Tuesday February 19, 2019

Researchers Develop New Test To Detect E.coli in Food Quickly

The kit has been approved by Health Canada and translated for commercial use

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Poultry, Produce Industry
Over 80% of UTIs caused by E.coli is found in poultry. Pixabay

Researchers have developed a novel testing kit that can detect Escherichia coli (E.coli) — a deadly pathogen — much more quickly than existing methods.

The kit detects E. coli 0157, commonly found in ground meat, and is considered more likely to cause severe illnesses than other forms of the bacteria.

The test detects a protein unique to the pathogenic E. coli bacteria and shows results in hours rather than days.

“Our goal is to get the testing to occur as close as possible to the source,” Michael Rieder, Professor at the University of Western Ontario in Canada, said in a statement on Friday.

“This technology is not only faster, but it’s less expensive, it’s easy to use, and it can occur right in the processing plant.”

Food samples to be tested are incubated for a few hours. A sample is then placed on a pad. After 15 minutes, the pad displays one red line to show it worked properly – and a second if the sample contains E. coli O157, the CTV reported.

New test to detect E. coli in food quickly. Pixabay

“It’s very much like a pregnancy test,” Rieder was quoted as saying.

Current food testing methods typically rely on culture, which requires samples to be sent away for testing, with results taking up to two weeks to come back. By that time, the food has often been shipped to markets and large recalls have to occur.

The quicker testing ensures that results are received long before contaminated products make it to the market, thus reducing the risk to the public and the need for large-scale food recalls.

“We are looking at this specific biomarker because it is unique to this pathogenic bacteria.The presence of bacteria itself isn’t bad, but we want to be able to identify specific bacteria that will cause people to get sick,” Rieder said.

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“The goal is a safer food chain for everyone so that public safety can be assured.”

The kit has been approved by Health Canada and translated for commercial use. (IANS)

Next Story

Gourmet Grubs Squirm Onto American Plate

Culinary director, Jeremy Kittelson, says Linger is committed to changing the American palate. “As much as we love beef,” he says, “there’s no scientist who will tell you cattle farming is a sustainable practice. We should eat more insects."

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Food
Andrew takes a tentative taste of baked, salted mealworm at Rocky Mountain Micro Ranch. VOA

A huge shipping container in the suburbs of Denver, Colorado, is the home of some of the nation’s smallest livestock. Rocky Mountain Micro Ranch is Colorado’s first and only edible insect farm, and one of fewer than three dozen companies in the U.S. growing insects as human food or animal feed.

Wendy Lu McGill started her company in 2015, and today grows nearly 275 kilos of crickets and mealworms every month. “I want to be part of trying to figure out how to feed ourselves better as we have less land and water and a hotter planet and more people to feed,” she explains.

Wendy Lu McGill raises mealworms and crickets to sell to restaurants and food manufacturers.
Wendy Lu McGill raises mealworms and crickets to sell to restaurants and food manufacturers.

Feeding the world’s appetite for protein through beef and even chicken is unsustainable, according to the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization. Protein from bugs is more doable.

On the global menu

Edible insects are a great source of high quality protein and essential minerals such as calcium and iron. Edible grubs — insect larvae — offer all that, plus high quality fat, which is good for brain development.

Insects are part of the diet in many parts of the world. Analysts say the global edible insects market is poised to surpass $710 million by 2024, with some estimates as high as $1.2 billion. And while American consumers comprise a small percentage of that market today, there is growing demand for a variety of insect-infused products.

Thinking small

Amy Franklin is the founder of a non-profit called Farms for Orphans, which is working in the Democratic Republic of Congo. “What we do is farm bugs for food because in other countries where we work, they’re a really, really popular food,” she notes.

In Kinshasa’s markets, vendors sell platters of live wild-caught crickets plus big bowls of pulsating African Palm weevil larvae. These wild insects are only plentiful in certain seasons.

Farms for Orphans works with Congo Relief Mission, FAO in Kinshasa and the University of Kinshasa to set up small-scale palm weevil larvae farms to bring sustainable nutrition and economic empowerment to orphanages. (Courtesy: Farms for Orphans)
Farms for Orphans works with Congo Relief Mission, FAO in Kinshasa and the University of Kinshasa to set up small-scale palm weevil larvae farms to bring sustainable nutrition and economic empowerment to orphanages. (Courtesy: Farms for Orphans). VOA

Franklin’s group helps orphanages grow African Palm weevil larvae year round, in shipping containers. “Most of the orphanages don’t own any land. There really is no opportunity for them to grow a garden or to raise chickens. Insects are a protein source that they can grow in a very small space.”

Changing the American palate

It’s estimated that more than 2 billion people worldwide eat insects every day. And even though the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has confirmed that consumption of crickets and mealworms is safe and that they are a natural protein source, many Americans, like Denver grandfather Terry Koelling, remain skeptical. As he and his grandchildren take a tour of Rocky Mountain Micro Ranch, he admits, “I don’t think they are very appealing, as something to put in your mouth. You see them around dead things, and it just does not appeal to me to eat something that wild.”

Koelling gets adventurous at Linger, a Denver restaurant that has had an insect entree on its menu for three years.

Culinary director, Jeremy Kittelson, says Linger is committed to changing the American palate. “As much as we love beef,” he says, “there’s no scientist who will tell you cattle farming is a sustainable practice. We should eat more insects.”

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And so Koelling takes a forkful of the Cricket Soba Noodle dish, with black ants, sesame seeds and crickets mixed in with green tea soba noodles, and garnished with Chapuline Crickets.

“The seasoning’s great!” he says with surprise, adding, “Seems to me there weren’t enough crickets in it!” (VOA)