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Future Brightens for Light-Based Carcass Inspection DeviceBy Luis Pons
September 19, 2002
The future is now brighter for light-based scanners that inspect beef carcasses for possible microbiological contamination.
That's because eMerge Interactive Inc., a Sebastian, Fla., company that holds exclusive rights to the technology's commercialization, is increasing production of a small, hand-held version of the scanners. The increase in production is due to an order for 17 devices, placed by Excel Corp. of Wichita, Kan., a beef-processing company that is a subsidiary of Cargill, Inc.
Excel is also set to build a 900-square-foot addition to one of its plants, where the first of the full-sized scanners will be commercially tested.
The planned production, marketing and testing of VerifEYE (the machines' trademark name) comes as great news to the Agricultural Research Service and Iowa State University scientists who developed and patented the device. The research was done at ARS' Pre-harvest Food Safety and Enteric Diseases Unit, which is part of the agency's National Animal Disease Center in Ames, Iowa. ARS is the U.S. Department of Agriculture's chief scientific research agency.
The instruments use specific wavelengths, or colors, of light to illuminate carcasses. The reflected light is analyzed electronically to determine if contaminants such as fecal matter are present.
The new development represents another step toward getting the devices to market, according to Mark Rasmussen, the ARS unit's research leader who developed the technology with ARS microbiologist Tom Casey, also at Ames.
The hand-held devices, which are about the size of a compact video camera, will be used for online and spot inspections. Initial testing will determine their best use.
Meanwhile, testing of the full-sized machine will take place in a new addition to Excel's plant in Schuyler, Neb. Construction is set to begin next month, and installation of the device is scheduled for November. The machine will examine carcasses as they are conveyed across the scanners' sights. Contaminated carcasses can be removed from the line and decontaminated before entering the food chain.