DuPont and USDA team up to tackle emerging food safety threat

By Rory Harrington

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags E. coli Foodborne illness Escherichia coli

A new joint project between DuPont Qualicon and the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) aims to develop testing to detect hard-to-identify strains of E.coli that are not regulated and have been causing increasing instances of food contamination.

The US-based company said tests have already been developed for E. coli O157:H7, the type of shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) most frequently associated with global food contamination outbreaks. But the company will partner the USDA after identifying a gap that currently exists in assays to detect other strains. DuPont characterised the non-0157 types as an “emerging threat to the food supply”.

“In recent years, other types of STEC have been identified as agents of foodborne illness, and these are a growing concern in the United States, Europe, Japan and food safety agencies worldwide”,​ said a statement from the firm.

Big 6

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control estimate that non-O157 STEC bacteria are responsible for 36,000 illnesses, 1,000 hospitalizations and 30 deaths annually. The majority of these infections have been associated with six specific serotypes: STEC 026, 045, 0103, O111, O121 and O145.

The USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) will be working with DuPont to develop an effective test for the ‘Big 6’ non-O157 STEC pathogens in food.

“The USDA continually looks for opportunities to collaborate in ways that will expedite research to assist regulatory agencies and move technologies into the marketplace,”​ said Pina Fratamico, USDA ARS research microbiologist. “This collaborative project to develop a discriminating STEC test is a good fit with our mission.”

The UDSA already uses DuPont’s BAX System to monitor for E.coli 0157:H7 bacteria. The automated system uses a range of methods – including polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assays, tableted reagents and optimized media to detect Salmonella, Listeria species, Listeria monocytogenes, E. coli O157:H7, Enterobacter sakazakii, Campylobacter, Staphylococcus aureus, Vibrio, and yeast and mold.

“Our DNA-based technology is easy to use, rapid and accurate, and provides the food industry with a simple and reliable test system to help assure protection of the global food supply,”​ said Marcos Cantharino, the company’s global business director.

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