Continue Reading Combating E. Coli: Can a Peptide Block the Bug?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Thursday that it is investigating a multistate outbreak of Salmonella Typhimurium infections. A preliminary analysis indicates the outbreak may be the result of exposure in clinical and teaching microbiology laboratories.

As of April 20, the CDC said 73 individuals infected with the outbreak strain of Salmonella Typhimurium have been reported from 35 states.  There has been one death and at least 10 people have been hospitalized. Several of those sickened are children who live with someone who works or studies in a microbiology lab.

The CDC said that during an epidemiologic study in

Continue Reading CDC Links Salmonella Outbreak to Lab Work

On Wednesday the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service announced that the agency is now accepting nominations for new members for the National Advisory Committee on Microbiological Criteria for Foods.

FSIS is seeking nominations for two-year terms from individuals with a variety of different backgrounds, but specified interest for those with scientific expertise in the fields of biostatistics, risk assessment, chemistry, toxicology, microbiology, food technology, epidemiology, infectious disease and other related fields.

The agency is seeking nominees both affiliated with government agencies and those who are not. Members who are not federal employees will be

Continue Reading USDA Requests Nominations for Microbiological Committee

Is our food really safe?  The plethora of contamination events over the past few years certainly begs the question.  The first major contamination event occurred in 1998 when Sara Lee recalled 35 million pounds of various meat products. Recalls were pretty quiet for about 8 years and then:

• In 2006, E. coli contamination was found in packaged spinach that made 300 people sick in 26 states and caused 3 deaths.

• In 2007, Tyson recalled 40,000 pounds of beef in 12 states due to E. coli contamination

• In 2008, Topps Meats recalled 21 million pounds of beef due to E. coli

Continue Reading Food Safety or Bust