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ARS Home » Northeast Area » Beltsville, Maryland (BARC) » Beltsville Agricultural Research Center » Environmental Microbial & Food Safety Laboratory » Research » Research Project #430631

Research Project: Sensing Technologies for the Detection and Characterization of Microbial, Chemical, and Biological Contaminants in Foods

Location: Environmental Microbial & Food Safety Laboratory

Project Number: 8042-42000-020-000-D
Project Type: In-House Appropriated

Start Date: Mar 30, 2016
End Date: Mar 29, 2021

Objective 1: Advance development and validation of on-line automated whole-surface inspection systems for simultaneous safety and quality inspection of fresh produce in high-throughput commercial processing operations. Objective 2: Develop and validate user-friendly analytical sensing methods and technologies for targeted and non-targeted rapid screening of foods for microbial, chemical, and biological contaminants in laboratory, field, and/or industrial environments. Objective 3: Advance development of portable spectral imaging technologies to allow identification and detection of food contaminants, and develop sampling and inspection protocols for implementation of the developed technologies in industry and regulatory applications. Objective 4: Advance development, test and validate an automated system for detecting contaminants in produce fields, and investigate cost and sensitivity trade-offs of different potential system components and configurations with regard to production of a cost-effective commercial system.

Because cross-contamination may occur at many points throughout the production, processing, and distribution chains, our research targets reduction of food safety risks at multiple points, including both upstream (pre-harvest) processing and subsequent stages. The inspection point at single-layer processing is not intended to be a comprehensive inspection on its own but is key for some packaged fresh products. The ARS approach includes both pre- and post-harvest risk reduction measures that collectively can mitigate food safety concerns related to foodborne illnesses. The whole-surface sample presentation/imaging technologies developed in the previous project cycle along with the multitask imaging technology will be integrated on conveyor/processing systems to develop two automated whole-surface inspection platforms to simultaneously inspect produce for safety and quality attributes such as contaminants and defects. The two stand-alone commercial-grade prototype processing-inspection platforms will be transportable to produce processing facilities for testing and demonstration of the whole-surface inspection efficacies, with an ultimate goal of technology transfer. The proposed whole-surface fruit inspection will complement current industry sorting—based on quality attributes such as color and size—by the addition of safety inspection and will be used immediately after conventional color and size sorting. The proposed leafy green inspection will be used for inspection immediately prior to “value-added” processing, e.g., washing for packaged fresh-cut products.