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Software Model Examines Poultry Safety “Step-by-Step"

By Jill Lee
December 4, 1997

Some chicken eggs hatch, and a few of the hatchlings are infected with Salmonella bacteria. What could be the effect on a chicken patty consumers eat later? It’s now easier to find an answer with S-RAMP, a computer model that provides the first attempt to simulate every step in poultry production--from farm to plate.

S-RAMP (for “Salmonella Risk Assessment Modeling Program”) can also identify production and processing steps where Salmonella control can be strengthened.

The program breaks down each stage of poultry production and looks at three factors: contamination (presence of disease-causing microorganisms), reduction (how effective are controls) and growth (how quickly microorganisms take hold and grow.) Based on this information, S-RAMP predicts the numbers of Salmonella organisms.

The new model was developed by food technologist Thomas Oscar with the Agricultural Research Service. He’s at ARS’ Microbial Food Safety Research Unit in Princess Anne, Md.

Software that can help with tracking food-borne pathogens is becoming more important to meat producers in the wake of USDA’s Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points program. The HACCP regulation, which began in 1996, requires all poultry processors to identify potential contamination sites and take steps to reduce risk.

How could S-RAMP help the poultry industry meet HACCP requirements? Say a food plant manager is considering a new treatment to control Salmonella in cooked chicken patties. The manager could run the model with and without the new treatment to see the effect on bacterial numbers.

Salmonella is one of the most commonly reported food-borne pathogens in the U.S. with reported infections doubling every two decades. The S-RAMP model will soon be adapted for Campylobacter, another serious food-borne bacterial pathogen.

Scientific contact: Thomas Oscar, ARS Microbial Food Safety Research Unit, Princess Anne, Md., phone (410) 651-6062, fax (410) 651-6568,