He may not possess the lethal aggression or magnetism of the fictitious secret agent James Bond, but like Agent 007, Daniel Y.C. Fung is always on a mission of deadly proportions. While Bond's assignments usually involve international intrigue and saving the world from evil villains, Fung's life's work is devoted to saving the world 's food supply from deadly pathogens and bacteria. And where Ian Fleming's cool, hard hero has an arsenal of high-tech gadgets to help in his pursuit, Fung chooses to take the less spectacular route, using low-tech items such as cinnamon, garlic and plum extract to accomplish his mission.
Not the stuff Bond movies are made of. But even 007 may be interested in Fung's latest research project, especially for his vodka martinis -- "shaken, not stirred."
Fung is evaluating a new instrument for processing food samples for microbiological analysis. The instrument, the PULSIFIER, allows researchers to obtain bacteria and pathogens from food without breaking up the food extensively.
According to Fung, there is no lack of high-power technology available today for use by microbiologists to detect organisms. But with technology comes problems, such as getting the organisms to interact with the advanced systems. He cites as an example current requirements that call for food microbiologists to be able to detect salmonella in 25 grams of meat.
"There is no way on Earth right now that you can take a bio sensor or probe, stick it into the meat, stir it around and say 'I have salmonella,' " Fung said. "There's no way. So the problem right now is to find better ways to make samples better for food microbiologists."
Fung said previously microbiologists used a device called a stomacher to "beat up" and "homogenize" the food samples. However, the problem with the stomacher is it does its job a bit too well.