Phase I R&D has demonstrated the feasibility of building and utilizing a cost-effective, hand-held wet-vacuum sampling unit (VSU) to collect E. coli off meat and poultry carcasses and other food-prep surfaces. Prototypes were designed to support USDA Pathogen Reduction Programs through more efficient collection and concentration of E. coli or similar pathogens from food surfaces. Formulated surface rinse solutions (SRS) resulted in improved microbial detachment and at least 75% recovery from beef carcass samples. Phase Il R&D will further refine and test machined VSU prototypes built to conform to current injection-mold designs before initiating commercial production of the sampling unit.
Expanded research on filter types and non-foaming food-safe SRS is expected to further improve filter-liquid flow rates, plus relax microbial stress levels, and increase viable bacterial recovery. Bacteria are captured and concentrated within the VSU with the exclusion of all liquid. Time and labor savings plus improved safety for QA personnel are anticipated during sample collection, transport, and lab processing. Continued partnering with U.S. plastics and filter manufacturers and a large U.S. meat-packing company will allow improved commercial development, field testing, and preliminary marketing strategies during Phase II and III.
PROPOSED COMMERCIAL APPLICATIONS: Successful commercialization of the proposed bacterial sampling unit will provide a more accurate method for sample collection and lab processing of foodborne pathogens, thereby improving public health and safety. This convenient, user-safe, alternative method for sampling meat, poultry, other food products, and processing equipment is projected to decrease time and labor for thousands of food industry QA inspectors.