Clostridium botulinum challenge testing

Clostridium botulinum challenge testing

Botulism is a rare but serious paralytic illness caused by a neurotoxin produced by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum. The toxin is the most potent toxin known to mankind with only 30 ng potentially being fatal to humans, therefore its potential presence in food products represents an incredibly serious risk to human health.
QIB Extra provides Clostridium botulinum challenge testing based on identifying the formation of the botulinum toxin in test products during defined storage conditions to help determine a products shelf-life. Our approach focuses on detecting the toxin rather than the presence of the bacteria, not least because there is evidence that toxin production can occur in the absence of any discernible increase in bacterial numbers i.e. growth. In addition, toxin detection at QIB Extra is achieved without animal testing; our results though are comparable in sensitivity with the mouse bioassay.
Challenge tests are tailored to the specific needs of the customer and QIB Extra is able to offer expert advice to help define the necessary experimental parameters required to provide sufficiently robust scientific data to support risk management decisions. Our expert on Clostridium botulinum challenge testing is Dr. Martin Webb, click here to find out more about his expertise and experience.

Each challenge test is bespoke to your company, your product portfolio and the specific shelf-life requirement. A typical challenge test for Clostridium botulinum could be:
  1. A cocktail of spores from selected non-proteolytic Clostridium botulinum type B and type E strains are used to inoculate the product test packs;
  2. Uninoculated control test packs are also included as a control;
  3. The test packs are incubated at a defined incubation temperature and time (In the UK, this is typically 8 °C);
  4. A series of sampling time points during the incubation period are defined depending on the shelf-life of the product;  
  5. An agreed number of replicate packs at each sampling time are tested for botulinum toxin type B and type E (inoculated and uninoculated packs);
  6. Each test data point is also run as an analytical replicate;  
  7. Toxin concentrations calculated against a matrix matched standard curve.
QIB Extra tests for toxin types B and E as these are the common toxins associated with chilled food products however tests for other botulinum toxins are also available (for example if a shelf-stable food is to be tested requiring the detection of type A toxin).
Want to find out more about our Clostridium botulinum challenge testing service? Click here for information on the guidelines issued for chilled foods shelf-life with respect to non-proteolytic Clostridium botulinum

To understand how our research has been applied to the food industry click here to read our case study ‘New Improved Analysis Helps Industry Inform FSA’s 10-Day Policy'.

A recent example of our work was published in the journal Food Microbiology. Click here for a link to this publication.

While most challenge tests are carried out with non-proteolytic Clostridium botulinum and chilled foods, QIB Extra also carries out challenge tests with proteolytic Clostridium botulinum and temperature abused/ambient stored foods.

If you would like to find out more about our C. botulinum service, then please download our C. botulinum catalogue here.

For more information on these services please go to our contact us page.

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