A new food safety test is on its way.
This new test, developed right at Western University, can cut down testing time from two weeks to less than a day. Recently approved by Health Canada, it’s now ready for commercial use.
Tracy Jones is the Coordinator of Fanshawe’s Nutrition and Food Service Management program, and she says this new development shows the strength of Canada’s food inspection.
“It does make me feel very proud to be Canadian,” says Jones. “[I’m proud] to know that we do have some of the highest food safety standards in the world, and that we do have the Canadian Food Inspection Agency who has processes and protocols for keeping us safe and dealing with these things.”
The new testing kit is not available in time for this week’s E. coli outbreak in Romaine lettuce, which Jones says is difficult to avoid. “When the plants are absorbing nutrients from the soil, they’re also absorbing any E. coli that’s in the soil.”
She says this means the bacteria is inside the plant. “Even if you buy the lettuce, and you wash it, and you prepare it properly, you don’t rinse away the E. coli because it’s been absorbed from the ground.”
Jones explains the problem with the old testing system by using this week’s outbreak as an example. “So you’ve got a case of Romaine lettuce that may or may not be contaminated – you can’t serve it until you know,” she says. “Currently, what you have to do, is take a food sample, send it away, and in 14 days you will get your test results. So, what’s happened to your Romaine lettuce? The shelf life is 8 days – it’s gone bad; you have to throw it in the garbage. So, you’re throwing it out whether you get it tested or not.”
Due to cases like these, Jones believes the testing kit’s widespread use would be revolutionary for general food safety.