E.coli O157 & Haemolytic Uraemic Syndrome

New project to prevent food poisoning

31st October 2011

Scientists at Aberystwyth University are developing a system to identify miniscule traces of faecal contamination on chicken carcases in abattoirs that can cause food poisoning outbreaks. Although invisible to the human eye, the smallest trace of contamination can harbour millions of potentially pathogenic micro-organisms and enter the human food chain.

The Improved Food Safety initiative - a Collaborative Industrial Research Project undertaken by the University's Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences (IBERS) - aims to develop a natural additive to poultry feed that will result in ultra-violet fluorescence of faeces.

The additive, a water soluble chlorophyll based marker approved by the Food Standards Agency, would be fed to poultry during the last few days of finishing. When screened in abattoirs using fluorescence imaging, the markers would show up and identify any contamination. By doing so, any microbial contamination can be greatly reduced or removed completely, depending on the method of intervention.

The research project is supported with funding from the Welsh Governments Academic Expertise for Business (A4B), an initiative backed by European funding designed to increase collaboration between academia and industry and drive forward the commercialisation of research.

The project builds on novel technology IBERS is currently developing to detect faecal contamination of red meat. That project has developed markers that can be added to the diet of ruminants to increase fluorescence of faecal matter that can be detected when screened.

A patent application has been filed for this technology and resulted in significant industry attention with requests to take up licensing of the technology in China and India, as well as significant interest from the US and Latin America.

The Chief Scientific Adviser for Wales, Prof John Harries, said the project had the potential to make a significant impact on food safety while also creating economic benefits for the food industry in Wales. It also clearly illustrates the value of collaborative industrial research between business and academia, aimed at turning good ideas into commercial propositions, bringing new products and processes onto the market.

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