USDA OPENS LAB DEDICATED TO SEAFOOD SAFETY

DOVER, Del. -- In an effort to make seafood safer for consumers, the Agricultural Research Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Washington, has opened a lab dedicated to microbiological food-safety issues at Delaware State University here.The lab, called the Microbial Safety of Aquaculture Products Center of Excellence, will focus on developing faster tests to detect disease-causing viruses

DOVER, Del. -- In an effort to make seafood safer for consumers, the Agricultural Research Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Washington, has opened a lab dedicated to microbiological food-safety issues at Delaware State University here.

The lab, called the Microbial Safety of Aquaculture Products Center of Excellence, will focus on developing faster tests to detect disease-causing viruses and bacteria in clams, mussels and oysters.

"This lab's primary mission is looking for proteins and enzymes that differentiate the virulent from the non-disease causing forms and to come up with a faster, easier way to do tests," said Kim Kaplan, public affairs specialist for ARS.

According to Kaplan, there is presently only one established test, and it tends to be extremely time-consuming.

"There are no convenient tests for many of the viruses and bacteria," said Kaplan. "Right now, there is a test, but it takes too long and is too hard to use in the environment to use out in the field."

By developing simpler testing methods, it will be easier to track what is stimulating the growth of the pathogens in the environment, as well as indicate when it's safe to harvest seafood in an area.

In addition, the improved tests will make it easier to track diseases during outbreaks. But, she cautioned, the new methods may take some time to develop.

"We are not talking about something that's going to happen tomorrow," she said. "Science does take a while to be conducted."