A blog about the latest developments in the food technology sector.
Tuesday, July 26, 2011
MAKING BACTERIA IN FOODS"VISIBLE"-MAGIC OR REALITY?
If consumer is given a chance to wish for any thing that is related to food safety, most probably that wish could be to equip one with the capacity to see the bacteria that poses danger to the food! A recent development in Europe where a group of scientists is reported to have developed a technique to see bacteria on meat carcasses, comes very near to the above consumer wish. Unfortunately the visibility is not with naked eyes but using UV scanner and the technique is suitable only for poultry meat processors with integrated farming and slaughter facilities. Success of such scanning is contingent on administering a special feed to the birds just before slaughter containing a natural additive which helps to highlight the bacteria on the carcass with a glow easily visible under a UV scanner.
Scientists will today unveil a new weapon in the battle against food poisoning, which could also cut the thousands of tonnes of meat thrown away by supermarkets. The Aberystwyth University experts believe the new system which can highlight millions of tiny bacteria invisible to the human eye could revolutionize food safety and Wales' £10m-a-year poultry industry. Developed at the university's Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences (IBERS), it aims to use a natural additive to poultry feed to make any contamination in chicken carcasses glow a bright ultra-violet fluorescent color. Dr Michael Lee, from IBERS, said the aim was to create a gold standard system in Wales for screening carcasses at abattoirs and to develop commercial solutions to benefit Wales' food industry.
As the development is still in its early stage, potential seems to be there for evolving a reliable tool to fight meat contamination during processing and before releasing to the market. Whether it will reduce the number of market recalls depend on its reliability against some of the worst food pathogens encountered by the poultry industry. What is not clear from the bare details provided by the innovators is regarding the safety of the additive used and how long the glow will last before the product is packed. It is also not clear whether consumers at the retail market level would be able to assess their purchase under the scanner provided by the retailer before buying. Standards need to be evolved regarding the number of such glowing "hot spots" that can be safe for release into the market. Such critical questions are required to be answered if the laboratory findings have to be become an industry reality.