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PCR-based assay detects Salmonella.

A test that detects Salmonella in ready-to-eat meats has been developed by USDA-ARS scientists. The test relies on polymerase chain reaction (PCR) technology to detect food-contaminating microbes on a molecular level. Investigators tell us their "molecular beacon" test, which can detect Salmonella in eight hours, is less expensive than many commercial kits.

To evaluate the new test's efficacy, the scientists artificially contaminated various meats (turkey, bologna and ham) and produce (mixed salad and sprouts) with S. enterica serovar Typhimurium. They allowed it to incubate in the products for 20 hours. Both the new test and a commercial test were sensitive enough to detect contamination in the meat at an estimated level of two to four cells per 25 g. The ability of the test to detect very low levels of Salmonella contamination in eight hours will help the industry in its quality assurance efforts.

As you may know, the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) has unveiled an initiative to reduce the presence of Salmonella in raw meat and poultry products. Its goal is to work proactively to reduce the presence of Salmonella on raw products before processing facilities develop a pattern of poor performance. FSIS will more quickly report testing results and will target facilities that need improvement, providing timely information to both consumers and industry.

The initiative will include concentrating resources at plants that have higher levels of Salmonella contamination. It also changes the reporting and utilization of the FSIS Salmonella verification test results. Where FSIS has already performed food safety assessments in processing plants that have persistently poor performance records for controlling Salmonella, there has been a dramatic reduction in the levels of Salmonella.

The effort is patterned after the successful initiative to reduce the presence of E. coli O157:H7 in ground beef. The FSIS E. coli O157:H7 initiative led to a 40% reduction in human illnesses associated with the pathogen, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, GA.

Since 2002, FSIS has seen an increase in Salmonella-positive samples among broilers. Although the overall percentage of positive samples in verification testing is still below national baseline prevalence figures, the recent upward trend is of concern to the agency. Receiving individual sample results soon after the samples are taken will help companies determine whether their slaughter dressing procedures can reduce pathogen levels. Currently, plants receive results after the sample set is completed. For broilers, a sample set consists of 51 consecutive days of sampling.

Further information. Jitu Patel, USDA-ARS Food Technology and Safety Lab, Room 101, Building 201, BARC East, 10300 Baltimore Ave., Beltsville, MD 20705; phone: 301-504-7003; fax: 301-504-8438; email: jpatel@anri.barc.usda.gov.
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Publication:Microbial Update International
Date:Jun 1, 2006
Words:448
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