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'Dipstick' test could reduce risk of food poisoning by rapidly detecting spoilage

oilage. Specifically, the polymers changed from dark purple to yellow in the presence of badly spoiled fish, while the change was from dark purple to a reddish hue in the presence of mildly spoiled fish, he says. Depending on the degree of freshness identified, the consumer could then decide whether to eat the food or avoid it. To the consumer, the yellow color would clearly be an indication to avoid the fish, Lavigne says. The test is currently designed to be qualitative only and will not identify the specific pathogen present, he notes.

Although fish were used in this study, a similar approach can be applied to other foods, including other meats as well as fruits and vegetables, according to Lavigne. Although many fruits and vegetables contain lower protein levels than meats, preliminary studies also indicate the dipsticks are capable of detecting even small amounts of protein decay caused by bacterial activity, he says. More detailed tests on these other food types are planned.

Other than tell-tale clues of food spoilage such as foul smells and the appearance of mold, spoilage sometimes can be difficult to detect by the average consumer. Current scientific methods used to identify foodborne pathogens often require expensive equipment, are time consuming (ranging from hours to days) and involve complicated analyses carried out by trained professionals.

The researchers are working to improve the speed, sensitivity and accuracy of the new test. But Lavigne notes that no freshness test will substitute for the importance of proper food safety, including optimal storage, cleaning and cooking. Funding for the study was provided by the University of South Carolina and Research Corporation, a private foundation that advances scientific research.


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25-Mar-2007


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