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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

Therefore, Topper says, he and Robert Soule, Neogen's product manager for the AccuPoint line, began considering ways in which RFID could help improve the process. Since 2012, the company has been offering an RFID option for users of its AccuPoint HC testing equipment for the health-care market. In this case, a worker utilizes the handheld AccuPoint HC device to measure the ATP level within a hospital room after a patient has been released, but would use high-frequency (HF) 13.56 MHz passive RFID tags and readers and Neogen's software to determine which surface to test. Tags are affixed outside of patient room doors. A user taps the RFID-enabled version of the AccuPoint HC device against the tag, and the device's built-in RFID reader captures that tag's ID number. The device's firmware identifies the room and pinpoints which surfaces had been recently inspected, then lists instructions indicating which surface (such as a bed rail or a door knob) to test.

"We wrestled with the idea of RFID and how it could be used in food safety," Topper states. Neogen began building RFID readers (designed by Neogen and made with a Texas Instruments TRF 7960 reader chip) into its AccuPoint2 devices to be used for food safety. The RFID-enabled version of the AccuPoint2 was released in July 2013, and is presently being used by companies that make a variety of food products.

The back of the RFID-enabled AccuPoint2 device sports a reader antenna.
The transponders, consisting of Texas Instruments' RF-HDT-DVBE encapsulated 13.56 MHz RFID tags complying with the ISO 15693 and 18000-3 standards, are embedded in signs measuring 4 inches by 4 inches. These signs are mounted at various sites throughout the production line, posted on pillars or walls with instructions printed on the front for users to tap the reader at that sign. Topper says that the RF-HDT-DVBE tag—about the size of a U.S. quarter—was selected due to its rugged form factor, which makes it impervious to such conditions as the presence of water or heat.

Each sign is fitted with a Texas Instruments passive 13.56 MHz RFID tag, chosen for its rugged form factor.
Each tag's unique ID number is stored in Neogen's software residing on a user's back-end server, as well as on the AccuPoint2 device. Once the unit reads the tag ID, which is associated in the software with a group number, the software assigns a test site within that group and instructs the user to inspect it. The system can also be configured to list hot spots—sites that must be inspected daily, for example—which can be displayed in red, along with any random suggested sites.

For customers, Topper says, the RFID technology ensures that users have a full sample of all sites being tested on a regular basis, which can then be collected and analyzed, or be presented to customers or government inspectors. Analysis can include monthly averages, or production lines that have a higher percentage of failed tests, as well as when those failures occurred. Neogen, however, continues to offer a non-RFID version of the AccuPoint2 system as well.

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