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New Test for Salmonella Faster, More Precise

A new test for salmonella could significantly reduce illnesses attributed to food-born pathogens in the future. (GettyImages)

Beef and poultry producers don't like to hear headlines with the word "salmonella" generally. Usually it means people are sick, and often product has been recalled. It's not an uncommon scenario, unfortunately, as each year 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths are attributed to food-borne pathogens.

That may be on the verge of change, thanks to a team of scientists led by researchers at the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS). The team has found a faster, more precise way to detect salmonella in both beef and chicken. Early detection would be the key to preventing illnesses.

A newly published study reports the team of researchers artificially contaminated food with salmonella. They then tested the samples using Salmonella-specific antibodies combined with a unique signal amplification technique. Their test found salmonella present after just 15 hours -- considerably less time than the two to three days it now takes to detect salmonella in a culture.

"The test has great potential as a simple monitoring system for foodborne pathogens in food samples, which can improve food safety and public health," said Soohyoun Ahn, a UF/IFAS assistant professor of food science and human nutrition, and lead author of the study. "Even with all the strategies used to minimize contamination of beef and poultry, they are still one of the major food vehicles for salmonella."

The test would be suitable for any government research laboratory or industry that routinely tests for salmonella, Ahn adds. She said a similar test has been developed to spot E. coli in milk and ground beef, and it has performed well.