|Right place, right time for this food safety technology company?|
|By Peter Depalma|
|Sunday, 04 April 2010 03:00|
Late last week in Washington, D.C., the FDA, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) hosted a joint public workshop on how best to measure progress in reducing foodborne illnesses.
A new study for the Produce Safety Project at Georgetown University says 5,000 people die and 325,000 are hospitalized each year in the U.S. with food-related illness. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also estimate some 76 million Americans suffer food-related illness each year.
The national cost of foodborne illness has been estimated at the astronomical sum of $152 billion annually, but experts say most American's would be shocked to learn that current food safety standards and technologies are either out dated or simply lacking.
The Obama administration recently named a new food safety czar to help coordinate a solution and early in March, after another strain of salmonella was found in a manufacturing plant that makes processed foods including soups, sauces, stews and hot dogs, lawmakers and a Food and Drug Administration official called for the passage of tougher food safety legislation.
Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, said the latest outbreak demonstrated the need for tougher food safety legislation to give the FDA the tools to keep Americans' food safe.
"[O]ur nation's food safety system is outdated, lacks proper resources and, quite simply, does not adequately protect American consumers," Harkin said in a statement. "We must give [the] FDA the tools to prevent a food borne illness outbreak before it happens, rather than react when it is already too late. And when food is tainted, we must provide the tools to respond quickly and protect consumers."
All of these headlines and news stories make Micro Identification Technologies, Inc.'s (OTC: MMTC) microbial rapid identification system such an interesting, yet speculative play.
The company has spent the last few years in the lab perfecting a new technology that not only simplifies the most complex parts of food safety, it also does it accurately and with less expense to food manufacturers and processors. The last five years alone, they created a vast library of harmful chemicals and microorganisms which can cause consumer illness through food contamination.
Finally, last month, the company changed its company name to Micro Identification Technologies to better reflect the extensive capabilities of its ID technology software and the MIT 1000 Rapid Microbial Identification (ID) System that can identify bacteria in less than five minutes with a laser that uses the principles of light scattering and with proprietary PC-based software algorithms to test bacteria samples at less than $0.10 per test.
"Our company's mission is to become an advanced identifier for a variety of applications spanning several industries and we felt our name should reflect this objective," stated Michael Brennan, MIT's Chairman and CEO.
The company has been getting more and more media attention for the technology since, but questions remain about whether the commercialization phase of the technology will actually take hold. One rumor has a major food processor in the U.S. ready to place an order for a significant number of the systems.
Still, trading at $.04 with a 52-week high of $.19 has some investors ready to place their bets that the $3 billion food safety market could use a better device that can identify microbial contaminants faster and cheaper than the systems currently in use.
One look at the company's video profile makes it hard to argue with that logic, especially since so many other penny stock companies raise millions from investors with technologies that only exist on drawing boards or at the prototype stage. This is a company that is ready to launch it's platform into full-scale manfucturing, production and sales.
MIT's technology can also be used for applications in clinical diagnostics, pharmaceutical and semiconductor processing as well as drinking water testing. Each of these applications will be pursued over the next few years. The technology is also adaptable to perform identification in air. The process is environmentally friendly and requires only clean water and a sample of the unknown bacteria.
The patented, laser-based system is capable of identifying 23 species of bacteria within 10 minutes of culturing, versus hours, in many cases. A single test can identify multiple microbes. Since only a small sample is required the culture (incubation) time is also reduced by up to 50% compared to standard testing procedures. According to the Company, results are usually produced and identified within 8 hours. The installed base of competing systems can take up to 48 hours.
As media outlets continue to focus more attention on the issue of food safety, this company will likely become more well known within the space and that would not only help it's sales and marketing efforts, but it's bottom line as well.