Strains of E. coli and salmonella kill about 1,250 Americans and infect more than 2 million others each year. As a result, government researchers have expanded their testing program for slaughter houses, with the focus on methods to speed tests for the deadly bacteria. They may not have to look beyond a new testing device developed at Springfield (MA) College. Most existing food tests yield initial results in two to three days, sometimes letting bad meat reach consumers, threaten health, and force recalls. The Springfield College test, according to inventors Chun-Kwun Wun, a microbiologist, and Frank J. Torre, a chemist, can check for E. coli and salmonella within 8 to 24 hrs. The core of the test, performed in a specially designed petri dish, contains chemicals that encourage the bacteria to migrate toward a serum containing antibodies for the strain of microbe under test. When bacteria and antiserum collide, they clump together to form a visible, cream-colored line--the indicator of a positive result. The inventors say the test will cost considerably less than most others and be easier to use. "We can actually grab anybody from the street and train them within two to three hours to do the test," says Wun. The college hopes to license the patented test so that it will reach the market possibly by the end of the year. Phone (413) 748-3044.
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