Researchers at Kansas State University in Manhatten, KS have developed a rapid test for E. coli in beef that cuts results time from one week to one day. It’s a technology that could save lives and prevent serious illness, said Food Safety Lawyer Fred Pritzker.

“Just last year an E. coli outbreak linked to ground beef sickened more than 200 people in 10 states. Twenty-nine people were hospitalized including one of our clients who developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). She endured kidney failure, seizures and a lengthy stay in the ICU.”

But most illnesses go unreported. Each year, roughly 265,000 Americans are sickened by Shiga toxin-producing E. coli. People of all ages can get E. coli infections but some groups including young children, elderly people and those with underlying health conditions are more likely to develop severe illness and HUS.

E. coli lawyer - Closeup of ground beef


A study about KSU’s test, Single cell-based digital PCR detection and association of Shiga toxin-producing E. coli serogroups and major virulence genes, was published in the Journal of Clinical Microbiology.

“We believe the new digital polymerase chain reaction detection method developed in this study will be widely used in food safety and inspection services for the rapid detection and confirmation of STEC and other foodborne pathogens,” said Jamie Henningson, director of the Kansas State Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory.

Meanwhile, researchers at Purdue University have developed a bioluminescence-based assay which, when coupled with a portable device, works with smartphones and laptops to enable on-site testing. Euiwon Bae, a senior research scientist of mechanical engineering in Purdue’s College of Engineering and Bruce Applegate, a professor of food science in Purdue’s College of Agriculture developed the technology. Their research was published in the January edition of Applied Optics.

“Our goal is to create technology and a process that allows for the cost-effective detection of the causes of foodborne illness using an easy, expedient and efficient process,” said Bae. “This time frame allows for better-integrated detection and quicker action to stop more people from getting sick.”


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