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Agilent to boost Salmonella and food fraud detection through double edged FDA pact

By Mark Astley , 22-Mar-2012

Food safety specialist Agilent Technologies Inc. has entered into an agreement with the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in a move that will see them working alongside the agency on two fronts - to speed-up Salmonella subtypes detection and prevent food fraud.

Under the Cooperative Research and Development Agreement, California-based Agilent will work with the FDA in the development of tools to detect and analyse Salmonella in food and the improvement of DNA-based methods to prevent the adulteration of processed fish.

The pact will see Agilent will bring its scientific expertise, lab space, instrumentation, reagents, support and software to the table.

The first part of the project will involve the development of an assay panel to identify subtypes of Salmonella in food, which in the event of an outbreak could quickly identify the source and limit illnesses.

Working alongside the FDA and UK-based Campden BRI, Agilent will also conduct research to update methods for the routine confirmation of accurate seafood product labeling to identify cases of economic adulteration and fraud.

Salmonella subtypes

“We hope to gain an understanding of how new techniques can fit into the track-back procedures for pathogens used by the FDA. This is the first part of the agreement, to develop ways to discover the sources of bacteria faster,” Agilent’s North America food industry market development manager Steve Royce told FoodQualityNews.com.

The company will develop mass spectrometry-based genotyping protocols to speed-up the identification of pathogen subtypes.

“This approach also permits a high degree of multiplexing, enabling investigators to identify large numbers of serovars simultaneously.”

Royce added that in-time Agilent hopes to extend its research to apply to other pathogens.

“This will apply to a wide range of pathogens. We’re starting with a select group, and will expand the scope. We will target as many pathogens as possible in as many food types as possible,” added Royce.

Economic adulteration and fraud

Part two of the collaboration, which is being carried out with the additional help of UK-based Campden BRI, will concentrate on the update of Agilent’s ‘lab-on- a-chip’ method of DNA analysis.

“The second part of the agreement is to develop a better tool for confirming that seafood labels accurately indicate the species in the products. The goal is to be able to routinely identify cases of economic adulteration,” Royce said.

“For the fish species ID portion of the agreement, we’ll be developing improved protocols based on the lab-on-a-chip bionalyzer. This uses a disposable microfluidic electrophoresis chip and software to compare variations in DNA sequences in samples to a library of authenticated standards.”

The technique can identify species of fish, even after processing where identifying features such as the head, tail and skin are removed.

This type of test can detect the intentional mislabelling of a product, which is done to avoid tariffs and import restrictions or where a cheaper species of fish is sold as a more costly piece.

Scientific expertise

The agreement will see Agilent will bring scientific expertise, lab space, instrumentation, reagents, support and software to the table.

“The FDA is providing scientific personnel, samples, genome sequence data for pathogen serovars and input on highest priority gene targets and food matrices,” Royce added.

FDA division of microbiology director Eric W. Brown said: “This effort on the part of Agilent is of extraordinary importance to the FDA.”

“We expect this collaboration will be an important step in the development of new and specific tools for tracking bacterial pathogens in foods.”

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