Infrared spectroscopy can detect E. coli faster than current testing methods and cut days off investigations of outbreaks, says Lisa Mauer, Purdue associate professor of food science.

Her process detects E. coli in ground beef in one hour using Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy. That compares to the 48 hours required for conventional plating technology, which requires lab culturing of cells. Mauer says spectroscopy could be done in the same labs, just in much less time.

She says the spectroscopy method also differentiates between strains of E. coli 0157:H7, meaning outbreaks could be tracked more effectively and quickly. Current tests are multistep and take almost one week to get results. Her findings were reported in the August issue of the Journal of Food Science.