MN Impact: Rapid Diagnostic Tools Support Industry and Food Safety

July 27, 2017

Issue

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), each year roughly 1 in 6 Americans get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die of foodborne diseases. Simple and rapid microbial food spoilage diagnostic tools are needed to not only protect public health but also assist the food industry.

What has been done

U of M researchers scrutinized conventional diagnostic tools and concluded new tools needed to be not only rapid, but also sensitive, specific, and cost-effective for the industry to adopt them. Colorimetric tests met these requirements: they are very sensitive, eliciting accurate results in a short period, and they don't require the purchasing of expensive equipment. Researchers then developed naked-eye bioassays for rapid detection of foodborne pathogens that are fairly simple to perform and indicate the presence of bacteria, fungi, and/or molds.

Results

One new technology is able to detect for bacteria and fungi in yogurt in less than an hour, other foods take as little as five minutes. In the food safety and food quality arena, these systems not only solve problems but also change the game, eliminating the lag between administering a test and obtaining results. Industry partners are already taken notice with both General Mills and Schwan providing industry insights and funding for research. A start up company is in development to commercialize the new technologies and assist in getting them out to industry partners.