Skip to Content

Fiber Optic Food Safety

September 1, 2000

Each year, contamination by E. coli bacteria causes more than 70,000 cases of food poisoning. Present methods for detecting these germs in food entail making bacterial cultures and take eight to 48 hours to deliver a verdict. A fiber-optic probe originally intended for sniffing out biowarfare agents works in as little as 15 minutes, says microbiologist Daniel DeMarco at the University of South Florida.

The probe consists of an optical fiber whose tip is coated with antibodies that pick up bacteria in the food being tested. Researchers then add fluorescently tagged antibodies to the sample. These labeled antibodies stick to the bacteria on the probe. A laser pulse sent down the probe triggers fluorescent emissions that travel back up the fiber when bacteria are present. The probe, developed by Research International in Woodinville, Wash., and the Naval Research Laboratory, is three to four times more sensitive than other detection systems, DeMarco says. He has tested the instrument on ground beef and apple cider and is adapting it to sense Listeria and Salmonella, two other common food poisons.

Keep Reading

Most Popular

A Roomba recorded a woman on the toilet. How did screenshots end up on Facebook?

Robot vacuum companies say your images are safe, but a sprawling global supply chain for data from our devices creates risk.

A startup says it’s begun releasing particles into the atmosphere, in an effort to tweak the climate

Make Sunsets is already attempting to earn revenue for geoengineering, a move likely to provoke widespread criticism.

10 Breakthrough Technologies 2023

Every year, we pick the 10 technologies that matter the most right now. We look for advances that will have a big impact on our lives and break down why they matter.

These exclusive satellite images show that Saudi Arabia’s sci-fi megacity is well underway

Weirdly, any recent work on The Line doesn’t show up on Google Maps. But we got the images anyway.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at customer-service@technologyreview.com with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.