The Rapid Micro Blog

Our blog will keep you informed of new and noteworthy technologies, reviews of recent publications and presentations, upcoming conferences and training events, and what's changing in the rapid and alternative microbiological methods world.

Dr. Fung Discusses a 30 Year Review of Rapid Methods in the Food Industry

Welcome to the 6th Annual Global Conference on Pharmaceutical Microbiology! There are a record number of attendees this year, so the conference is sure to provide excellent opportunities for interaction with microbiologists from across the industry. Over the next few days, I will be blogging on presentations related to rapid and alternative microbiological methods.

The opening keynote address is being presented by a world-renowned microbiologist and subject matter expert in rapid methods for the food industry, Dr. Daniel Y.C. Fung. Dr. Fung is Industry Professor, Food and Science, at Kansas State University. His presentation focused on Global Developments of Rapid Methods and Automation in Microbiology: A Thirty Year Review and Predictions into the Future.

Rapid methods and automation in microbiology is a dynamic area of technological advancement sustaining a stream of emerging technologies. Rapid microbial methods continue to offer unique opportunities for improving product quality assurance and economy of quality control and manufacturing operations. Almost ten years ago, improvements in microbial isolation, rapid detection, characterization, and enumeration lead to his prediction “…companies that aren’t converting to rapid methods won’t be in business in 10 years…”

Dr. Fung reviewed the use of rapid methods within the food and medical sectors since the 1960’s. Methods have included modifications of traditional, growth-based procedures using conventional medium, including a double tube agar method Dr. Fung developed himself. In this procedure, growing C. perfringens was able to be viewed within a few hours. And over the years, more automated systems were being introduced. For example, impedance microbiology procedures have been around for more than 30 years, as well as methods for the detection of ATP.

Immunological dip-sticks then came on the market, which provided results on the presence of food-borne pathogens in as early as 10 minutes. Today, we can utilize a wide variety of molecular and nucleic amplification systems, including automated, real-time PCR, as well as novel biosensors, microarrays and nanosensors.

Within the food processing sector, it was projected that more than 740 million micro tests were performed in 2008 by more than 40,000 food processing plants, and it is estimated that the worldwide market for micro testing is more than $2 billion. And the market for food microbiology testing continues to grow, year over year. For example, the rate of growth of micro testing from 2008 to 2010 was more than 6%. But Dr. Fung also stated that the use of rapid methods can also provide considerable cost savings, depending on the method being utilized.

The take home message from Dr. Fung’s keynote is that the number of microbiology assays associated with the monitoring of food will continue to increase, especially in light of recent contamination events, and that rapid technologies will play a very important role in protecting the world’s food supplies.

When asked what the pharmaceutical industry can learn from the food industry (in terms of the adoption of rapid methods), Dr. Fung stated that the expectations for microbiological safety is much higher in the pharmaceutical industry than in the food industry, and that we can benefit greatly from the implementation of rapid methods. Interestingly, the food industry looks up to the pharma industry for guidance on excellence in microbiology testing. Their perception is that we pharma microbiologists strive for perfection, and that we are always looking at ways to implement new technologies. Unfortunately (from my point of view), our industry has been extremely slow to adopt rapid methods for a number of reasons, and that the food industry is actually well ahead of where we are today. This will be a topic of discussion during my rapid methods presentation tomorrow afternoon.

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