A new state-of-the-art laboratory equipped with instrumentation to allow rapid food-borne pathogen testing and characterization was showcased recently at The Science Park in College Station, TX.
The new facility is designed to support the efforts of faculty who are members of the Center for Food Safety, a collaborative effort by Texas A&M AgriLife Research , Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service  and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences , as well as other Texas A&M University departments.
“We have never had access to a shared facility like this before,” says Gary Acuff, director. “Imagine being able to use all of this technology and space without being required to purchase the equipment, pay for maintenance contracts or provide support for experienced technical research staff.”
The center provides comprehensive access to food safety expertise through faculty members who can offer “the appropriate science to address a vast range of food safety issues supporting the food industry, regulatory agencies, small businesses and consumers.
“The new multi-user facility offers unprecedented training opportunities through access to new laboratory and pilot plant facilities that allow for hands-on training,” he says. “In addition, the unique design of the facility permits observation of all laboratory activities from outside the Biosafety Level 2 environment to provide training and demonstration opportunities to attendees who lack certification to enter a BL2 environment.”
The new laboratory is equipped with instrumentation from leaders in the food testing industry, such as bioMerieux, BioControl, Neogen and Roka Bioscience.
“This equipment provides automated sample analyses that include enumeration of bacterial indicators, immunoassays, bacterial isolate identification, antimicrobial susceptibility and multiple technologies for DNA detection. Our new Roka Atlas system will allow detection of salmonella or listeria from as many as 500 samples in one day.”
Members of the center are provided access to the facility and experienced staff as a benefit of membership.
“Membership in the center is free for Texas A&M University faculty members and fees for use of the facility are extremely affordable since they are based on simply maintaining operations,” he says.
Acuff says the center’s goal is to facilitate the recognition of Texas A&M University as a “national and international leader in food safety research.”
“This vision will be fulfilled by cultivating a collaborative, integrated group of research and Extension faculty members and staff,” he says. “This will foster relationships with the food industry and develop a sophisticated portal that attracts external interest and provides outreach and Extension opportunities for center members.”
For more information about the center, visit cfs.tamu.edu/  .