Speaking with NutraIngredients-USA ahead of his presentation at the upcoming IPA World Congress + Probiota Americas event in Chicago, Dr Christopher Elkins, Director of the Division of Molecular Biology at the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSAN), explained that most of the Agency’s microbiological research and development to date has focused on foodborne enteric pathogens.
“I think as far as analytical tools go for beneficial microbes, we’re still in the dark ages,” he told us. “From the perspective of enteric pathogens we have built up a sizable database of tens of thousands for E. coli and Salmonella, for example, but that’s not the case for microbes intended for consumption like Lactobacillus, Bifidobacteria, etc.”
The Agency is developing a variety of tools, which includes the FDA’s GutProbe, a custom DNA microarray that provides a ‘quick, more accurate, and inexpensive’ method for identifying microbials and probiotics in dietary supplements. The microarray is able to identify specific strains in supplements containing a mixture of probiotics, and extensive details about it were published in the Journal of Applied Microbiology last year.
The microarray was described as “a valuable addition to QC” by the scientific advisory board of the International Probiotics Association (IPA). “I think the GutProbe has been well received so far,” said Dr Elkins.
FDA is also developing a whole genome database of beneficial microbes, and is initially focusing on things that are on the market to give its scientists an idea of what is currently commercially available.
“We’re starting with several hundred strains,” said Dr Elkins. “Companies like Nestlé, Danone, and Chr Hansen may have their own database and they may share those with us. I think discussions about sharing would be good to have.”
“A key aspect of having and developing these analytical tools is that it is a two pronged approach: Firstly, it is useful to the regulators. Secondly, it is very useful for industry to monitor its own products as part of a ‘Good Manufacturing Practices’ process,” he said. This concept is highlighted in another recent publication by his group in mSphere using metagenomic surveillance - the success of which is highly dependent on good databasing.
Want to know more? Dr Elkins will present “A next-generation toolbox for identification, subtyping, and surveillance of live microbial ingredients in dietary supplements and foods” at the IPA World Congress + Probiota Americas 2016 in Chicago May 31-June 2. For more information and to register, please click HERE.