Auburn University selected as finalist in FDA food safety challenge

Published: May 19, 2015 4:00:00 PM
Media Contact: Gail Riese,, 334-844-3447


A research team from Auburn University has received $20,000 and is one of five finalists for additional funding through the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Food Safety Challenge, a contest launched to develop innovative technologies to accelerate the detection of salmonella in fresh produce.

The team is led by Bryan Chin, director of the Auburn University Detection and Food Safety Center and McWane professor of materials engineering and chair of the Materials Research and Education Center. Additional team members include Steve Best, materials engineer; Shin Horikawa, materials engineering postdoctoral fellow; and I-Hsuan Chen, biological sciences research associate. 

The Auburn team has proposed a detection method which combines magnetoelastic biosensors and a surface-scanning detector, a handheld device that can be passed over food to determine if its surface is contaminated. The biosensors are coated with bacteriophages or phages which are capable of detecting specific types of bacteria.

“We have developed a novel, portable device that will allow for testing of contamination to be completed in only a matter of minutes – and it can be used on site in processing facilities or in remote areas where the produce is being harvested,” Chin said.

Finalists will have the opportunity to work with FDA experts to refine and further strengthen their concepts. On July 7, teams will present their final proposals to a panel of judges at the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition headquarters in College Park, Maryland.

The winner will share the remainder of a $500,000 total prize.