A Philadelphia-based food testing startup has developed a new technology called Veriflow to detect illness-causing pathogens in foods. Invisible Sentinel uses a small device designed to scan for the DNA of E. coli, salmonella, listeria, and other food-born microorganisms in order to quickly determine the safety of a food item, the New York Times reported.
In recent months, Chipotle has come under fire for a widespread incidence of E. coli in its restaurants which caused dozens of illnesses (and spurred several lawsuits). Blue Bell Creameries has also struggled with listeria-related illnesses, and more recently, Dole recently recalled bagged salads after one person was killed and 12 were sickened by listeria. Incidents like these indicate a clear need for a solution so customers can avoid ill effects and companies can steer clear of PR nightmares, stock hits, and consequent complicated recovery plans.
Traditional pathogen-testing methods for companies or plants often involve prohibitive costs, the Times reports, but Invisible Sentinel has the capacity to set up in-house labs for $5,000 and quickly train employees to use the technology. Testing kits themselves are available in batches of 24 for $240. While the Veriflow technology cannot yet detect multiple pathogens at once, it is already finding its place at companies in the U.S. and abroad.
Meanwhile, another company in San Francisco is making its own push for heightened food safety, working to develop a database of food genetic markers that could help determine when a food has been contaminated with microbes.