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Life Technologies to Develop Food-Safety Tests for FDA

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is enlisting Life Technologies Corp. in an effort to improve food safety, signing a five-year agreement to develop efficient ways to spot deadly E. coli and Salmonella bacteria.

Life Technologies will create tests to detect and identify pathogens in the food supply using genetic material provided by the agency, the Carlsbad, California-based company said in a statement. It will also devise new approaches to food testing that the agency can evaluate for potential future use.

The Obama administration has been slow to enact the 2011 Food Safety Modernization Act, proposing regulations just this year to protect the public. The law stemmed from outbreaks and poisonings in cookie dough, spinach, jalapenos and other foods that killed at least nine people and sickened more than 700 in 2008 and 2009. Total cases of food-borne illness were unchanged last year from 2006-2008, stalling previous declines.

“The FDA will call on us, particularly when it comes to developing rapid detection kits,” said Nir Nimrodi, vice president and general manager for food safety and animal health at Life Technologies, in a statement. “This agreement allows them to have new rapid track and trace products for rapid identification of food-borne contaminants.”

Life Technology rose less than 1 percent to $74.66 at 4 p.m. New York time, after rising 70 percent in the past 12 months.

The venture between the FDA and Life Technologies will lead to the creation of real-time tests that can be used to quickly detect specific strains of E. coli and Salmonella. They will also genetically sequence bacteria, then analyze the results for use in future tests. The whole genome sequences will be included in the National Institutes of health Genbank and shared with the food safety research community.

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