New technology aims to make food safer for New Mexico consumers
Diseases associated with water and food pose a significant public health threat in the United States. It is estimated that 76 million people become ill and 5,000 people die due to foodborne pathogens each year in the nation. With the implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) in ready-to-eat products, food safety professionals need to understand and be prepared to embrace the new food safety environment. Rapid and reliable detection and identification of these pathogens in food and environmental sources is key to preventing serious health problems and economic losses and safeguarding the food supply.
To help New Mexico producers and the food industry comply with the Food and Drug Administration FSMA and U.S. Department of Agriculture requirements, scientists with the New Mexico Agricultural Experiment Station are adapting the use of a portable spectrometer using LEDs to identify pathogens in food products at the production source. This will be accomplished using state-of-the-art technologies designed for implementation with minimal required training.
Such point-of-production screening will have significant positive impacts for consumers and producers. Using the portable spectrometer will provide the ability to detect pathogens before the product goes into the market, which reduces the number of product recalls. This implementation also can decrease waiting times for microbial results and provide a faster economic turnaround for the producer. The effort will enable in-field, real-time screening of produce and food products for pathogen contamination. Farmers, producers and inspectors will not need to wait weeks to determine contamination in produce or processed products. Having immediate access to this information speeds the process to the market and provides consumers a safer product.