In 2011 Escherichia, Listeria, and Salmonella species infected over 1.2 million people in the United States, resulting
in over 23,000 hospitalizations and 650 deaths. In January 2013 President Obama signed into law the Food and
Drug Administration (FDA) Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), which requires constant microbial testing of
food processing equipment and food to minimize contamination and distribution of food tainted with pathogens.
The challenge to preventing distribution and consumption of contaminated foods lies in the fact that just a few
bacterial cells can rapidly multiply to millions, reaching infectious doses within a few days. Unfortunately, current
methods used to detect these few cells rely on similar growth steps to multiply the cells to the point of detection,
which also takes a few days. Consequently, there is a critical need for an analyzer that can rapidly extract and detect
foodborne pathogens at 1000 colony forming units per gram of food in 1-2 hours (not days), and with a specificity
that differentiates from indigenous microflora, so that false alarms are eliminated. In an effort to meet this need, we
have been developing an assay that extracts such pathogens from food, selectively binds these pathogens, and
produces surface-enhanced Raman spectra (SERS) when read by a Raman analyzer. Here we present SERS
measurements of these pathogens in actual food samples using this assay.