A Cornell University research group has created a system in which food pathogens can be tagged with “nanobarcodes” that fluoresce under UV light that can then be read by a computer scanner or fluorescent light microscope.
“We wanted something that could be done with inexpensive, readily available equipment,” said Dan Luo, Cornell University assistant professor of biological engineering.
The researchers have already tested the system using samples containing various combinations of E. coli and tularemia bacteria, and have found the color codes could clearly distinguish several different pathogens simultaneously.
Food safety and the development of early warning systems is a growing area of study, given the emphasis on food safety and the perceived threat of terrorism.
Recent US government safety figures show that these developments in the field of nanotechnology are making food safer. From 1996 to 2004, the incidence of E. coli O157 infections decreased 42 percent, campylobacter infections fell 31 percent, cryptosporidium dropped 40 percent, and yersinia decreased 45 percent.