LONDON, ONT. -- It may look like a kind of pregnancy test but it’s actually a listeria test created at Western University.

“We’ve actually developed this test to be used in a bunch of different food sources so it can be used in beef, leafy green vegetables, dairy products and it can even be used in juice,” says Dr. Michael Rieder, scientist at Robarts Research Institute.

Testing for Listeria is nothing new but how these specific tests work is. That’s because it normally can take up to a week to get the results of a listeria test, but not anymore. The listeria test kits are easy to use and within 24 hours a food processing plant can get accurate results.

“We can do it before the food ships, so before that load of lettuce and diary products go out with something in them,” says Rieder. “Now we can say yes there’s a problem here and we can’t ship it and we have to sit back and see what’s going on.”

Believe it or not, listeria in food is a common and dangerous problem. “It’s very, very common. One in six people in North America are affected by a food-borne illness a year. That’s 50 per cent of the population and there are 3,000-plus deaths,” he says.

The test kits are also coded into a data base that can be tracked, leaving no room for questions on where the contamination occurred.

The kits are already being used in approximately 50 food processing plants and the goal is to have them in close to 500 by the end of the year.

Next, the research team will work on creating salmonella test kits as well.