News: Rapid test kit for Listeria improves food safety

By Max Martin, MMJC’19

Dr. Michael Rieder, a professor in Paediatrics, Physiology and Pharmacology, continues to revolutionize food safety, creating a Listeria testing kit that helps ensure contaminated food doesn’t hit supermarket shelves.

Building off the widespread success of his 2018 E. Coli food testing kit, Dr. Rieder’s team at Robarts Research Institute has developed a new rapid point-of-production assay kit that quickly and accurately detects Listeria in food products.

“I am very excited and extremely happy that our work in food safety has resulted in the development of kits to make the food supply safer and enhance the ability of our farmers and food processors to produce and export food,” said Dr. Rieder.

Dr. Rieder’s kit improves on existing ones as it can test for a broader range of Listeria species. It can also be used in a variety of food types, from dairy products to produce to meat.

Listeria is a common bacterial contaminant in food and food processing facilities that is associated with serious food-borne illness.

The kit has been rigorously tested and validated to meet Food and Drug Administration and Health Canada standards. As of January 2020, the kits are being used in many food plants and laboratories across North America.

Current food testing methods typically rely on culture, which requires samples to be sent away for testing. Results can take up to two weeks to come back. By then, the food has often been shipped to market and large recalls have to occur.

Dr. Rieder’s kits are designed to be used directly at food production and processing plants, allowing rapid and accurate testing to monitor the effectiveness of plant hygiene programs and minimize the risk of food contamination.

“This on-site testing markedly reduces the time for results to be seen by food producers and processors, increasing the safety of our food supply and enhancing the profile of North American food producers,” he explained.

Both the E. Coli and Listeria test kits are created and built in Canada, produced in partnership with two Canadian companies: Adept Diagnostics and International Point of Care.

“The success of these kits points to the crucial need for researchers to work with entrepreneurs and industrial partners to get the ideas and concepts developed in our academic labs from prototypes to commercial products that enter the mainstream,” Dr. Rieder said.