LONDON (Reuters) - Breakthrough technologies developed at a British university could cut the costs of detecting salmonella bacteria, which can cause severe illness, from 15 million pounds to five thousand pounds ($8.28 million), UK researchers said on Thursday.

FILE PHOTO: A view of the Sainsbury's laboratory in the town of Thornaby, Britain, June 3, 2009. REUTERS/Nigel Roddis/File Photo

The bacteria, commonly found in food, can lead to food poisoning and send scores of people to hospital.

Drug-resistant bacteria, which are a frequent cause of health scares, have come to dominate the global healthcare agenda, and the 2015 outbreak of infections from products including peanut butter and eggs linked to U.S. food giant Peanut Corporation of America was the biggest U.S. food safety scandal in over a decade.

Under a multi-million pound project, researchers at the University of Manchester worked with U.S. food safety experts at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and technology company K-Lab to develop new methods to detect salmonella in unsorted food.

The project has been handed $7.25 million in industry funding from the companies, which will now be allowed to publish their results in academic journals.

“The goal was to develop reliable methods for testing all types of food, and break the costly barrier to starting the process,” said Professor Mark Cooper from the University of Manchester.

The aim is to stop dirty equipment introducing bacteria that can then spread more easily. Salmonella can also be spread between separate food items if contamination occurs through cross-contamination.

The technique is currently being used to test several highly resistant strains of salmonella.

“We are looking to ensure that it works across all food, and when applied to routine situations. So we are primarily applying it to a means of checking produce produced for human consumption for contamination,” Cooper said.

($1 = 0.7578 pounds)