New Technology Helps Detect Foodborne Bacteria

DuPont develops a new test to quickly detect E. coli 0157:H7 in raw beef inspections. Compiled by staff

Published on: Nov 15, 2005

Advanced molecular technology is helping the U.S. government protect consumers from foodborne bacteria that annually causes thousands of illnesses and sometimes death.

USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service recently adopted a new E. coli O157:H7 detection test for raw beef inspections that allows it to get faster, more accurate results.  The test, developed by DuPont Qualicon for the BAX system, is able to find the bacteria in samples by detecting a DNA fragment specific only to E. coli 0157:H7.

"When it comes to food safety, every improvement in testing speed and accuracy can have a positive impact on public health," said Kevin Huttman, DuPont Qualicon president.  "One huge benefit of using the BAX system is that government food inspectors and food companies can invest freed up time and resources elsewhere in their quality control systems."

Traditional biological tests for the pathogen require long waits of several days while the E. coli O157:H7 grow into colonies on agar plates.  The BAX system from DuPont Qualicon delivers more accurate test results in a little more than a day.

FSIS had previously adopted the BAX system to detect Salmonella in raw and ready-to eat meat, poultry and pasteurized egg products.  The agency also uses the BAX system to detect Listeria monocytogenes in red meat, poultry, eggs and environmental samples.

According to the World Health Organization, up to 30 percent of the people in industrialized countries suffer from foodborne diseases each year.  In the United States, about 76 million illnesses, 325,000 hospitalizations, and 5,000 deaths occur annually due to food that has been contaminated by pathogens.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that E. coli O157:H7 causes about 73,000 cases of infection and 61 deaths in the United States each year, usually from eating undercooked ground beef.

The BAX system from DuPont Qualicon uses advanced molecular technology to detect target bacteria in raw ingredients, finished food products and environmental samples.  Assays are available for detecting E. coli O157:H7, Listeria monocytogenes, Salmonella, Listeria genus, Enterobacter sakazakii, Campylobacter jejuni/coli and yeast and mold.  The automated system is user-friendly and fits easily onto a laboratory bench top.  Introduced in November 2000, hundreds of BAX systems are already in use by governments, food companies and laboratories around the world.