Breaking News on Food Safety & Quality Control

Silliker opens lab dedicated to virus detection

The virus lab opened in the Food Science Center
The virus lab opened in the Food Science Center

The Silliker Food Science Center has opened a Virus Detection Laboratory in Chicago.

It is the second laboratory to focus on virus detection, joining Chelab Silliker in Resana, Italy, which launched its services earlier this year.

The contract research organization, which is part of Mérieux NutriSciences Corporation, said turn-around time varies according to the sample and method selected by the client.

Mérieux NutriSciences said it is compliant to ISO 15216-2: Microbiology of food and animal feed-Horizontal method for determination of Hepatitis A virus and norovirus in food using real-time RT-PCR- Part 2: Method for qualitative detection.

Virus problem

Viruses account for almost 50% of disease outbreaks, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Annually, norovirus causes about 21 million illnesses and contributes to about 70,000 hospitalizations and 800 deaths.

The figure is around 30% for Europe, up from 12% in 2007 according to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) in 2007.

Pamela Vennin, vice president corporate communications Mérieux NutriSciences, said the investment will complement the existing lab in Italy where business has been going well.

“It gives us a global level of quality and technology that serves to detect viruses for food with the most recent findings in microbiology to do testing which is consistent in the labs. It is one approach so clients don’t worry which method is used where,” she told

“Sourcing in the food chain is global, where products are sourced and manufactured is open to viruses and other pathogens.

“This lab ensures we are closer to market enabling a faster turn-around time for any samples and reassurance to the customer about the presence of viruses or not.”

RT-PCR in use

The 71,000 square-foot facility is home to the Illinois Analytical Lab and the Food Science Center.

Construction on the $14m dollar facility was completed in August 2012 ahead of grand opening in September.

Typically, viruses are present in foods in low numbers, and their identification in traditional cell cultures is difficult or impossible.

Recent diagnostic advances, such as RT-PCR, have advanced the detection of foodborne viruses.

With RT-PCR, the detection limit of norovirus (GI and GII) and hepatitis A is 1-10 copies depending on the quality of the RNA purification from the food matrix.

Utilizing a commercially available RT-PCR detection kit, the laboratory provides testing for Norovirus GI / GII and Hepatitis A in matrices including: water, shellfish, fruits, vegetables and herbs and spices.

Wendy McMahon, general manager of the Food Science Center, said: “With the ongoing advent of new methods and technologies in virus detection, we are continuously expanding our services to meet the needs of industry worldwide.”

Analytical services are also available for environmental swabs. The employed method was adapted from ISO 15216-1 and ISO 15216-2.

Secondary screening and confirmatory testing are also available.

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