A device developed at Iowa State University and the National Animal Disease labs in Ames could prevent the kind of e-coli contamination that led to this month’s huge recall of hamburger. Microbiologist Tom Casey says it improves meat inspection early in the process.It’s been called the fecal-detection device, but a development firm dubbed it “Verify” to describe how it can detect fecal contamination of carcasses. The method’s called fluorescent spectroscopy, a fancy way to describe shining a certain kind of light on a thing and making something of another color show up clearly, in this case feces on meat. The scientist compares it to police shows where detectives use light to make fingerprints or blood show up at a crime scene. Inspectors don’t look at every animal carcass going through a packing plant, and Casey says they can’t see bacteria.Casey says the device that will show fecal contamination in a better way than anything used today to find which meat may be contaminated with e-coli, the microbe that caused the recall of more than 18-million pounds of ground beef in 21 states, including Iowa. He says the scanning device will help inspectors figure out what techniques they’re using work best. This device can look at every carcass and see which methods are helping or making contamination worse. Casey’s research team won an award a couple years ago for their work on the meat-scanning technique, and he says a research and development firm linked to the animal-disease lab is creating a prototype that will be in use very soon at a meatpacking plant in Nebraska.
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