University of Alberta researchers are studying technology that can detect bacteria on food processing surfaces.
The Bactiscan is a portable light source that looks like a large flashlight. It emits four beams of radiation that, when aimed at surfaces, cause bacteria to fluoresce. Actions can then be taken to remove the bacteria.
The technology, marketed through Easytesters Inc., has been on the market for a little more than a year and has been used in Europe as well as North and South America.
Bob Holland, spokesperson for Easytesters, said the test unit at the U of A’s Agri-Food Discovery Place is the only one in use in Western Canada. Results from tests are expected to be released early next year.
“As long as you’re in dark conditions, you can shine the light on all the food processing surfaces, stainless steel primarily, but other material will also indicate the presence of growth or residue that should not be there,” said Holland.
Bacteria rarely exist on their own. They are more commonly found growing in host material, such as the proteins and sugars in food residue.
The technology could have been useful at the XL Foods plant in Brooks, Alta., when E. coli was recently discovered, he said.
“That’s conjecture, of course, but regular use of the lamp reveals material that you can’t see with the naked eye and you know instantly that it shouldn’t be there, and any responsible operator would get rid of it before they start the next production run.”