January 19, 2007
January 19, 2007 - Portable inspection devices that detect food safety and quality problems are being developed by Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists. Recent food safety outbreaks highlight the need for 'space-age' ways to prevent such problems at every step in the food production process-from farm field to grocery store or restaurant.
Scientists led by Yud-Ren Chen at the ARS Instrumentation and Sensing Laboratory, Beltsville, Md., are designing such portable inspection devices by adapting optical technology used for remote sensing of earth.
Prototypes include binoculars with lenses that detect fecal matter on meat, produce or processing equipment-as well as diseases or quality defects. A camera/light combination can be helmet-mounted or used in a hand-held device to expose fecal matter as white specks on an eyewear-mounted computer display.
The portable devices are the next stage for a team that recently handed industry a prototype of an online imaging system for chicken inspection. Next will be a similar system for inspecting fruits and vegetables.
Machine vision nicely supports human inspection because its instruments shine light on every single fruit, vegetable, grain kernel or meat or poultry product that speeds along the processing line. It also gives inspectors an extra pair of eyes for scanning equipment and processing areas for contamination invisible to the naked eye.