Interest of consumers in food safety and security is rapidly increasing worldwide. This has resulted in the recommendation of adopting hazard analysis and critical control point (HACCP) systems, whose penetration rate is increasing. However, the number of food recalls and food poisonings due to foreign substances and microbial contamination has remained high. In particular, because microbial contamination requires a long testing period, feedback to the food manufacturing process cannot be accomplished effectively, which increases the harm in some cases.
Yokogawa is a proponent of a robust genetic testing method that can be carried out at an overwhelming speed and simplicity. This testing method is realized through Yokogawa's high-sensitive fluorescence measurement technology developed over the years, and a newly developed non-label gene analysis device. With this technology, it is possible to quickly determine microbial contamination in food and other products, and Yokogawa believes that it can greatly contribute to reducing the operating costs of food manufacturers.
Yokogawa is currently developing a prototype model of a gene analysis system that allows anyone to easily detect microorganisms in food, and is conducting "proof of concept" experiments using real foods and beverages.
If the concept can be verified through experiments, an on-site testing system that can confirm the presence of microorganisms simply by inserting a probe into pretreated food and beverage samples, akin to measuring temperature with a thermometer, can be constructed.
To date, Yokogawa has established technology that can simultaneously distinguish five species of microorganisms within food samples. This system is based on DNA microarray technology, and ultimately determines the presence or absence of microbial contamination by fluorescence measurement taken from a DNA microarray.
Actual measurement results obtained are shown in the image below. Microbial contamination, as well as the type of microbe, can be detected by image analysis of the spots emitting fluorescent light.
Vision for the Future
Yokogawa's microbial test uses gene analysis as its core technology. Thus, various kinds of gene analysis become possible by freely designing the detecting probe. The use of this technology makes it possible to instantly determine the presence of microorganisms, and it can also be applied in fields that involves counter bioterrorism and the prevention of disease outbreaks.
In addition, because it analyses genes, it can not only monitor the presence of microorganisms but also monitor the state of living organisms, and is expected to be applied to environmental assessments that use this bioactivity as an indicator.