Keeping the food on America’s tables safe to eat is a major priority at NIFA, and our partners are constantly working to find innovative ways to stay a step ahead of bacteria and other dangerous contaminants that can cause illness. A research team at the Auburn University Detection and Food Safety Center developed a new portable and easy-to-use screening tool to test fresh fruits and vegetables for the presence of bacteria that can cause foodborne illnesses. The team developed biosensors that are placed directly on the fresh fruits or vegetables. The eyelash-size biosensors are coated with antibodies and phages, which are viruses that target specific bacteria that vibrate when placed within an oscillating magnetic field. Frequency changes help inspectors determine the type and amount of bacteria on a given fruit or vegetable. In a matter of minutes, the sensors can detect as few as 500 Salmonella cells amid a sea of a million bacterial cells. The biosensors are disposable and inexpensive, costing less than 1/1,000 of a cent.
NIFA originally published this impact in the NIFA 2016 Annual Report. Want to read about more impacts like this? Check out Fresh from the Field, a weekly bulletin showcasing transformative impacts made by grantees funded by NIFA.