The global reaches of the food industry include every imaginable type of food. With such diversity come unique and often problematic challenges, especially with regard to analyses of the diverse matrices of the food products produced. How does one prepare a sample for microbiological analyses, for example, which can be screened for the presence of different microbiological species? Is there a one-size-fits-all solution available?

These are some of the questions posed by Exact Scientific Services, Inc., a full-service, contract microbiology laboratory established in 2006. Exact Scientific employs 14 full-time staff professionals and serves clientele ranging from dietary supplement manufacturers, flax oil producers, berry producers, milk producers, meat facilities, herbal supplement processors, providers of colostrum and whey protein powders, vegetable growers, fish processors and tree nut farmers. The company analyzes a variety of food matrices for both microbiological and chemical analysis. With the overwhelming variety of their customers’ products, Exact Scientific needed a workable and flexible solution.

Kent Oostra, co-owner of Exact Scientific with over 20 years of experience in this industry, explains why his company chose Bio-Rad Laboratories as their solution provider: “The reasons we chose Bio-Rad’s assays were the turnaround times, the functionality and the adaptability to multiple matrices. With the broad range of products we run, we needed a system that was adaptable to our schedule and work load.”

Oostra is referring to Bio-Rad’s iQ-Check kits, which are optimized for fast, qualitative detection of major pathogens in food and environmental samples. They function as a flexible and open system, allowing industrial microbiology laboratories rapid control in their procedures. The kits utilize real-time PCR technology. Two instrument platforms are available to meet every user’s needs. A 96-well instrument is suitable for high-throughput analysis, with the ability to run four instruments from a single computer at the same time. For lower-volume users, a 48-well instrument is available. Additionally, Bio-Rad offers enrichment media, real-time PCR detection systems and software for automated analysis.

The iQ-Check kits available include the following: Cronobacter spp., Campylobacter, Escherichia coli O157:H7, Listeria spp., Listeria monocytogenes, Salmonella II and STEC (Big Six serogroups plus E. coli O157:H7). The AOAC Research Institute has granted Performance Tested Method status to this family of test kits. Since the reactions occur in closed PCR tubes, the chance for cross-contamination is limited. An internal amplification control is performed in each well to verify the validity of the reaction and confirm a negative result. Due to the high sensitivity and specificity of real-time PCR, a single overnight enrichment is sufficient to obtain results equivalent or better than reference methods, yielding results within 12–24 hours.

When asked what the advantages are in choosing Bio-Rad’s kits, Oostra answers, “The advantage of the assays is the repeatability from assay to assay. Listeria, Salmonella, Cronobacter and E. coli O157:H7 are essentially the same assay with different reagents. This repeatability allows for fewer mistakes and a more streamlined process. Also, being able to run multiple assays on one system is a great benefit. Another great benefit is being able to look at the graphs generated from the RT-PCR assay and being allowed to interpret their meaning. A positive/negative result isn’t good enough for us and our clients. Bio-Rad’s system allows us to get into the heart of the run. We want the ability to analyze the data and feel our clients deserve that. With Bio-Rad’s products, we can do that; with other systems, we only saw a positive/negative result.”

Bio-Rad’s assays allowed Exact Scientific to arrange a work schedule that gets data in their clients’ hands faster with the confidence the company requires.

“We are able to get our sample results out the next day by noon. With the automated emailing of results, I can access data if I am in the field or at home,” he adds. 

“Bio-Rad’s system has given us the flexibility to handle more samples without adding more people. It allows us to give our clients the results needed in a timely fashion. The ability to meet client needs while allowing our employees to have reproducible processes benefits our company in both the work environment and client relations.”

When you have a mission statement that reads, in part, “Exact Scientific Services, Inc. is committed to providing the highest quality customer service and effective product testing services,” you need to rely on the best solution possible. Bio-Rad’s iQ-Check kits allow them to do just that.