A new rapid test kit developed by researchers at West University in London, Ont. would have been able to detect E. coli in a Roma salad long before the shipment reached the grocery shelves.
The West developed kit detects a single protein for E. coli 0157 bacteria and can show results in less than 24 hours. This is the same strain of bacteria that causes the current outbreak in the United States and Canada.
Current tests are based on the fact that crops are taken from potentially contaminated samples and sent for testing, with results that last up to two weeks to return.
Meanwhile, food has often been shipped to the market.
"Faster and cheaper"
"Our goal is to make testing as close as possible to the source," said Dr. Michael Rieder, a professor at the Western School of Medicine and Dentistry, and researcher at the Robarts Research Institute.
"This technology is not only faster, but less costly, easy to use, and it can even happen in processing plants."
The Western University Kit has been approved by Health Canada and is currently being delivered to North American food processing plants.
"We look at this specific bio-marker because it is unique to this pathogenic bacteria." The presence of bacteria itself is not bad, but we want to identify certain bacteria that will make people sick, "said Rieder.
"The goal is a safer food chain for everyone, so public safety can be assured."
Much of the kit's development activities have been funded through a grant from Mitacs, a nonprofit federal agency that encourages academic and industrial collaboration.
Western researchers have worked with a biomedical company in Toronto and London entrepreneurs Craig Combe and Michael Brock to develop the kit.