Fera Science has launched a new service for food manufacturers that uses whole genome sequencing to identify the source and trace the route of bacterial contamination in food products.
OriGen is described as “an innovative process” that allows food companies to find the cause of the problem and ensure it is dealt with properly. It is a key new tool in the protection of the integrity of food supply chains, according to Fera.
Research carried out by the insurance firm Lockton determined that the number of food recalls by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) in 2015 grew by 78% in the UK alone compared with the previous year. A recall means huge expense, reputational damage and the cost of cleaning and sanitising machines and production lines in the factory in an attempt to remove the contaminant that caused the problem in the first place, Fera said. Even after all that work is done there is no assurance that the problem won’t occur again.
Contaminated salad leaves
Salad leaves have been the focus of bacterial contamination on both sides of the Atlantic in recent weeks. First, Public Health England reminded shoppers to wash salad leaves after an outbreak of E.coli that killed two and infected more than 150. Then yesterday, US retailer Meijer announced that it was recalling some salads and sandwiches because of a potential risk of salmonella contamination.
Fera’s unique new service takes samples from across the product supply and processing chain to establish the exact source of a contamination using whole genome sequencing, and can be accurate enough to pinpoint a single machine as the root cause.
Andrew Hudson, head of microbiology for Fera Science, said: “Food manufacturers know how expensive a recall can be, and how much damage a contaminated product batch can do to their reputation. With OriGen they’ll have the assurance that they are doing everything they can to find the root cause of the issue – and the confidence that they won’t have to see another costly recall due to the same product.
“Whole genome sequencing allows for a new level of precision in dealing with bacteria entering the food supply chain, dramatically increasing the chances of minimising future contamination from the same source.”
The new test can find the source of three major foodborne bacteria – salmonella, listeria and campylobacter – while a test for E.coli is being made available due to recent outbreaks and demand from the industry.
© FoodBev Media Ltd 2019