Faster pathogen testing could purge food contaminants

By Jane Byrne

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Peanut butter, Centers for disease control and prevention, Food safety, Salmonella

Greater speed in pathogen detection within processing plants rather than a reliance on enhanced regulation is the key to reducing product contamination from pathogens such as Salmonella, claims a diagnostic test consultant.

Tom Weschler, president of Strategic Consulting, said that while 68.5 million tests are carried out annually on a global basis to detect the presence of Salmonella​ in foodstuffs, results from the majority of these tests can sometimes take a few days.

“There is an immediate need for detection kits that shorten the time-to-result for food processors to help them take corrective measures much faster at production line level, while ensuring that retailers and consumers still get their products in the fastest time possible,”​ he told

He added that improvements in sampling concentration methods by microbiology technology manufacturers would make it easier and less time consuming to determine pathogen presence in food products.

Speedy answer

Meanwhile, Alaska Food Diagnostics said it has recently received Association of Analytical Communities Research Institute (AOAC RI) accreditation for its fastrAK Salmonella ​detection instrument for ready-to-eat (RTE) and processed poultry products.

“This third party endorsement reaffirms our work in food quality assurance and will appeal to food manufacturers requiring rapid results, reliability and specificity in their testing,”​ said Laurie Callow, CEO of the microbiology test company.

He claims that Alaska’s method, based on Adenylate Kinase (AK) phage technology, can guarantee results in less than 24 hours, compared with three to six days using conventional culture methods.

According to Callow, the assay, which has been trialled with leading food manufacturers, can be used within a food processing plant as no specialist skills are required.

He told this publication that the company currently has detection assays targeted at E. coli​ and Listeria​ in the production pipeline.

US outbreak

And in the ongoing Salmonella ​outbreak in the US, the Peanut Corporation of America (PCA) has issued a voluntarily recall of the peanut butter produced in its Georgia processing facility.

PCA said the recall is due to the fact that its product could be contaminated with Salmonella ​after an open container of King Nut brand peanut butter in a care facility in Minnesota was found to contain the contaminant.

PCA sells peanut butter in bulk packaging to distributors for institutional and food service industry use. It is also sold under the brand name Parnell's Pride, and under the label King Nut by the King Nut Company.

According to the Minnesota Department of Health and Minnesota Department of Agriculture, the laboratory analyses on the contamination in the King Nut container have the same genetic fingerprint as the cases in the national outbreak of salmonella food poisoning.

Fifteen more cases of salmonella have been reported, bringing the total to 425 in 43 states, claims the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC); the CDC also said that three elderly people may have died of the illness.

Related topics: Food Safety & Quality

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