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Last Updated: Monday, 12 November 2007, 01:12 GMT
Hope for new food bug test kits
Listeria and salmonella are among the targets
Scientists have received funding to mass produce a testing kit to detect potentially fatal food contamination within hours rather than days.

The project team, based at The Macaulay Institute in Aberdeen, aims to cut detection times for bugs such as listeria and salmonella.

They hope to roll out the new technology by 2010.

The experts believe it could prevent thousands of deaths, and also be used in health care.

The test kit aims to detect multiple contaminants in food, water and environmental samples.

We believe that this technology provides a real opportunity to make Scotland a world leader
Dr Brajesh Singh
The Macaulay Institute

Funded by Scottish Enterprise's Proof of Concept programme, the 246,000 project's aim is to be selling products worldwide by 2010 via a spin-off company, which will also analyse food samples and develop more products.

The Macaulay Institute's Dr Brajesh Singh, who is leading the project, said: "The conventional methods for detecting food contamination used by industries and regulatory agencies are labour intensive, time consuming and costly.

"Our proposed technology offers for the first time, at low cost, the simultaneous detection of multiple contaminants within five to eight hours, and has the potential to revolutionise the food safety industry and save lives through prevention of food poisoning epidemics.

"We believe that this technology provides a real opportunity to make Scotland a world leader in microbial diagnostics and industrial microbiology."

Job opportunities

The technology will initially focus on contaminant detection in food and the environment, and the team said it has wider applications and will be attractive to such sectors as health care.

Dr Singh said there was the potential for the technology to be used in the future to quickly detect hospital super bugs such as MRSA.

"By proving the concept within two years, the project will achieve a technology that can be licensed to a range of industries or service providers," he said.

"It will also be marketed through a spin-out company which will manufacture the necessary kits and create a service centre for the UK, leading to new job opportunities in Scotland.

"These jobs will be in food, environmental and clinical industries."

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