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India launches homegrown quick test for food contamination

By RJ Whitehead , 21-Feb-2014

India launches homegrown quick test for food contamination

India’s health ministry has launched a kit that will determine the cause of food poisoning outbreaks faster and more cost-effectively than established foreign imports, it claims. 

The technology, in the form of three separate tests, was developed by the Hyderabad-based National Institute of Nutrition and can also diagnose iron deficiency anaemia and vitamin A deficiency.

Launching the products, Union Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad said the testers would be used to find the cause of food poisoning outbreaks and common food-borne infections caused by contaminated produce and water.

Rapid detection

This easy, user-friendly and rapid detection system will be of immense use not only to the Food Safety Authority of India but also to the Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme, which reports on food poisoning outbreaks, government diagnostic laboratories and the private sector,” Azad said.

Studies show that about 13% of all Indian children who die under the age of five do so due to diarrhoea. The kits, which were developed by NIN in collaboration with Bioserve Biotechnologies, are made locally, are less time consuming and cost just one-third of the price of imported kits. 

Imports can cost in the region of Rs25,000 (US$402) and might take days to detect pathogens, the indigenous kits can give results in hours, according to a statement by the health ministry.

By using the kits, the food industry will also also helps reduce export rejections on account of microbiological contamination, the minister said.

Health tests

A second kit can estimate ferritin levels, and so helps in the diagnosis of iron deficiency anaemia through individual and mass-level screening. 

It will be useful to decide whether iron supplements are needed, and also if there is an accumulation of iron in the body, as might be the case for thalassemia and haemophilia sufferers.

The health ministry estimates that anaemia due to iron deficiency in different groups may vary as widely as from 5% to 50%. According to the National Family Health Survey, 56% of Indian girls and 30% of boys between 10 and 19 are anaemic.

The third kit is for diagnosing vitamin-A deficiency. It uses a dried blood spot collection system and samples can be stored for seven days at room temperature, making it valuable for mass screenings whereby blood samples can be transported long distances from remote areas to urban testing centres.