April 25, 2018

Amid E. coli outbreak, company launches rapid on-site test to verify produce sanitation

SafeTraces, a San Francisco Bay Area-based food safety company, has completed the validation of SaniTracers, a new material that it said will become an important tool for food processors.

The U.S. is dealing with the latest multistate outbreak of Shiga toxin-producing E. coli O157:H7 infections, linked to contaminated romaine lettuce. Over a month after the onset of the outbreak, the source still remains unknown, prompting the Centers for Disease Control to warn consumers to avoid all types of romaine lettuce from the Yuma, Arizona region since the exact origin of the product could not be determined.

“Food processors have very limited tools to quickly verify, before shipment, the lethality of their wash processes on pathogenic bacteria that are sometimes present on fresh produce,” said Anthony Zografos, CEO of SafeTraces. “That is why SafeTraces is launching the first reliable, repeatable, fast, on-site test performed on the finished product to ensure appropriate washing by assessing decontamination and risk of cross-contamination of fresh produce.”

SaniTracers are novel, FDA approved, food-grade microparticles that contain minute amounts of DNA and behave like pathogen surrogates, such as E. coli, during regular produce wash processes, according to the company.

The technology was developed under an FDA-funded Small Business Innovation Research grant. The new test is performed on-site by the customers, and is designed to “provide almost real-time indication of the lethality of the wash process on pathogenic bacteria.”