Despite significant advances in communal hygiene practices and food safety measures, foodborne illness is still a significant and deadly issue in the United States. The largest barriers to widespread foodborne illness detection are time to detection, speed of information dissemination and cost of testing. To achieve a wide reaching foodborne illness detection network, a system is needed that implements state-of-the-art network communication, biological detection methods and modern portable system technology. AccuStrata is developing an optical spectroscopic bacteria detection system (portable hand-held fluorometer) that not only detects bacterial contaminates more quickly and accurately than current systems but also instantly broadcasts detection results to the broader food supply chain network to stop contaminated food from reaching the next stage in the supply chain and eventually people’s homes.
These devices will interface via a computer network, which will analyze, model, predict hazard levels and quickly broadcast warnings throughout the food supply chain. This capability will streamline the process of raising contamination awareness and preventing the spread of infections. The product will be used for pathogen detection over a broad range of food categories at various stages of the food supply chain.
The individual hand-held fluorometer will accommodate a variety of chemical reagents, which are specific for individual bacteria. The device will deploy a “forensic approach” to bacteria detection, (i.e. detects bacteria by their enzyme byproducts, using the fluorescence response produced by the reaction between the enzyme and the chemical reagent). The method facilitates detection of very small bacteria concentrations at early stages of growth and can be used to forecast potential hazards. This indirect method detects bacteria more rapidly and requires significantly less sample preparation and expert training than direct bacteria detection.
The design of the detection system is focused on sensitivity, rapid testing, user-friendliness and scalability for easy commercialization. This handheld device will have a sleek touchscreen interface, wireless connection to the server via the local area network (LAN) and will allow users to specify bacteria and chemical reagents as needed for food testing. It can be used in retail stores, food packaging facilities, farms and other elements of the food supply chain. The touch screen display shows a simple PASS/FAIL result that does not require interpretation by expert field technicians, although all details of the test results will be stored on the server.