Expanding the scope of foodborne pathogen detection: a genomic approach

Detecting pathogens in foods before they cause harm – whether to human health or the manufacturer’s reputation – is an ongoing issue that industry is seeking to address. Valentin Pflüger and Olaf Degen reveal how a new database from Mabritec, based on Bruker technology, introduces a game-changing solution.

A food product recall highlights the potential risk that commonly consumed foods and drinks can have on human health – and often makes headlines that can be both financially and reputationally damaging for the businesses concerned. Ferrero’s urgent recall of Salmonella-contaminated Kinder Surprise eggs just before Easter 2022 is a memorable example, with thousands of products being pulled from the shelves in a blaze of unwelcome publicity.1

With food product recalls costing companies upwards of $10,000,000 per case,2 detecting pathogens in foods before they cause harm is an ongoing issue affecting the industry. While routine screening for known pathogens like Salmonella and Listeria is a standard quality control (QC) procedure, unknown and potentially dangerous pathogens are more difficult to identify.

The timely confirmation of the presence of foodborne pathogens and other quality measures is critical to enable manufacturers to make informed decisions surrounding food QC and, if necessary, instigate batch withdrawal. Food quality and safety analysis expert company, Mabritec AG, has developed a whole genome sequencing (WGS)-based method – representing an improvement on state-of-the-art matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionisation time-of-flight mass spectrometry (MALDI-TOF MS) technology, originally developed for advanced clinical research – that uses a biomarker-based approach to microorganism identification for the food industry.