Cadbury adopts new pathogen testing system

By Charlotte Eyre

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Cadbury Bacteria Hazard analysis and critical control points

Global confectionery giant Cadbury has stepped up its
microbiological surveillance by adopting the Pathatrix pathogen
testing system, according to its creator.

Cadbury has adopted a raft of new technologies to test for potentially harmful food-borne bacteria over the past year, after salmonella contamination forced the company to carry out a £50m chocolate bar recall in 2006.

According to Matrix Microscience, the company that designed the technology, Cadbury chose Pathatrix because it allows food manufacturers to increase the number of food samples tested for pathogens in a shorter amount of time.

"The Pathatrix system provides Cadbury with a validated, science-based solution to the rigorous demands of a highly interdependent and time-critical supply chain," said Jeff Banks, group director of food safety & quality for Cadbury Schweppes, in a statement.

"The system integrates well with other technologies and provides a high quality and practical asset for our laboratories."

The microbial detection system comprises a Pathatrix workstation and a 'consumable', or tube system.

Once set up, a food sample is then pumped around the tubes for a period of thirty minutes.

During this time small magnetic particles, coated with antibodies specific to a target pathogen, pick up on the presence of any pathogens that may be present in the product.

Adrian Parton, chief executive of Matrix Microscience, told that Cadbury chose the Pathatrix system because, unlike other competitors on the market, it allows manufacturers to test large samples of a food product at any one time.

The company also claims that the system is fast and efficient, adding that manufacturers can use a 'pooling' system to test five sub-samples for pathogens at any one time.

If the overall sample tests positive for a harmful bacteria, the original samples can then be re-tested to determine the culprit, but if the initial results are negative no further analysis is required, Parton explained.

Overall results can be obtained within 5 to 21 hours, the company claims.

Cadbury's new safety drive was initiated after the company released salmonella-contaminated chocolate onto the UK market last year, later pleading guilty to breaking nine of the country's food safety laws.

Critically, the company had failed to follow EU-wide hygiene rules, known as Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) analysis, the principles of which rest on establishing control systems that focus on prevention rather than end-product testing.

In July last year, the company said it spent £20m in changing production and testing processes, to ensure that similar outbreaks do not occur in the future.

However, Cadbury spokesperson Tony Billsborough said that the implementation of Pathatrix was unrelated to the salmonella outbreak.

"We have a process of continued improvement here at Cadbury, and this new system is just part of that," he said.

Billsborough also refused to discuss other ranges of testing methods employed by the company for 'confidentiality reasons.'

According to Parton, Cadbury has already established Phatrix at all of its UK sites, as well as some in Europe, and plans to roll the testing system out to its international operations in the near future.

Several other leading chocolate manufacturers are also interested in the technology, he added.

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