A Word from the Sample6 CEO: Driving the Food Safety Revolution
It’s been one year since I joined Sample6’s crusade to revolutionize pathogen testing and food safety. In that time I’ve had the privilege of touring over a dozen food plants from Boston to Salinas Valley. I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to “quality test” cooked bacon – delicious! I’ve seen freshly severed fish heads, lettuce - washed, chopped, spun, blown and bagged, and six-foot vats of melted cheese that would make a glorious Super Bowl party. It has truly been like Charlie’s tour of Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory: amazing, impressive and occasionally terrifying.
It is amazing how different locations, product types and companies have one thing very much in common. In every single case, there is an impressive and sincere commitment to shipping safe food. The food safety folks I have met are doing everything they can; using every available resource; to ensure that the food their plants are producing is safe. But, they all are in agreement that the tools available today are not ideal for achieving this goal.
I’ve learned that the cornerstone of food safety is prevention. Prevention is about thorough sanitation practices, routinely validated for effectiveness, in order to know as quickly as possible if a contamination exists. In a busy production plant, time means product. The longer the lag in critical testing, the more product is exposed to a potential hazard. Speed equates to immediate containment, keeping the issue small and controlled versus widespread.
To identify issues quickly, requires a sample to be tested immediately, but today’s tests are delayed by enrichment. This means that a single cell must be multiplied to over a billion cells through a lengthy process taking up to 48 hours before testing can begin. In this case, not only is the time a risk factor, but the high volume of pathogen cells that have been created is also a risk factor. In order to develop a diagnostic, we routinely work with pathogen cells in our facility. As the overseer of our lab, I know first hand that containment is a challenge and requires rigor in the facilities and the team to avoid contamination. Managing these burdens adjacent to where food is processed adds additional challenges for food quality managers.
This means samples usually get shipped out to remote labs. Best case, expensive couriers are used, which adds several hours to the process. More commonly, the samples are shipped overnight, adding an additional 12-24 hours to the process. The bottom-line is that the typical time to result is 3 days. During those 3 days, production has continued and the potential spread of a pathogen contamination is harrowing.
All of this has validated why I joined Sample6. We are developing a pathogen test that does not require enrichment, and can be safely run on site. It is simple enough for any lab tech to perform, and delivers results within a single shift - less than 8 hours! With our validation work complete and submitted for certification, the food safety revolution is about to take a big step forward! Stay tuned for exciting announcements from Sample6.