New techniques to minimise the risk of the harmful food pathogen E. coli in the food chain sees the launch of rapid detection system that could speed up identification and reduce costs for the meat industry.
The new biosensor technology can detect E. coli O157:H7 in less than five minutes compared to current systems that can take up to 48 hours, claims US firm Innovative Biosensors that has just rolled the product out onto the market.
Infection with Escherichia coli serotype O157:H7 (E. coli) was first described in 1982. Subsequently, it has emerged rapidly as a major food pathogen and can result in severe complications in humans ranging from haemorrhagic colitis to death.
Outbreaks of infection have been reported in Australia, Canada, Japan, United States, in various European countries, and in southern Africa. In the past they have been primarily associated with ground beef and raw milk, but a recent increase in cases involving highly acidic foods such as fermented dry sausages, mayonnaise, and apple cider have raised new concerns.
The new system from Innovative Biosensors is based on Canary, a biosensor technology developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and exclusively licensed to IBI.
"This product will revolutionise pathogen testing by allowing food producers to test the safety of their products faster than ever without sacrificing sensitivity," said Joe Hernandez, IBI's CEO.
Global food production, processing, distribution and preparation are creating an increased demand for food safety research in order to minimise the risks and exposure to food pathogens that grow in parallel to an ever-expanding food supply.
In industrialised countries, the percentage of people suffering from foodborne diseases each year has been reported to be up to 30 per cent and in the US, for example, around 76 million cases of foodborne diseases, resulting in 325,000 hospitalisations and 5,000 deaths, are estimated to occur each year.
In 1996, an outbreak of Escherichia coli O157:H7 in Japan affected over 6,300 school children and resulted in two deaths. WHO claims that this is the largest outbreak ever recorded for this pathogen.
Most strains of E. coli, a common inhabitant of the gut of warm-blooded animals, are harmless. However the strains such as E. coli O157:H7 can cause severe foodborne disease and are referred to as enterohaemorrhagic E. coli (EHEC).
The designation 'O157:H7' refers to specific molecules that are found on the cell surface that distinguish it from other strains of E. coli.
Due to food makers constant demand for food safety tools, the food protection market is currently enjoying decent growth with shelf life longevity and preservation key concerns for food and beverage manufacturers operating into today's increasingly 'convenient' food culture.
Market analysts Global Information pitch the global food preservative market at $517.9 billion (€422.7 billion) reaching $634.3 billion by 2008 thanks to a buoyant annual growth rate of 4.1 per cent.