Scientists at Western University have developed a new rapid-test system to detect E. coli O157 bacteria. This new test will help prevent recalls and outbreaks, since it can be used to discover contamination before the food leaves the plant and is shipped. The collaboration that developed this test is between Dr. Michael Rieder at the Robarts Research Institute at Western University and two London entrepreneurs.
Currently, it can take up to three weeks for testing conducted on foods, especially ground meat products. After the initial test, most facilities test again for confirmation. Most facilities do not test-and-hold foods; rather, they conduct tests, then the food is shipped to retail locations. That’s why recalls are so often issued. If a test comes back positive, a recall must be issued.
The food is sampled at the end of the day, and results come in the next morning. The test identifies proteins present in the pathogenic bacteria. Flow-through technology marks the protein with colloidal gold so it’s visible to the eye. The process is similar to the one used in pregnancy tests.
Dr. Rieder said, “the current method for developing battier like E. coli relies on culture and takes 3 or 4 days to get a result, so we thought we could do better than that. With this current system, two weeks of for may need to be recalled to ensure against cross-contamination.”
In November 2015, All American Meats recalled more than 160,000 pounds of ground beef that was potentially contaminated with E. coli bacteria. Ground beef was recalled in September 2015 by Schrader Farms for E. coli contamination. In July 2015, veal products produced by Brown Packing Company were recalled after tests showed possible contamination. And also in July 2015, Lombardi Beef recalled tenderized steak and ground beef products because tests showed E. coli contamination.
The researchers have submitted an application to Health Canada for approval. They are going to work on a rapid test for Listeria monocytogenes next.
The symptoms of an E. coli infection include severe abdominal cramping, diarrhea that is watery and/or bloody, and a low grade fever. Most people need to see a doctor with this type of infection and it is a reportable condition.