According to a report in the journal Analytical Chemistry scientists have developed a simple, paper-based test that could help detect pathogens on food before they reach supermarket shelves, restaurants – and, indeed, us.
Current testing for pathogens in food requires complicated equipment and highly-trained staff and is far too complex and unwieldy to be practical in large-scale food manufacturing. The researchers have developed a paper-based test that can perform the multiple reactions necessary for this kind of testing simply by controlling the pore size of the paper. When dipped into solutions containing the E. coli strain O157:H7, Salmonella typhimurium or both, lines become visible on a dipstick indicating a positive result within 15 minutes.
Rather like a home pregnancy testing kit, this test just requires dipping the device into a solution once, and produces an easy-to-read result. It could be performed without the need for special training, the researchers say.
Foodborne infections and intoxications cost billions every year so a simple test like this will definitely be of use but as yet there is no news regarding when it might be available. Also organisms such as E. coil O157:H7 have incredibly low infectious doses so a working test would need to be very sensitive.