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Friday, January 06, 2006

Hi-tech test screens Lactos cheese with ease

The Mercury: Hi-tech test screens Lactos cheese with ease [07jan06]


BURNIE cheese manufacturer Lactos yesterday took delivery of an $80,000 state-of-the-art machine to automate its bacteriological testing.

It is believed Lactos is the first industrial company in Tasmania to introduce automated testing for pathogens, although hospitals and medical laboratories have been using the technology for some time.

Lactos laboratory manager Neisha Coombes said the VIDAS machine would automatically test cheese samples for the presence of listeria and salmonella.

"In the past the testing had to be conducted manually and was very labour intensive," Ms Coombes said.

"With the introduction of this technology our results will be more objective and reliable. The time needed to get results has been reduced from two and a half hours to 45 minutes and laboratory staff are being freed up for other tasks."

The VIDAS machine was supplied by Biomerieux -- a French company which specialises in microbiological diagnostics for medical and industrial applications.

The company's sales specialist, Michael Parker, said although there were 130 VIDAS machines being used in both clinical and industrial laboratories across Australia, Lactos had the first VIDAS machine in Tasmania.

"Automated testing will greatly increase Lactos' capacity to screen product," Mr Parker said.

"This machine is capable of running 300 tests over a standard eight-hour day and that would involve an awful lot of work if it was done manually.

"Automated testing is not about reducing staff, it is about enabling staff to work smarter rather than harder."

Lactos intends to switch to automated testing at the start of next month.


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