Food safety technologist Neogen Corporation has moved to meet the demands of the up-coming zero-tolerance approach to the ‘Big Six’ non-O157:H7 E.coli strains in ground beef through the update of its testing services.
The modification followed research by the US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Research Service (ARS), which found genetic differences between the soon to be banned E.coli strains called single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs).
The ARS research found that these genetic differences can be used to quickly and inexpensively detect the bacteria in samples of ground beef, produce and water.
The development comes within months of a USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) rule that will involve the testing ground beef products for the seven relevant shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) which include O157, O26, O103, O111, O121, O45 and O145.
Under the rule, which is set to begin from 4 June 2012, the seven relevant E.coli strains would be classed as adulterants and raw ground beef containing them will be banned from sale to the public.
“The FSIS previously only tested for E.coli O157:H7 but under the new proposal rule, which is set to come in later this year, the ground beef industry will be people to test for these other strains of E.coli as well as E.coli O157:H7,” Neogen vice president of corporate development Dr Jason Lilly told FoodQualityNews.com.
“We licenced the SNP markers from the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) for this use.”
The SNPs detect and identify only those strains of E.coli that are pathogenic and capable of making people sick, added Lilly.
Using these pathogen strain-specific SNPs can then save time that might otherwise have to be spent in determining whether the E.coli found in a food sample is pathogenic or not.
DNA-based biomarkers for the detection and identification of non-O157:H7 E.coli are currently available, but the SNPs developed by ARS have not been previously singled out for this specific use.
Difficult to detect
“We have incorporated those genetic markers into our already existing technology to create a technology good enough to search out and detect those complicated strains of E.coli,” said Lilly.
“This is another tool to detect those strains that have been previously difficult to detect.”
The 24-hour turnaround SNP-adapted E.coli testing service, NeoSEEK, is already available from the company, Lilly added.
“We’ve been working with numerous red meat producers. There seems to be a lot of interest in the service from the food industry,” he added.