Microbial detection offers fast product development

Related tags Bacteria

The Soleris system could help food firms formulate new product
lines more rapidly by detecting microorganisms in nutritional
ingredients quicker, writes Anthony Fletcher.

Centrus, the company behind the concept, claims that studies have shown that Soleris can match the accuracy of conventional microbial test methods.

"The Soleris system not only matches conventional plating methods, but also provides increased speed and ease-of-use,"​ Centrus chief scientific officer Ruth Eden.

"This can allow nutraceutical processors to optimize their production capabilities, while ensuring product quality."

The accuracy of conventional test methods versus newer, rapid microbiological test methods has long been scrutinized by food companies eager to capitalize on the booming demand for functional food in the US. A Frost & Sullivan report entitled "US Sports and Fitness Nutrition Markets"​ predicts that the nutrition bar sector alone, which generated almost $2 billion in revenues last year, will grow to $4.5 billion by 2007.

In order to take advantage of this growing market though, food firms need to ensure the safety of their ingredients - and do it quickly in order to get their goods on the market as soon as possible. Food labs are finding new ways of detecting microbial contamination, pathogenic bacteria such as Listeria and the presence of other organisms including coliforms, E. coli, yeasts and molds.

This is a major food safety issue. In the US alone, around 76 million cases of foodborne diseases, resulting in 325,000 hospitalisations and 5,000 deaths, are estimated to occur each year. Not surprisingly, 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' and 'healthy' food culture.

Rapid microbiology technology is therefore becoming a mainstay for research and development teams exploring the viability of new products.

Centrus compared the accuracy of its rapid microbiological testing technology with conventional plating methods of testing, and found greater than 95 percent agreement between the Soleris system and plating.In several of the samples, Soleris detected more contamination than the conventional method, where it was often difficult to tell the difference between microorganisms and other non-viable particulates.

The Soleris system performed all bacteria tests, including aerobic count, coliform, E.Coli, Pseudomonas and Staphylococcus in less than 24 hours, while molds and yeasts were detected in 48 to 72 hours. Conventional plating methods take up to five days to perform similar tests.

The company claims that as a result, food firms interested in incorporating nutritional ingredients into their products could increase productivity and maintain cost efficiency, without sacrificing quality by using the Soleris method.

"Soleris rapid automated technology delivers results as accurate as conventional plating methods,"​ said Eden. "However, Soleris also provides manufacturers of nutraceuticals with additional benefits that bring added value to their operations."

Centrus​ is a global diagnostics business located in Tennessee. It is a wholly owned subsidiary of Eastman Chemical Company.

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