The US Food and Drug Administration is asking food companies to submit samples of pathogens found in their plants to beef up a database of foodborne disease, Reuters reports.
By sequencing Listeria, Salmonella, and other foodborne pathogen strains isolated from sick patients and comparing them to those in a database, FDA can more quickly trace the bug back to its potential source.
"You catch things far earlier" with sequencing, David Lipman, director of the National Center for Biotechnology Information, tells Reuters. "It can be two cases. If you see a match, Bam! You've got em."
FDA adds that such an approach was used in 2014 to trace the source of salmonella outbreak affecting peanut butter to nSpired Natural Foods of Oregon.
The agency has been collecting samples found during routine inspections as well as those isolated from sick patients, as have other federal and state agencies, and to increase its odds of finding a match, Reuters says it is also asking companies to submit samples from bugs they've found in their facilities during their own internal inspections. The samples are then added to the public GenomeTrakr database, housed at the National Institutes of Health.
However, Reuters notes that many companies are reluctant to "offer up potentially incriminating evidence" and that the agency is exploring ways for samples to be submitted anonymously.