Escherichia Coli Detection and Analysis for Food and Beverage Safety

To the food scientists in microbiology and analytical testing labs working tirelessly behind the scenes to keep us all safe from E. coli poisoning every day, our scientists and engineers are committed to uniquely support your critical work with proven regulatory expertise and a dedicated portfolio of the most trusted tools and services covering R&D and manufacturing QC.

Scanning electron micrograph of Escherichia coli

Figure 1. Scanning electron micrograph of Escherichia coli

Escherichia coli detection for food and beverage safety: Rapid testing solutions and regulatory guidance to avoid contamination

According to the U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC), the large and diverse bacterial group of gram-positive, rod shaped Escherichia coli, (E. coli) contain numerous mammal-associated strains with many harmless, some beneficial, and some harmful to human health including serious food poisoning infections. Pathogenic E. coli strains (6 pathotypes) typically cause gastrointestinal distress and are associated with diarrhea and collectively are referred to as diarrheagenic E. coli, with the STEC pathotype often in the news as the culprit in food-borne illness outbreaks.


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  • Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) aka Verocytotoxin-producing E. coli (VTEC) or enterohemorrhagic E. coli (EHEC).
  • Enterotoxigenic E. coli (ETEC)
  • Enteropathogenic E. coli (EPEC)
  • Enteroaggregative E. coli (EAEC)
  • Enteroinvasive E. coli (EIEC)
  • Diffusely adherent E. coli (DAEC)

Among the pathogenic E. coli, Verotoxin-forming strains (STEC or VTEC) have gained importance in recent years. The group of enterohaemorrhagic E. coli (EHEC) with its highly pathogenic serovar O157:H7 strain is particularly interesting in this respect (see table of common pathogenic E. coli strains). The main sources of infection are contaminated, raw or insufficiently heated foods of animal origin, such as meat and dairy products. The reservoir for EHEC is the gut of ruminants. The microorganisms can enter food during the processing of meat and dairy products if hygienic conditions are inadequate. Certain foods and beverages are more likely to contain these dangerous strains of E. coli that even in small doses can cause vomiting, bloody diarrhea and severe abdominal cramps. Children, the elderly and people with suppressed immune systems could then develop hemolytic uremic syndrome, causing kidney failure and potentially death. The drastic increase in the incidence of food contamination caused by E. coli O157 demands reliable and rapid methods of detection.

Table 1. Food-borne pathogenic strains of E. coli in Major US outbreaks (CDC)

Strain Food Recent Outbreaks
O26 Bison 2019
  Flour 2016, 2096
  Ground beef 2018
  Chipotle Mexican Grill 2015
O103 Ground beef 2019
O121 Bison 2019
  Flour 2016
  Raw clover sprouts 2014
O157:H7 Romaine lettuce 2018 (2)
  Leafy greens 2017
  SoyNut butter 2017
  Beef products 2016
  Alfalfa sprouts 2016
  Costco chicken salad 2015
  Ground beef 2014

Since 2012, the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is routinely testing for six additional STECs (O26, O45, O103, O111, O121, and O145), beyond O157 :H7 in raw beef processing.

We offer a variety of products for the growth, detection, and analysis of E. coli in food and beverage products as well as the processing environment including  Milli-Q® best-in-class laboratory water, standard-setting Millipore® solutions for preparation, separation, filtration and monitoring, and high-precision Supelco® analytical reagents, columns and CRMs. Below you will find an overview of all our E. coli testing solutions. Don’t hesitate to contact us if you have questions.

Traditional testing methods for E. coli bacteria detection in food production, water, and environmental monitoring

A complete membrane filtration system for accurate bioburden testing. EZ Family Filtration System
A filterable list of E. coli medias for a variety of microbiobiological
research and testing applications
Selective and Nonselective E. coli Growth Media by Type for Microbiology
Dehydrated culture medium for selectively enriching Enterohemorrhagic E. coli O157:H7, Salmonella, and Shiga Toxigenic E. coli (STEC) in selected foods mEHEC® Dehydrated Culture Medium
A comprehensive collection of dairy culture media for specific bacteria,
yeast, and mold species relevant to milk processing
Media for Dairy Industry
Unique granulated culture media for the genus Shigella (consisting of four species: S. dysenteriae, S. flexneri, S. boydii, and S. sonnei) that genetically, are extremely closely related to E. coli Cultivation of Shigella
Routine testing of water for human consumption is essential to protect the health of consumers. We provide a variety of dehydrated and ready-to-use culture media and tests matching your testing needs Culture Media and Tests for
Microbial Water Testing


Ready-to-use agar plates and liquid media for the microbiological control of water

Dehydrated culture medium for selectively enriching Enterohemorrhagic
E. coli O157:H7, Salmonella, and Shiga Toxigenic E. coli (STEC) in selected foods
Microfil® Membrane Filtration System
Ready-to-use agar plates and liquid media for the microbiological
control of water
Ready-to-Use Culture Media
for Water Testing

Alternative and rapid screening methods

Easy to use tests based on rapid screening methods like the detection of enzymes with chromogenic substrates, indicators or on complex building reactions. Disks and Strips for the Identification and Confirmation of E. coli and Other Pathogens
Simultaneous detection of both E. coli and total Coliforms from a single test ColiComplete from BioControl® Systems
Our range of rapid culture media plates are an efficient method for the detection and enumeration of microorganisms including quality indicators, pathogens and spoilage organisms. Alternative and Rapid Culture Media Methods
BioControl, Quantitative results for Coliforms and E. coli from food and
environmental samples in just 24 hours
SimPlate® Total Coliform and E. coli CI
A comprehensive range of methods for monitoring surface, personnel and process water Hygiene Monitoring: Rapid and
Traditional Methods
The Assurance® GDS molecular genetic detection system utilizes multiple layers of specificity, including immunomagnetic separation (IMS), highly specific primers, and a patented probe system to ensure sensitivity and accuracy. Assurance® GDS Molecular
Detection System
BioControl Systems ELISA test for detection of E. coli O157:H7 in food and environmental samples TRANSIA™ AG EHEC
A molecular system for detection and identification of microorganism, using rRNA-based hybridization technology for rapid results. HybriScan® Test System



  1. Enumeration of Total Coliforms and E. coli in Foods by the SimPlate® Coliform and E. coli Color Indicator Method and Conventional Culture Methods: Collaborative Study. (2005). Feldsine, P. T.  et al. J. AOAC Internat. Vol. 88(5)
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention E. coli
  3. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), 9 CFR Parts 416, 417, and 430