Food Safety

With the FDA Produce Safety Rule and current development of the Standards for the Growing, Harvesting, Packing and Holding of Produce for Human Consumption- Draft Guidance for Industry, all involved in the produce industry are focused on reducing the risk of fecal contamination.  Man's best friend can play a role in this goal!

Fecal Contamination in Produce

Produce contaminated with fecal matter is increasingly recognized as a vehicle by which food born pathogens such as E. Coli, Salmonella and Listeria are transmitted. The Western Institute for Food Safety and Security and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration underwent a research project to assess the canine's ability to detect fecal matter on produce. The results were outstanding (see below) and published in the Journal of Food Protection in 2014.


Our company is now taking this proven effective tool, the canine olfactory system, to the produce industry. Additionally, we are working with food safety certifying bodies to determine what will need to be done to ensure the presence of working canines will not be considered introducing further risk of contamination.  Our dogs can tell a grower, packer, or produce processing facility if there is fecal contamination before harvest.

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Asked by FDA to Submit Public Comments and Recommendations

Potential areas we believe fecal detection dogs may be helpful:

1. Canine detection services could be a part of the growers assessment of relevant areas for evidence of potential contamination.

2. Assist farm personnel in their required visual assessment of the entire designated harvest area. Canine/Handler teams would greatly reduce the time needed for this task and increase accuracy.

3. Assist with clearing other areas of a farm after contamination has been found in one section.

4. Assist in prioritizing produce samples for analytical testing for contamination before or after an outbreak.

5. Inspecting processed and packaged produce before it is shipped to customers.

6. Inspection of equipment and tools for fecal contamination residue could be another role for fecal contamination detection dogs although this was not a part of the validation study.

7. Produce purchasers could utilize detector dogs to inspect shipments at their site or require this technology is utilized before shipment to them.

8. Could detection dogs be utilized to increase consumers confidence in Romaine lettuce once again?

9. Is it possible these specially trained and certified canine/handler teams could play a role in the importation of produce from other nations?

10 Is it it possible that private import companies and/or government agencies could have trucks sniffed for fecal contamination at the borders as they do for drugs?

Read Submitted Comments and Recommendations for Changes in the Draft

Research Results

We determined that use of a scent detection dog to screen samples for testing can increase the probability of detecting >0.025 grams of fecal contamination by 500 to 3,000% when samples with fecal contamination are rare (<1%).

PARTYKA, M.L., BOND, R.F., FARRAR, J., FALCO, A., CASSENS, B., CRUSE, A, AND ATWILL, E.R., (2014). Quantifying the Sensitivity of Scent Detection Dogs To Identify Fecal Contamination on Raw Produce. Journal of Food Protection, Vol. 77, No. 1, 2014, Pages 6–14. 

What The Research Suggests

Scent detection dogs, if appropriately trained, can detect relatively small amounts of fecal contamination in produce samples, while generating relatively few false positive alerts.

PARTYKA, M.L., BOND, R.F., FARRAR, J., FALCO, A., CASSENS, B., CRUSE, A, AND ATWILL, E.R., (2014). Quantifying the Sensitivity of Scent Detection Dogs To Identify Fecal Contamination on Raw Produce. Journal of Food Protection, Vol. 77, No. 1, 2014, Pages 6–14. 

Research Conclusion

Scent detection dogs appear capable of directly detecting low levels of fecal contamination on romaine lettuce, cilantro, spinach, and roma tomatoes and thereby elevate the probability that an investigator, grower, or processor can successfully detect produce samples with fecal contamination before harvest.

PARTYKA, M.L., BOND, R.F., FARRAR, J., FALCO, A., CASSENS, B., CRUSE, A, AND ATWILL, E.R., (2014). Quantifying the Sensitivity of Scent Detection Dogs To Identify Fecal Contamination on Raw Produce. Journal of Food Protection, Vol. 77, No. 1, 2014, Pages 6–14. 

Full Published Article on Research Gate

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Canine Clean Room Suit

This canine bio-suit is designed and patented by Industrial Safety Professionals, Inc.  We are delighted to have an agreement to utilize their canine-suit technology on our dogs working in food safety detection if required.

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Click To Watch A Video Of A Detection Canine Working In This Suit!

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