Infrared spectroscopy can detect E. coli faster than current testing methods and can cut days off investigations of outbreaks, according to a study at Purdue University.

Lisa Mauer, an associate professor of food science, detected E. coli in ground beef in one hour using Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy, much less than the 48 hours required for conventional plating technology, which requires culturing cells in a laboratory. Mauer says that spectroscopy could be done in the same laboratories, just in much less time.

The spectroscopy method also differentiates between strains of E. coli 0157:H7, meaning outbreaks could be tracked more effectively and quickly. Current tests are multistep and take almost one week to get results.