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Neogen's AccuPoint2 System Uses RFID to Help Verify Food Safety

RFID ensures that food producers test a random sampling of equipment for the presence of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), a chemical that serves as an indicator of how thoroughly an area has been cleaned.
By Claire Swedberg
Apr 28, 2014

When a food-production company's safety inspectors examine production lines each day to ensure they have been thoroughly cleaned of any potentially pathological microbes, they randomly select a few representative areas to test. Neogen Corp., based in Lansing, Mich., markets and sells a device that enables the testing of cleaned production-line tools and components. In July 2013, the firm added a radio frequency identification option to its AccuPoint2 hygiene-monitoring system, automatically providing a random sampling of which sections of the production line to test. The system consists of RFID transponders embedded in signage mounted throughout a production facility, as well as an RFID reader built into the AccuPoint2 testing unit that interrogates those transponders. It also comes with software in the reader that randomly selects an area for an inspector to test, indicating that spot on the device's screen. In addition, Neogen provides software that resides on a user's back-end system to manage the collected AccuPoint2 data.

After each daily production cycle, food companies must clean their conveyors, slicers, hoppers, grinders and other equipment used to manufacture food products, and then dispatch inspectors to perform sample testing to confirm that no pathogens, allergens or other potentially harmful matter is left behind. According to Neogen, these inspections are intended to be conducted on random areas using tools such as Neogen's handheld AccuPoint2 device, which tests for adenosine triphosphate (ATP)—found in all organic matter—making it an efficient method for tracking sanitation.

With RFID-tagged signs installed at various sites throughout the production line, inspectors can use the AccuPoint2's reader to capture a sign's tag ID number and automatically pull up appropriate test information.
With the AccuPoint2 system, an inspector first wipes a swab across the surface of an item being tested, placing the swab (attached to a plunger) into a cartridge containing a material known as luciferin or luciferase, which glows slightly when exposed to ATP. The cartridge is then inserted into the AccuPoint2 device, which measures the amount of light produced and displays the results on the device's screen. The AccuPoint2 unit stores that ATP reading, along with the inspector's name, the date and time, and the test's location, which a user would need to select on the device by toggling to that site (such as "site 1") on the screen. Once the inspections are completed, the device is plugged into a computer's USB port, and the AccuPoint2 software then manages and stores that test data for use by the company's management. Areas that fail the test must be re-cleaned and re-tested.

The system's shortcoming, says James Topper, Neogen's market development manager, is that inspectors or managers must make choices regarding which sites to inspect each day, since not all sites are inspected after every production shift. This can require management to determine which sites have not been tested for some time, and to direct inspectors to those sites—or it can require the inspector to make a selection at the time the process is carried out, which defeats the concept of a random test.

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