New E.coli test gets AOAC-RI validation amid renewed safety warnings

By Mike Stones

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: E.coli o157, Foodborne illness, Polymerase chain reaction, Food safety

Idaho Technology’s E.coli O157:H7 test used with the RAPID LT Food Security System (FSS), which delivers results within one hour, has been validated by the independent AOAC Research Institute.

The test, which has been accorded Performance Tested Methods Status, uses real-time PCR technology to identify the presence of E.coli O157:H7 in raw ground beef and uncooked spinach food samples.

The system marks a milestone in real-time PCR testing of foodborne pathogens as this platform enables detection of E.coli O157:H7 in less than one hour after only eight hours of enrichment​,” said David Nielsen, the company’s vice president of product development.

Pathogen identification

The validation studies on ground beef and spinach prove that the RAPID LT FSS performed as well as or better than traditional culture methods and delivered results more quickly. “This new test from Idaho Technology provides easy, accurate and timely pathogen identification to enhance food companies’ productivity​,” said Nielsen.

E.coli O157:H7 is estimated to infect more than 70,000 people a year in the United States alone. The use of an E.coli O157:H7 screening tool that is both rapid and accurate will permit earlier release of products without fear of potential outbreaks or possible food recalls, said the company.

Meanwhile, the wider use of irradiation and better training for meatpacking workers could reduce the risks of illness from E. coli-contaminated beef, according to two food safety experts from the University of Minnesota.

Joellen Fiertag, professor and extension food safety specialist, and Jeff Bender, director of the Center for Animal Health and Food Safety, pointed out that while the Food and Drug Administration approved irradiation as a treatment for meat more than 10 years ago, consumers still won't buy it.

Irradiated meat

Some fear the process chemically alters the food and have called for more research to establish whether long-term consumption of irradiated meat is safe. Others mistakenly believe the process turns food radioactive, said Fiertag.

Improved practices for slaughtering and processing livestock also are needed. Contamination usually comes from feces that contaminate meat at the slaughterhouse. Fiertag said managers and lower-level workers need proper training.

Contamination is also more likely when a ground beef processor uses meat trimmings coming from multiple suppliers. "If they're coming from different facilities ... you don't have full control of how that was handled,"​ said Fiertag.

Related topics: Food Safety & Quality

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