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New scanning technology offers option in safe food processing battle

Posted: October 19, 2012

A new technology being introduced into the Canadian food processing industry may offer help in the battle to provide less cross contamination of harmful bacteria. Called Bactiscan, it is a portable light source that can be used to scan food processing equipment surfaces and show instantly areas where cleaning was not effective. Once unclean locations are identified, thorough analysis and control procedures can be implemented and the areas cleaned properly.

"The technology uses light in various wavebands which cause unclean surfaces to fluoresce somewhat," says Easytesters spokesperson, Bob Holland. "Viewed in a near dark environment, it's like the unclean area glows. It's very easy to see where the cleaning has not been effective. Digital photographs can be used to document and compare the unclean surface before proper treatment and after."

Currently, many food processing facilities use the internationally recognized Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) procedures to develop safe cleaning and reporting standards for their food processing facilities, says Holland.

HACCP is a system that directs plant procedures for identifying chemical and biological foodborne concerns. Under HACCP, manufacturer's procedures directly require staff to correct deficiencies. HACCP is constantly changing to strive for the best known control procedures.

There is nothing like Bactiscan on the market currently, says Holland, and it is being viewed with interest by the food processing industry.

The technology has been supported by two independent studies in the U.K. and the University of Alberta's Agri-Food Discovery Place (AFDP) in Edmonton has recently been contracted to examine the technology. The AFDP project will examine specific known substances on stainless steel surfaces to see how they appear under the Bactiscan light bands.

The project is taking place within the Meat Safety and Processing Research Unit (MSPRU) of AFDP. The MSPRU is designated a "containment level 2" meat processing pilot plant that provides industry, academia and government with the ability to carry out industry driven applied food safety and quality research. Containment level 2 status allows MSPRU to work with pathogens such as E. coli, salmonella and listeria.

The Bactiscan technology is easy to adopt by industry, says Holland. There is minimal specific training required to operate the system. It can either be leased on an annual basis, or inspection services contracted by the hour. A similar product, Bactiscope, used to scan the insides of pipes up to 20 meters, is also being marketed by Easytesters.

"It's important to consider new technologies," says Holland. "We're in a situation today where disease outbreaks can directly affect consumers and threaten the livelihoods of thousands of people in production and the related food industry chain."

Easytesters is an international technology company with several food processing equipment testing products on the market. The Canadian operations are headquartered in Calgary, Alta.