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Catching Foodborne Pathogens in Action with a Novel System

Novel System Catches Foodborne Pathogens in the Act

Food recalls are becoming increasingly common, and the most frequent culprits are lettuce and spinach that have been contaminated with foodborne pathogens like salmonella, listeria monocytogenes, and pathogenic types of E. coli. It is crucial to test produce routinely to ensure its safety, but detecting human foodborne pathogens is more challenging since you cannot see them on plant surfaces. It takes time to determine who fell sick and from which infected product, by which time, it is often too late. Researchers from the University of Delaware and Biospection, a Delaware-based startup company, have come up with a solution to detect foodborne pathogens in three to six hours.

The system enables microbiologists to monitor crossover pathogens like salmonella that can rapidly spread to new hosts, such as fresh lettuce. According to Kali Kniel, a microbial food safety professor at the University of Delaware, the technology offers incredible potential to improve risk reduction strategies in the produce industry. Tool collaborations between academics and biotech firms like Biospection can upgrade technology and boost food safety and public health.

How the System Works

The team created a multi-spectral imaging platform that employs deep UV sensing to scrutinize plant sentinel response. This technique scans leaves when the plant attracts human-borne pathogens using multispectral imaging. The method can detect changes in the plant under attack. When analyzing benign bacteria, researchers observed little modification. However, with harmful, human-borne pathogens, the team managed to perform a quick detection test. Multispectral imaging is non-invasive and lightning-fast compared to the current system. Instead of extracting a leaf, grinding it up, and plating the bacteria to check for disease, the new system analyzes plants in real-time before they are sent to grocery stores.

The Benefits of the Novel System

The new system will help to reduce the risks associated with microbial contamination. The technology developed with multi-spectral imaging and the use of deep ultraviolet fluorescence can be commercialized and utilized as a real-time imaging sensor to inspect plants for disease and other conditions. Vertical farms offer the most significant benefits from this invention since they require less water and space. As the new tech is lightning-fast and non-invasive, it requires less time and effort and has the potential to save thousands of lives.

Related Facts

– As per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), every year there are 48 million cases of foodborne illness in the United States causing 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths.
– The CDC recommends washing hands and produce thoroughly, cooking eggs and meat thoroughly, refrigerating leftovers, and not preparing food when sick or having wounds.

Key Takeaway

The University of Delaware researchers, in collaboration with Biospection, have invented a multi-spectral imaging platform that employs deep UV sensing to test plants for human-borne pathogens such as salmonella, listeria monocytogenes, and pathogenic types of E. coli. The system is non-invasive, quick, and can potentially save hundreds of lives. It offers incredible potential to improve risk reduction strategies and improve food safety and public health.


The new technology will revolutionize food safety in the United States, and it has significant benefits for all. It is crucial for other countries to invest in such technology to save lives, especially since foodborne illnesses are common worldwide. The multispectral imaging platform is a brilliant invention and goes to show how even the most severe of problems can have inventive solutions.

Denk Liu
Denk Liu
Denk Liu is an honest person who always tells it like it is. He's also very objective, seeing the situation for what it is and not getting wrapped up in emotion. He's a regular guy - witty and smart but not pretentious. He loves playing video games and watching action movies in his free time.

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