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Canadian test kit promises to identify E. coli-contaminated lettuce

A new rapid testing kit developed at Western University in London, Ontario, can detect E. coli in romaine lettuce long before shipments hit grocery shelves.  

The Public Health Agency of Canada has warned against eating romaine lettuce because of an E. coli outbreak, forcing retailers to pull supplies from their stores.

Researchers said the Western University-developed kit detects a protein unique to the E. coli 0157 bacteria and can show results in under 24 hours. That's the same strain of bacteria causing the current outbreak in the United States and Canada. 

The current test method relies on cultures being taken from possibly contaminated samples and being sent away for testing, with results taking up to two weeks to come back. By that time, the food has often been shipped to market.

Cbc.ca quoted Dr. Michael Rieder, professor at Western's Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry and scientist at Robarts Research Institute: "This technology is not only faster, but it's less expensive, it's easy to use, and it can occur right in the processing plant."

The Western University kit has been approved by Health Canada and is now being shipped to food processing plants in North America.


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