Up to 10 percent of routine tests performed on food products to identify illness-causing microbes get it wrong, a new analysis shows.
The review — conducted by the American Proficiency Institute , which supplies testing programs for food laboratories and clinical laboratories — tracked nearly 40,000 test results performed over the past 14 years to detect or rule out the presence of E.coli, Salmonella, Listeria monocytogenes, and Campylobacter.
The results, presented at a recent meeting of the American Society for Microbiology, showed food labs report "false negatives" an average of 9.1 percent for Campylobacter and 4.9 percent for Salmonella. The "false positive" rate was 3.9 percent for Salmonella, and 2.5 percent for both E. coli and L. monocytogenes.
"There is concern when laboratories report that pathogens are not found in a food sample, when in fact they are there," explained lead researcher Christopher Snabes. "This is known as a 'false negative.' Similar concerns arise when a laboratory reports a 'false positive' suggesting that pathogens are in the food sample, when indeed they are not."
Currently, food laboratories are not required to assess the accuracy or quality of their tests.
But the Food Safety Modernization Act, passed in 2011, includes sweeping changes to the country's food safety requirements and sets new standards for food laboratories.
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