Test lab opens for E. coli, Clostridium botulinum

By Ahmed ElAmin

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags E. coli Bacteria

Due to increased demand, Leatherhead has expanded its testing
services and research into Escherichia coli and Clostridium
botulinum, two of the deadliest foodborne pathogens.

The UK food services company said the moves were a response to industry's demands for the development ofrapid and accurate methods for the detection of food borne pathogens. The research could providesome answers to help processors beat back pathogens at the plant level, before any potential forcontamination occurs.

Increasing concern about food safety has led to a boost in research into quicker and cheapermethods of detecting and killing pathogens. EU and regulatory authorities in member states have beenincreasing their regulation of the industry, resulting in more costs and greater public scrutiny ofmanufacturers' operations. Recalls of products are also costly and impact on the company's brandimage.

The company said it had opened up a new microbiology laboratory in September. The new lab facility will allow the development and validation of new methods for the detection ofverotoxin-positive E. coli 0157 and other forms of the bacteria. At the same time the company willexpand its current research programmes on the growth and survival characteristics of Clostridium botulinum in foods.

Leatherhead said it will now be able to provide more specialised analysis and research focusing mainly on technologies for effective food sample preparation and treatment prior to analysis.

In the area of verotoxin-positive E. coli, Leatherhead plans to expand their research into how itforms into biofilms, hard and difficult to remove clumps of the pathogen that resist traditionalcleaning techniques.

Researchers will also study the effect of nutrient availability and temperature on cell attachment on food contact surfaces,along with developing effective measures to remove attached cells and treat food contact surfaces.

Leatherhead also plans research into virulence markers and their effective use in detectionmethods. They will study competitive exclusion, mechanisms of microbial interactions and their role on detection methodologies.

"Specialised research programmes on verocytotoxic Escherichia coli will be coupled to more specialised analytical services covering areas of pathogen growth and survival studies in foods following varying processingconditions,"​ Leatherhead stated.

The new facility has been designed in such a way to also accommodate some of the currently on-going and future research and analytical work on Clostridium botulinum growth and toxin production infoods, the company stated.

"LFI's customer requirements on challenge experimentation looking at the growth potential of Clostridium botulinum in complex food matrices has significantly boosted the analytical potential of LFI's scientific team and has created the need to expand to a new, larger laboratory facility able to cope with the increased demand inanalysis,"​ Leatherhead stated.

Since E. coli, or Escherichia coli, is found in the intestines of warm-blooded animals, it doesnot naturally contaminate most produce. Therefore, following more stringent sanitary policies, aswell as practicing better manure and water management, can go a long way to help prevent futureoutbreaks.

E. coli is especially problematic because it only takes as few as 10 cells to infect humans.Other pathogens, like salmonella, need thousands or millions of cells to cause infection

A recent outbreak of E. coli from contaminated packaged spinach in the US led to 183 cases ofillness and three deaths.

Related topics Food Safety & Quality

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