In the US Texas A&M University's Rosenthal Meat Science and Technology Center is involved in testing a new food processing safety system, called Sentry9000.
The Texas Agricultural Experiment Station and FoodHorizon, a leading provider of executive information and performance support systems for the food manufacturing industry, have agreed to experiment with the new system at A&M that will involve testing, research and teaching activities.
Development for the system started at A&M's Research Park four years ago, said Jose Quintana, chief technology officer for FoodHorizon.
The food safety system is a remote computer system that uses hardware and software applications. It can monitor various food safety programs for food processing plants.
One of the advantages provided by Sentry9000 is its ability to provide production data for executives, supporting critical decisions based on real-time production line events.
Personnel have the ability to know exactly how many product units are in inventory, undergoing packaging, being transported, being stored in coolers or ovens and preparation rooms, said Dr. Jeff Savell, professor of animal science and director of the Rosenthal Center.
"Most of today's systems are paper based," Savell added. "There is nothing wrong with that, but it is not the most efficient way to keep track of things. With this system, you can monitor everything in real-time."
The collective data of the production, quality and safety experts who are in charge of various control plans for food production facilities is transferred directly into the parameters of the system. Each day's operation is thoroughly updated and documented in real-time.
The testing of Sentry9000 will be carried out by faculty members from the Department of Animal Science as well as students.
"It will be used in classes along with other operations. It will be layered on top of other things we do in class and in workshops," Savell said.
The system can potentially aid all food processing plants in automating food monitoring and increasing quality control.
"We use wireless technology," Quintana said. "Our system monitors, 24 hours a day, the critical processes in a factory such as temperature control. The plant can take immediate action if there is a problem. Even today, plants have a person with a clipboard walking around [to monitor food safety]. That makes information hard to retrieve. Our system stores the information for the plant personnel."
In the event that the incoming data readings violate a critical limit set at a certain control point, the system alerts key personnel using on-screen alerts, telephone messages, paging systems, or any combination, depending on the producer's operating procedure.
"The benefit to consumers is unprecedented," Quintana said. "Sentry 9000 reduces the risk of food safety related problems. There is an overall increase in the quality of security."
In addition, management personnel located at remote headquarters can view production data as it is collected, on any production line, at any location using the Internet or intranet-based technologies. This capability makes the concept of off-site inspections an attainable reality, he said.