Today’s food industry focuses on transparency and a better understanding of food-borne outbreaks to prevent rather than cure their prevalence. Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) technology for pathogen detection and strain identification are recent food safety testing technology developments in the food industry to address these needs.
Cost, scalability, time to gather results and accuracy are also key considerations for producers, consumers and, consequently, the food industry at large when it comes to ensuring food safety.
Robust, multi-step processes focusing on monitoring critical control points, environmental monitoring and detecting pathogens in food are also applied to ensure food safety.
What does food safety mean?
“In terms of microbiology, food safety means the absence of pathogenic microorganisms”,Said Andrew Lin, PhD, senior scientist at Clear Labs. Today’s consumers expect transparency. They also hope the food industry will take effective control measures to ensure that the foods they sell are free from pathogens, Lin added.
The food industry uses various measures to reduce the risk of pathogens in their foods, including acid, temperature, time, oxygen and humidity, Lin shares. Routine testing for pathogens is a key consideration for ensuring food safety. “Hurdle’s concept is that the use of multiple control measures further reduces the risk of pathogens “,He explained them.
The use of a Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) system to analyze their process and implement adequate controls to ensure food safety is also essential. Lin notes that companies also need to consider regulations and develop robust environmental monitoring programs.
In Europe, the European Commission states that Principle Based Procedures (HACCP) are mandatory for most businesses operating with food or feed in the European Union. “They are essential to put in place, implement and maintain a food safety management system, protecting consumers from risks”,States the European Commission, referring to the HACCP principles.
The evolution of test technology
The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the technology space for food safety testing, Lin shared, as it has put many work forces under stress. As a result, companies have struggled with staff, especially in areas that require special skills and training, such as laboratory technicians. Efficiency and precision are now crucial components of the processes needed to ensure food safety.
Several techniques, including PCR, qPCR, RT-PCR, and LAMP, can detect nucleic acids and others, most notably ELISA, ELFA, and lateral flow for antibody-based detection. Food safety technology also identifies strains where sequencing and NGS come into play. Other forms of the technology include traditional serotyping, MLST, PFGE, DNA arrays, and bead-based arrays.
Clear Labs focuses on accelerating the adoption of NGS so that more people can leverage it for more in-depth analysis and insights. NGS is committed to providing more accurate and complete information on food safety testing.
Exploration of advanced technologies
Clear Labs focuses on understanding infectious disease genomics through food safety testing technology. Applying its knowledge of DNA sequencing, Clear Labs has developed its own sequencing service, Clear Transparency. Its service is designed to help retailers and consumers know what’s in the products they’re buying and where they come from.
The provider of automated sequencing platforms for diagnostics therefore focused on developing NGS technology to meet customers’ other dietary needs, including pathogen detection.
“While other rapid techniques such as PCR or ELISA could detect pathogens in food, Clear Labs’ NGS technology generated millions of reads, covering multiple genetic markers per pathogen,”Lin said.
By developing its platform with built-in redundancy, Clear Labs says its pathogen detection products are more reliable, reduce false negative and false positive results, and provide more information such as serotype or strain details.
With its automated platform, Clear Labs can perform NGS and data analytics to provide automation and reduce errors, while increasing repeatability and robustness with less skills and training to reduce hands-on time between 30 minutes and an hour.
The automated NGS diagnostic platform provider offers Clear Safety Salmonella tests that detect and identify serotypes, while the Clear Safety Listeria Test detects and identifies species and performs similarity analyzes of different listeria strains.
Trust the test technology
Commenting on today’s most significant challenge in applying food safety testing technologies, Lin shared: “Reluctance on the part of some in the industry to adopt new technologies given the investment or training of staff in new methods.”
Lin adds that the industry needs to develop “Quick, accurate and economical solutions for producers and producers”to overcome this obstacle.
In 2022, Clear Labs is focusing its food safety efforts on liberating genomics by making NGS technology more accessible. It also plans to focus on streamlining workflow and automating data analytics to reduce pain points for hesitant consumers.