Friday, December 16, 2011


Food poisoning due to microbiological contamination is getting increased attention these days with billions of dollars of tainted foods being recalled from the market by the food industry due to strong suspicion about their safety. Traditional microbiological assays to identify contaminating pathogens used to take days together before any definite conclusions can be drawn putting high economic burden on food industry besides making the food processing a high risk area of investment. The most recent pathogen driven food poising episode occurred in Europe affecting hundreds of people and forcing recall of the tainted sprouts across the continent. It took almost a month for the safety authorities to pin point the nature and the source of contamination, highlighting the logistical problems associated with monitoring food safety. One of the key factors that can expedite identification of the contaminant(s) is the rapidity with which assays can be performed and recent development of a molecular detection system augurs well for the quality control laboratories in the industry as well the safety vigilance agencies all over the world.

"The 3M Molecular Detection System delivers highly sensitive results by targeting and amplifying nucleic acid in enriched samples. The automated technology has been evaluated with a variety of food types, including produce, meats, processed foods, pet food and food processing-related environmental samples. The instrument is sleek and compact -- taking up less counter space than a laptop computer, making it portable and adaptable to various lab environments. "Pathogen testing has now been made simple and affordable," said Niki Montgomery, 3M Food Safety global marketing development manager. "Food processors will benefit greatly from the system's affordable accuracy and fast time to results, minimizing downtime in the lab. Numerous organisms can be tested in a single run and it was designed to help our customers perform fewer repeat tests and make critical decisions faster." Three assays available, validation efforts underway. As part of the 3M Molecular Detection System platform, individual, pathogen-specific assays, or procedural tests, will be sold as a test kits. Each assay test kit uses the same software interface and same DNA extraction protocol for testing between one and 96 samples per run. Assays for Salmonella, E. coli O157 (including H7) and Listeria are available immediately; a test for Listeria monocytogenes is expected in early 2012. 3M will continue to invest in developing a full portfolio of pathogen testing solutions to address customer needs. Independent laboratory studies with the 3M Molecular Detection System are currently underway to pursue global method recognitions. "In our evaluation of the Listeria species assay, we liked the small footprint of the system as well as the quick delivery of results after sample enrichment," said Dr. Martin Wiedmann, a professor in Cornell University's Department of Food Science who studied the system's analyses of samples taken from meat-packing, seafood processing and retail locations. "This system definitely illustrates the potential of isothermal methods for rapid detection of foodborne pathogens."

The claim that this method is very reliable and accurate besides taking much less time, probably will make it very popular provided the capital and recurring costs are affordable to the industry. Another way of looking at it is that even if the cost is some what stiff, it is more preferable to invest in this gadget rather than bearing the full economic burden of a possible recall. Though availability of such sophisticated assay systems can significantly reduce food poisoning episodes, consumer will still have to be on guard when it comes to trusting industrial foods absolutely and as a general precaution more care needs to be taken when "cold foods" from the refrigerated section of the super market or Delis are consumed.


No comments: