Recent incidences of contaminated meat in grocery stores and restaurants have heightened consumer concern. But people who eat meat may rest easier if a new bacterial sensing device to be field tested this fall delivers the accurate and speedy results, plus the low costs its developers predict.
The device, called a biosensor, was developed at the Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI). It can simultaneously identify species and determine concentrations of multiple pathogens -- including the deadly E. coli 0157:H7 and Salmonella -- in food products in less than two hours while in operation on a processing plant floor.
"The most significant advantage of the biosensor is the time reduction in assessing the presence of contamination," said Nile Hartman, a biosensor developer and senior research engineer at GTRI.
Tests for bacterial pathogens in meat are currently not required by federal or state food industry regulators. A few large companies perform laboratory tests, but they are costly and slow -- sometimes not even yielding results for 48 to 72 hours. That delay requires that food products remain stored in warehouses for longer periods.
"The biosensor will help in overall quality control in food processing plants," said collaborator Dr. Paul Edmonds, a professor of biology at Georgia Tech. "It would minimize the chance of the final product being contaminated."
Georgia Tech researchers -- in collaboration with Dr. Robert Brackett, a professor at the University of Georgia's Center for Food Safety and Quality Enhancement in Griffin -- have been developing and testing the biosensor in their laboratories for about four years. Now they are ready for a field test expected to start in November at Gold Kist in Carrollton, Ga., just west of Atlanta.
Laboratory tests have proven the biosensor is extremely sensitive,
meaning it can detect pathogens at minute levels of 500 cells per milliliter.
Contact: Jane Sanders
Georgia Institute of Technology Research News