The Power of Choice: Pathogen Detection in Produce

Posted by W. Evan Chaney, PhD on Oct 10, 2014 9:00:00 AM

The rapid detection of microbial pathogens in pre- and post-harvest sample matrices is a relatively young discipline, even more so for some specific segments of the food industry like produce. Public health data, recalls and outbreaks amidst increasing consumer awareness and regulatory requirements are creating an environment that challenges food producers to find innovative solutions to meet the demands of the environment. Not to mention the need to be conducive toward larger production volumes and rapid dissemination of finished goods to feed a growing population.

One such demand that will inevitably continue to increase is the need to verify process controls as well as screen products and environments for the presence of food-borne pathogens. That demand, in and of itself, has already created a market for innovative detection technologies that continues to grow and evolve at a rapid rate. What this means, now more than ever before, is that stakeholders performing testing have a variety of testing options. But with the increasing variety of methods available, how are producers and laboratories to choose the detection solution that is right for their unique business needs? How can they be sure that the product or commodity they produce and its formulation or intrinsic characteristics will not adversely affect the accuracy of the of the rapid test method? How can they be sure that the testing method has been verified or validated prior to routine use? 

At a recent Produce Marketing Association meeting, I had the opportunity to present these thoughts and ideas to attendees of the Tech Knowledge Symposium. The presentation underscored the importance for producers to take time to understand what technologies are available to them, define what criteria they seek, and determine what results are most valuable to their business.

For short-shelf life products like produce, turnaround time is a critical factor to consider, but what about the testing method? Just as producers must weigh the outcomes associated with selecting production equipment, packaging, branding and other components of their businesses, they should also consider the implications of what method is utilized to test their products. Many produce matrices contain intrinsic chemical compounds that may be bacteriostatic or bactericidal, have high background microbial counts or intense pigmentation. In combination with sample prep procedures and media formulation, these variables have the potential to affect test results. Consequently, choosing the right pathogen detection method has the ability to increase confidence while enhancing the accuracy and efficiency of your results and reducing costs to get your products to market faster. While there are many factors to consider when choosing a testing method, we focus on these four key areas:

  1. Time to Result
  2. Accuracy
  3. Validation
  4. Confidence

At Roka, we are at the forefront of providing a unique solution to producers and laboratories alike by partnering with our customers to overcome sensitive issues and challenges using our three highly specific and powerful technologies: target capture, transcription-mediated amplification, and HPA hybridization protection assay, all of which are conducted on our automated platform, reducing handling and providing additional confidence. Our unique technology confers many advantages in pathogen testing that mitigate risks associated with the aforementioned product or matrix characteristics. We are continually investigating new applications and partnering with academics and industry partners to continually develop our product line and advance novel solutions for food safety testing.

For a more informed understanding of the power of three technologies, and to learn more about how you can evaluate the criteria and detection method that is right for your business, please download the full presentation: Innovations in Produce Pathogen Testing.

Topics: Produce Pathogen Detection