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3M Company's food safety unit has won a federal contract to provide the U.S. government with food pathogen detection kits, company officials announced Tuesday.

The contract, with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service (USDA FSIS), will use 3M's Molecular Detection System as its primary method to detect Salmonella, Listeria monocytogenes and E. coli O157 (including H7). The three are considered to be the major pathogenic organisms that threaten the safety of meat, poultry and egg-related products and other foods. Outbreaks and government warnings, investigations or recalls have been tied to eggs, pork, beef, romaine lettuce, dried cococut, pre-cut melons and even certain cereals in recent years.

The 3M testing system was chosen by the government after evaluating several commercial methods.

The contract is one more win for Maplewood-based 3M, which has invested heavily in recent years to expand its health and safety products arsenals.