Research Sheds New Light on
By Linda McGraw
June 5, 2000
A new way to detect microbes that
contaminate fresh meat could help the industry meet new food safety regulations
designed to control deadly bacteria, such as E. coli 0157:H7.
Agricultural Research Service and
Iowa State University researchers
received a patent on the technology in the summer of 1999.
A prototype designed by the researchers was used in a recent test at a large
Midwestern beef packing plant. The instrument uses specific wavelengths or
colors of light to illuminate the carcass. Collected light returned from the
carcass is electronically analyzed to determine if fecal matter is present. If
fecal matter is detected, the carcass can undergo further sanitation.
Visual inspection and carcass cleaning are the standard tools for reducing
the potential for E. coli and other bacterial contaminants in meat
slaughterhouses across the country. But the human eye is not sensitive enough
to identify all of the fecal contamination that can be on carcasses, according
to ARS microbiologist Mark A. Rasmussen at the
National Animal Disease Center (NADC)
in Ames, Iowa.
USDAs Food Safety and
Inspection Service (FSIS) has a zero tolerance standard for fecal
contamination on livestock and poultry carcasses. The fecal detection system
can help livestock and poultry slaughterhouses meet these federal standards.
Rasmussen, ARS microbiologist Thomas A. Casey, and Iowa State University
chemist Jacob W. Petrich invented the prototype, which instantly detects minute
amounts of fecal matter on carcasses.
The work to commercialize the technology is being conducted under a
Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) with ISU and eMerge
Vision Systems, Inc., now
Interactive, Inc. of Sebastian, Fla. Optical and electronic engineers at
eMerge are working with the ARS and ISU scientists to develop both large-cut
and whole carcass detection systems.
Scientific contact: Mark A. Rasmussen, ARS National Animal Disease
Center, P.O. Box 70, Ames, IA, 50010, phone (515) 663-7350, fax (515) 663-7458,
Thomas A. Casey, phone (515) 663-7726,