Requirements for Food Safety Pathogen Testing Systems Changing

The overall increase in food safety pathogen testing combined with the concentration of testing in corporate and contract laboratories will dramatically change product requirements for pathogen detection systems.

As discussed in my last post, the increasing trend in food safety testing is to send samples to an outside food testing laboratory rather than conduct pathogen analysis in the food processing plant. In this post I want to quantify the implications of this concentration of analysis in contract testing labs, and to discuss the resulting impact on product requirements for pathogen detection systems.

In Food Micro—5, Strategic Consulting’s report on the U.S. food safety testing market, we show that approximately 40% of test samples are sent outside the food plant for analysis, either to a central, corporate testing lab or a contract testing laboratory like Silliker. We also show that the percentage of samples being sent outside the food plant for pathogen analysis is rising, and is expected to continue to do so in the coming years.

Food Micro—5 estimates an overall increase in the volume of food safety tests of 15% in the next 3-5 years. If the percentage of test samples outsourced were to reach 50%, we estimate that the daily test volume of corporate and contract labs would grow by over 40% when combined with the testing volume increases that are projected. This growth in sample testing at outsourced locations would mean that each lab location would be processing upwards of several hundred samples per day.

If the percentage of test samples outsourced were to reach 50%, we estimate that the daily test volume of corporate and contract labs would grow by over 40% when combined with the testing volume increases that are projected.

The increase in overall test volume combined with the concentration of testing in corporate and contract testing labs will dramatically change product requirements for pathogen detection systems. They must be able to process a much greater volume of samples in a faster and more efficient manner. This requirement clearly stretches the capabilities of current pathogen testing systems used during the last decade, which were targeted primarily to food plants with low to mid-range testing volumes.

Indications are that pathogen systems are changing, however. At IAFP this August, Roka Bioscience introduced its new pathogen platform, which is targeting higher volume labs with higher throughput capabilities. I am sure there will be additional companies moving into this new space, given the size and fast growth of the outsource testing lab market.

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