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Advance offers revolution in food safety testing
Date:9/25/2008

CORVALLIS, Ore. -- Microbiologists at Oregon State University have developed a new technology to detect illness-causing bacteria an advance that could revolutionize the food industry, improving the actual protection to consumers while avoiding the costly waste and massive recalls of products that are suspected of bacterial contamination but are perfectly safe.

The new approach - made possible by fundamental research on the color changes in pigment-bearing cells from Siamese fighting fish - should be easier to use, faster and more directly related to toxicity assessment than conventional approaches now used to test food for bacterial contamination and safety.

The technology has been patented, and the findings were just published in Microbial Biotechnology, a professional journal. Further studies will be needed before the system is ready for commercial use.

"Rapid methods are not readily available to directly assess the toxicity of bacterial contamination in a user-friendly fashion," said Janine Trempy, professor of microbiology and associate dean of the OSU College of Science. "When this new technology is commercially available, we should be able to provide a higher level of assurance to the consumer while avoiding the waste of millions of dollars worth of food that is suspected of bacterial contamination, but actually is safe."

Bacterial illnesses associated with food and water can produce symptoms ranging from mild stomach upset to severe illnesses and even death, and they are common. It's been estimated there are about 76 million illnesses of this type every year that cost the U.S. more than $10 billion.

Part of the problem is that conventional food safety testing done with DNA-based tests or antibody-based methods only indicate the presence of specific bacteria, which does not necessarily describe toxicity and the potential to cause harm. Sometimes bacteria only exhibit the behavior that can cause illn
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Contact: Janine Trempy
trempyj@oregonstate.edu
541-737-4441
Oregon State University
Source:Eurekalert

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