Shiga Toxin-producing E. coli Subject of AME Food Testing Show

Andy Moreno, host of the popular AME Food Testing Show interviewed American Proficiency Institute’s (API) Food Technical Specialist, Christopher Snabes, BS, MS, CFS, regarding the API proficiency testing study on the accuracy of non-O157:H7 Shiga toxin-producing E. coli testing. The radio program is available for listening at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/ame-foodtestingshow/2014/09/24/api-study-on-the-accuracy-of-non-o157h7-shiga-toxin-producing-e-coli-testing

The interview discussed the technical aspects of non-O157:H7 Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) testing.  Mr. Moreno also asked why the test was important to food producers. “The last thing a food producer wants to do is make their customers sick,” explained Snabes. “Food producers do their due diligence in protecting the consumer when they perform the non-O157 STEC analysis.”

Snabes further noted, “Laboratories can measure the accuracy of their results by enrolling in an accredited STEC proficiency testing program.”

“While the food industry is aware of the impact of STECs, some companies choose not to test until mandated to do so,” added Snabes.

Correcting Mistakes Might Feed the World

Earlier this year, the Food Laboratory Alliance released the infographic, Behaving Falsely: When Food Lab Tests Go Bad, to demonstrate the impact that incorrect laboratory test results have on public health and the economy. Data used then to estimate the amount of food produced annually in the United States was woefully underreported. According to the Economic Research Service of the United States Department of Agriculture, 430 billion pounds of food was produced annually in the United States in 2010[i], far more than the estimated 150 million pounds projected on the Alliance’s infographic.

The updated infographic explains how a false negative laboratory test result may lead to possible shipment of a contaminated product, risks consumer injury or death, and potentially damages food brand reputation and trust. A false positive test result, when a contaminant-free product is incorrectly rejected, may lead to economic losses as well as loss of trust on the food commodity and brand.

Accounting for the significantly higher estimates of food production, the infographic demonstrates that with a false positive rate of 3.1%, a whopping 6.05 billion kg (13.3 billion pounds) of food must be recalled, disposed, diverted or reworked. This translates to a missed opportunity to provide a daily ration for 2.6 billion people – more than one-third of the world’s population!

Improving the quality of food laboratory testing continues as the primary mission of the Food Laboratory Alliance.

 

[i] Buzby, Jean C., Hodan F. Wells, and Jeffrey Hyman. The Estimated Amount, Value, and Calories of Postharvest Food Losses at the Retail and Consumer Levels in the United States, EIB-121, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, February 2014.