A Vision of
By Sharon Durham
August 5, 2002
Detecting contamination before it
reaches consumers is an important part of keeping the food supply safe.
Agricultural Research Service (ARS)
scientists in Athens, Ga., have developed a method and an imaging system to
find contaminants on food surfaces.
Using a real-time imaging system in the processing plant, researchers Bob
Windham, Kurt Lawrence, Bosoon Park and Doug Smith in ARS'
Poultry Processing and Meat Quality
Research Unit were able to detect feces and recently ingested materials on
animal carcasses. Other collaborators include researchers at the
University of Georgia, ProVision Technologies
(Stennis Space Center, Miss.), and the
Institute of Technology Development.
The imaging system scans the surface of a poultry carcass, locating
hard-to-detect material such as small particles or those in shadowed areas.
This detection system could more reliably detect potential food safety
contaminants, thus reducing processing delays and saving processors money.
The system has the potential to be used in many processing situations for
the detection of surface contaminants but has been tested only on poultry at
the Athens research site. Because the system is expected to work with other
animal carcasses, a broad patent application has been filed covering a wide
range of poultry and meat products.
An on-line prototype is currently under development and will operate at 140
birds per minute, approximating the processing speeds used in U.S. poultry
plants. The researchers expect the system to work at 180 birds per minute--the
maximum European line speed--but have no data at this time to predict its
efficacy at that speed.
A cooperative research and development agreement has been established with
Stork Gamco Inc.,
Gainesville, Ga., and the researchers expect to test the first prototype system
in the lab's pilot-scale processing plant by September of this year.
ARS is the chief scientific research agency of the
U.S. Department of Agriculture.