During the past decade, incidences of Salmonella have failed to drop, and the pathogen continues to pose a serious problem to the food supply. Meredith Sutzko, Product Manager, Food Pathogens at Romer Labs North America discusses current technology needs for the food industry.
Q: What are processors looking for in Salmonella detection methods?
Sutzko: I think we will see an increase in testing related to the Food Safety Modernization Act, and there’s a trend toward environmental testing as opposed to finished product testing. Instead of waiting to test finished products at the end of a production cycle, we’re finding that processors are taking a lot of environmental samples from the production line in different areas in order to find contamination further upstream so that when they get to the product testing, they have a lot of confidence that the product is going to be pathogen-free.
Processors are looking to identify contamination very early in the process. To do that, they need simple and cost-effective methods, especially ones that will deliver a fast time-to-result and can be used at the production facility so they don’t have to wait to obtain test results. By using test methods on-site, they can immediately take action upon getting the test result.
Q: How is RapidChek® differentiated from other rapid methods currently available?
Sutzko: The RapidChek method is an innovative, simple and easy-to-use test. With this test, we typically focus on the enrichment portion of the rapid method, because if salmonella is present in the environment, it’s going to be present at very low levels. The enrichment portion (or the growth phase), is important to get that pathogen to higher concentrations for detection.
We use innovative bacteriophage technology in our enrichment media. The bacteriophage act as selective agents during enrichment to inhibit the growth of competing microorganisms, which could be present. The phages allow an optimal growth environment for Salmonella, if it’s present, by reducing the growth of these other competitors. It helps to provide a fast time to result. Then we combine the enrichment media with a state-of-the art-lateral flow test, which uses highly purified antibodies that have been optimized for the sensitive and specific detection of Salmonella.
The technology is simple and easy to use. The end user doesn’t need any expensive equipment to run it. The method comes all-inclusive with everything necessary to run it, so there are no additional expenditures on consumables. Producers are able to do a lot more testing using the RapidChek, because it’s so cost effective. If they find contamination or a growth-niche, they can sanitize, take action and do more testing to make sure they’ve gotten rid of the pathogen.
Q: What’s the significance of Salmonella detection right now as it relates to the risk that the pathogen poses to the food supply?
Sutzko: Historically, Salmonella has been associated with meat and poultry. Recently we’ve seen a lot more outbreaks in different types of food products and matrices that historically have not been associated with Salmonella. Also, the food supply is being globalized. We’re receiving a lot of foods from different countries, possibly where their food safety standards are not as stringent as we have in the United States. We’re seeing an increased level of awareness by producers. They look at their suppliers and their raw materials to make sure they’re testing the materials before they put it into their supply chain.
Also with regulations like FSMA, we see retailers driving food safety and quality systems through third-party certification bodies such as GFSI. Retailers are requiring their suppliers to have effective food safety quality management systems in place in order to do business. These practices will help to ensure safe food is being supplied to the consumer from farm-to-fork.