Nav: Home

Computer program aids food safety experts with pathogen testing

January 24, 2019

ITHACA, N.Y. - An innovative computer program could be a big help for food safety professionals working to keep production facilities free of food-borne pathogens.

Cornell University scientists have developed a computer program, Environmental Monitoring With an Agent-Based Model of Listeria (EnABLe), to simulate the most likely locations in a processing facility where the deadly food-borne pathogen Listeria monocytogenes might be found. Food safety managers may then test those areas for the bacteria's presence, adding an important tool to prevent food contamination and human exposure to the pathogen through tainted food.

The computer model, which is described in the Jan. 24 issue of Scientific Reports, has the potential to be modified for a wide range of microbes and locations.

"The goal is to build a decision-support tool for control of any pathogen in any complex environment," said Renata Ivanek, associate professor in the Department of Population Medicine and Diagnostic Sciences and senior author of the paper. The study was funded by the Frozen Food Foundation through a grant to Martin Wiedmann, professor of food science, who is also a co-author of the paper.

The researchers, including first author Claire Zoellner, a postdoctoral research associate in Ivanek's lab, want to eventually apply the framework to identifying contamination from pathogens that cause hospital-acquired infections in veterinary hospitals or E. coli bacteria in fruit and vegetable processing plants.

Food safety professionals at processing facilities keep regular schedules for pathogen testing. They rely on their own expertise and knowledge of the building to determine where to swab for samples.

"Whenever we have an environment that is complex, we always have to rely on expert opinion and general rules for this system, or this company, but what we're trying to offer is a way to make this more quantitative and systematic by creating this digital reality," Ivanek said.

For the system to work, Zoellner, Ivanek and colleagues entered all relevant data into the model - including historical perspectives, expert feedback, details of the equipment used and its cleaning schedule, the jobs people do, and materials and people who enter from outside the facility.

"A computer model like EnABLe connects those data to help answer questions related to changes in contamination risks, potential sources of contamination and approaches for risk mitigation and management," Zoellner said.

"A single person could never keep track of all that information, but if we run this model on a computer, we can have in one iteration a distribution of Listeria across equipment after one week. And every time you run it, it will be different and collectively predict a range of possible outcomes," Ivanek said.

The paper describes a model system that traces Listeria species on equipment and surfaces in a cold-smoked salmon facility. Simulations revealed contamination dynamics and risks for Listeria contamination on equipment surfaces. Furthermore, the insights gained from seeing patterns in the areas where Listeria is predicted can inform the design of food processing plants and Listeria-monitoring programs. In the future, the model will be applied to frozen food facilities.

Food-borne Listeria monocytogenes infects about 1,600 people in the U.S. each year with flu-like symptoms, with about one in five of those infections ending in death.
-end-
Cornell University has dedicated television and audio studios available for media interviews supporting full HD, ISDN and web-based platforms.

Cornell University

Related Listeria Articles:

Advancing frozen food safety: UGA evaluates environmental monitoring programs
Arlington, Va. - New research funded by the Frozen Food Foundation evaluates current environmental monitoring practices being implemented across the frozen food industry to prevent and control Listeria monocytogenes (Lm).
Advancing frozen food safety: Cornell develops novel food safety assessment tool
New research funded by the Frozen Food Foundation developed a modeling tool to assist the frozen food industry with understanding and managing listeriosis risks.
Highly virulent listeriosis pathogen discovered
An international team of researchers identifies the genetic basis for the hypervirulence of a Listeria strain that can cause severe infections.
Foodborne pathogen sheltered by harmless bacteria that support biofilm formation
Pathogenic bacteria that stubbornly lurk in some apple-packing facilities may be sheltered and protected by harmless bacteria that are known for their ability to form biofilms, according to Penn State researchers, who suggest the discovery could lead to development of alternative foodborne-pathogen-control strategies.
Glow reveals dangerous bacteria
Salmonella and listeria are among the most widely distributed and deadliest causes of foodborne infections.
Pathogen engineered to self-destruct underlies cancer vaccine platform
A team of investigators has developed a cancer vaccine technology using live, attenuated pathogens as vectors.
Cell-killing proteins suppress listeria without killing cells
New North Carolina State University research shows that key proteins known for their ability to prevent viral infections by inducing cell death can also block certain bacterial infections without triggering the death of the host cells.
Listeria in the feed: A dangerous hygiene problem in fattening pigs
In a recent study, researchers from Vetmeduni Vienna investigated an episode of fatal listeriosis in fattening pigs with a mortality rate of nearly 10 percent.
Computer program aids food safety experts with pathogen testing
Cornell University scientists have developed a computer program, Environmental Monitoring With an Agent-Based Model of Listeria (EnABLe), to simulate the most likely locations in a processing facility where the deadly food-borne pathogen Listeria monocytogenes might be found.
Superbug discovery renews hope for antibiotic treatment
Bacteria that were thought to be resistant to a powerful antibiotic may be susceptible to treatment after all, research from the University of Edinburgh has found.
More Listeria News and Listeria Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Listen Again: Meditations on Loneliness
Original broadcast date: April 24, 2020. We're a social species now living in isolation. But loneliness was a problem well before this era of social distancing. This hour, TED speakers explore how we can live and make peace with loneliness. Guests on the show include author and illustrator Jonny Sun, psychologist Susan Pinker, architect Grace Kim, and writer Suleika Jaouad.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#565 The Great Wide Indoors
We're all spending a bit more time indoors this summer than we probably figured. But did you ever stop to think about why the places we live and work as designed the way they are? And how they could be designed better? We're talking with Emily Anthes about her new book "The Great Indoors: The Surprising Science of how Buildings Shape our Behavior, Health and Happiness".
Now Playing: Radiolab

The Third. A TED Talk.
Jad gives a TED talk about his life as a journalist and how Radiolab has evolved over the years. Here's how TED described it:How do you end a story? Host of Radiolab Jad Abumrad tells how his search for an answer led him home to the mountains of Tennessee, where he met an unexpected teacher: Dolly Parton.Jad Nicholas Abumrad is a Lebanese-American radio host, composer and producer. He is the founder of the syndicated public radio program Radiolab, which is broadcast on over 600 radio stations nationwide and is downloaded more than 120 million times a year as a podcast. He also created More Perfect, a podcast that tells the stories behind the Supreme Court's most famous decisions. And most recently, Dolly Parton's America, a nine-episode podcast exploring the life and times of the iconic country music star. Abumrad has received three Peabody Awards and was named a MacArthur Fellow in 2011.