Summary of Awards to Date

Detection and Food Safety, AL.

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Date

Jul. 15, 2008 - Jul. 14, 2009

Award Number

AL021-0801

Funding Agency

Center for Produce Safety

Amount Awarded

$1,736,231.00

Investigator

Bryan A. Chin, Ph.D.
Auburn University

Co-Investigator(s)

Barbaree, J. M.; Neely, W. C.; Kim, D. J.; Cheng, Z. Y.; Conner, D.; Vodyanoy, V.; Huang, T. S.

Summary

Ensuring the safety of our food supply from naturally occurring or deliberate acts of contamination is a national priority that affects all citizens of the United States. Every year, as many as 76 million Americans become ill due to food-borne pathogens, representing an estimated $30 billion in lost productivity. Recent incidents involving large-scale accidental contaminations and difficulties in tracing/recovering tainted food products indicate the need for "new technologies" to ensure the safety of our food. The principal impediments to identification and removal of unsafe food include the lack of rapid food pathogen detection methods, a cumbersome inventory-traceability system, and the inability to identify the source of the problem requiring correction. The development of new methodologies that can rapidly detect the presence of toxins and pathogenic bacteria in food products and trace the tainted food back to its origin must be a part of any comprehensive strategy to lower the incidence of food-borne illness. Current industrial methods of detecting pathogenic bacteria require a minimum of six to 48 hours, by which time portions of the food may have been distributed, marketed, sold, and/or eaten before a problem is even detected. Rapid, specific, and sensitive methods of detecting the presence of food-borne pathogens are required to improve the safety of our food. This research project is part of a strategic plan to develop sensor tags for the detection of food-borne bacteria such as Salmonella typhimurium. These sensor tags would be placed on every food product sold in the United States, enabling monitoring for the presence of toxins and pathogenic bacteria, food spoilage, and product time and temperature; and instantaneous traceability. In response to recent concerns of agro-terrorism, this research is pursuing the development of detection technologies that can be used to rapidly identify deliberate contamination of foods with bio-threat agents such as anthrax, Salmonella, and ricin. New phage-based detection technologies with anticipated detection limits several orders of magnitude better and shelf-lives up to five times longer are being investigated. The long-range goal is to incorporate these sensors as part of the sensor tags to enable quick detection of agro-terrorism attacks.