Quick Overview: How to monitor food quality with PCR


Foodborne diseases (FBD) derive from consumption of contaminated foods and can cause a wide range of illnesses, including norovirus and salmonella. It is a growing public health problem that keeps food safety laboratories in high demand.

When testing for FBD, laboratory professionals are looking for pathogenic microbes in the sample. One of the most common methods for detecting pathogenic microbes is through a molecular test. Molecular methods use DNA and other genomic material to locate FBD pathogens in food matrices.

Detecting infectious agents with real-time PCR

To detect and study DNA, the genetic material must first be isolated and then amplified. A powerful method for amplifying it is through a Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR). PCR is one of the most widely used diagnostic tests for detecting pathogens.

There are many different applications and types of PCR. The most common type for amplification of DNA is real-time PCR, which monitors the amplification of the targeted DNA molecule in real time – not at its endpoint as conventional PCR. Real-time RT-PCR also has an added step of reverse transcription of RNA to DNA to allow for amplification.

Scientists use fluorescent dyes to detect the DNA amplification in real-time. This can be done with DNA-binding dye, or the dye can be incorporated in a DNA probe. Either way, it allows scientists to see the results almost immediately while the process is still ongoing.

Consequently, they don’t need to open the PCR tubes for analysis.

Preparing PCR samples with automated pipetting

The real-time PCR sample preparation is a comprehensive process that includes transferring liquid between many reaction tubes and adding different components.

This requires an enormous number of pipetting tasks, which is why most food safety laboratories consider it a sensible investment to automate their PCR liquid handling protocols.

With automated pipetting, the PCR samples can be easily prepared with minimum hands-on time. This enables the laboratories to reach their full potential through improved throughput and productivity – and, ultimately, give us safer food.

We contribute to this with flowbot® ONE, which is a pipetting robot that allows you to easily set up common food safety applications such as DNA/RNA extraction and PCR assays.

You are welcome to contact us for more information and a demo.

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We’re always happy to do a demo of the robot that fits your lab setup – just fill in the form below and we’ll contact you.

“In the testing facility the robots are used in two main steps: First, the robots help pool patient samples to save time in the downstream analysis as well as reducing the amount of reagents and plastic materials consumed.

In the second step we use flowbots for transferring eluates from patient samples into the PCR plate where it is mixed with enzymatic reagents before the analysis get done on the PCR machine.”

Thomas Danielsen
Assay Biochemist, QLife