With the demand for beef products continuing to rise and research activities increasing in North America, the E. coli O157 testing market is growing rapidly. In North America, this market is expected to nearly double, to more than a trillion dollars, by 2027. Such demand necessitates streamlined, cost-effective, and—most importantly—accurate E. coli O157 testing to prevent outbreaks as much as possible. Food producers and processors need to ensure they have the best processes in place to keep up with this demand safely and efficiently. This may require putting a critical eye to the supply chain to create an effective and sustainable food safety plan.
Foodborne pathogen outbreaks such as those caused by E. coli O157 are not just problematic for consumers; food producers and processors feel the effects as well. Considering lost revenue, product recalls, clean-up costs, and potential lawsuits, the monetary ramifications of an E. coli O157 outbreak can be catastrophic for testing laboratories. By examining processes currently in place, members of the food supply chain can make the changes needed to ensure that their testing processes are safe, efficient, robust, and economical.
Examine the Food Safety Plan
To solidify a well-rounded food safety plan, food processors and producers need a clear roadmap tracing every item. Samples need to be tracked in detail, including their source of origin, how they’re stored at source, mode and route of transportation, how long they’re transported for, and points of primary and secondary interaction throughout the supply chain. It’s also imperative to have a plan of action in case of a product recall. Producer plants need quicker recall procedures and rapid sample traceability, along with notification systems, to implement as soon as contaminated samples are identified by the food processor.
Effective sample monitoring systems ensure that if the food processor can identify exactly where the outbreak occurred, it can also identify what specific samples have been contaminated. Because this outbreak could trace back as far as the slaughterhouse, meticulous sample tracking is essential for every member of the food supply chain.
E. coli O157 testing carried out in processing facilities is only as strong as the chosen test technology of the certified method developer. This will ensure reliable sample tracking and fundamentally allows the method developer to work with each individual customer to create a novel internal monitoring plan of their materials using their specific methodology. For optimum success in this process, laboratories need a method developer with both reliable testing results and robust customer services.
Implement a Sustainable Testing Solution
Many food testing labs currently use PCR or culture methods for their testing procedures. These systems are not without their drawbacks. While PCR is a proven technology and an accurate testing application, ELISA testing methods are just as reliable as PCR and culture-based testing methods. ELISA tests also offer additional benefits, making them a better option for many labs looking for increased automation, improved overall turnover of sample results, and cost savings.
Labs may find that the multiple liquid-transfer steps associated with PCR testing leave many opportunities for errors, and because a high level of skill is necessary to complete the process, a great deal of time and money needs to be spent on training.
High throughput immunoassay ELISA testing challenges the shortcomings of PCR testing. ELISA tests are easier to automate and require less training time to operate, meaning testing labs can onboard employees more quickly and cost effectively. Pre-installed protocols with onscreen step-by-step directions to set up and run assays results in walk-away automation that frees up time for lab testers to multitask, allowing tests to be run in the background while employees complete other necessary tasks throughout their shift.