The E. coli outbreak traced to bagged spinach highlights the need for improved detection in food processing.

Dr. Raj Mutharasan, a professor of chemical engineering at Drexel University in Philadelphia, is optimizing a sensor that will allow both conventional and organic growers to do the job themselves in a few minutes.

Dr. Mutharasan has developed a sensor that’s precise, accurate and inexpensive (just a few dollars). It can detect pathogens or bacteria like E. coli within 10 minutes, with a sensitivity of four cells per milliliter.

The standard detection process takes about 24 hours and involves a trip to the laboratory. Dr. Mutharasan’s sensor fits into a palm-sized device for food inspectors and growers. And because the technology is so cheap, consumers may be able to purchase a sensor for home use in the future.

Dr. Mutharasan is working with a company to bring his device to the marketplace. He expects it to be in the hands of food safety experts soon.

Our Complete Coverage (Chronological)
Spinach and E. Coli Outbreak
Spinach Woes
Shopping for Bagged Greens
Is It Safe to Eat Frozen Spinach?
Organic Farming and E. Coli Outbreak
Preventing E. Coli Infection
Spinach Ban Modified, But Consumer Caution Advised
E. Coli Outbreak and Our Contaminated Food Supply
FDA Announces E. Coli Outbreak Findings