It’s Turkey Time: Using Visible Spectroscopy to Meet Consumer Demands for Poultry Inspection Safety

November is finally here and you know what that means…turkey time! I am already digging through my cookbooks and planning our big meal for the end of the month, along with millions of other Americans. Turkey sale prices are cramming the local ads and poultry production lines are in hyperdrive this month. To keep up with the demand and ensure consumer safety, visible spectroscopy is now being used to differentiate between wholesome and unhealthy poultry products. With regard to such massive numbers, visible spectroscopy works more quickly and more accurately than the human eye can manage and provides the first step towards safety in high speed production.

cooked turkey visible spectroscopy
Consumers are flocking to the stores this month in search of the perfect bird for their holiday meal. Poultry production is booming and safety inspection lines must increase speed to keep up with the demands.
Image Source: Flickr user Brendan C

Nothing ruins a holiday celebration faster than a bad case of food poisoning and consumers will take extra precaution to avoid any mishaps. The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has even designated that their November “Tip of the Month” be focused on prevention of food-borne illness related to poultry consumption. Thousands of people flock to their website in an effort to avoid any possible contamination and the dreaded consequences that could occur from improper handling. However, the first steps to poultry safety occur long before the birds reach the kitchen and even the grocery aisle.

Poultry inspection regulations

FSIS (Food Safety and Inspection Services) recently added new regulations for poultry inspection standards. According to a USDA announcement, “Poultry companies will have to meet new requirements to control Salmonella and Campylobacter, and up to 5,000 foodborne illnesses will be prevented each year as a result of the New Poultry Inspection System (NPIS), an updated science-based inspection system that positions food safety inspectors throughout poultry facilities in a smarter way.” Many poultry inspection lines run at speeds of up to 140 birds per minute, making the use of visible spectroscopy an important tool in filtering potential contamination. Advanced spectrophotometers offer visible light scans that are quickly analyzed and alert production facilities of possible defects. The product is then removed from the inspection line immediately and sent for further analysis by a human inspection teams. Yud-Ren Chen, an agricultural engineer with the Agricultural Research Service states that “Almost 8 billion chickens go through federally inspected plants annually, compared to less than 3 billion 30 years ago,” therefore, “if you are going to increase productivity without sacrificing the accuracy of meat and poultry inspection, you have to use machine vision and other automated sensors.”

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poultry inspection visible spectroscopy
Visible spectroscopy helps alert inspection teams of possible contamination or defects in high speed processing facilities.
Image Source: Flickr user U.S. Department of Agriculture

Instrumentation for safety inspection

Due to the increase in poultry production, prototypes are currently under development that use a combination of spectral cameras, light probes, and spectrophotometers. This system combines technology with spectral analysis to measure color differences in order to detect defects in quality, and provide accurate and immediate results. With higher numbers of products flooding production lines at faster speeds, human inspection rates simply can’t keep up. The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) has been fighting the poultry industry to upgrade inspection processes and equipment to aid inspection crews and help prevent contaminated meat from reaching the consumer.

With new regulations under review and the heightened awareness of consumer safety, industry leaders must reevaluate inspection processes and equipment. Solutions are available, but require the latest technology and instrumentation which allow for higher speed and accurate results. HunterLab is a leading developer in spectrophotometers and understands their clients’ challenges and needs. Working together to find solutions is a top priority. With over 60 years of experience, we provide color measurement expertise and options that are durable, reliable, and tailored to meet your budget. Contact HunterLab today and take the next step toward poultry safety and quality assurance.


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