A system to identify miniscule traces of fecal contamination on chicken carcasses in abattoirs is being developed at the University of Aberystwyth, UK.

The Improved Safety Initiative aims to develop a natural additive for poultry feed that will result in ultra-violet fluorescence of feces. The additive, a water-soluble chlorophyll-based marker approved by the UK’s Food Standards Agency, would be fed to poultry during the last few days of finishing. When screened in abattoirs using fluorescence imaging, the markers would show up and identify contamination. The project builds on technology that is currently developing to detect fecal contamination of red meat. 

“Worldwide, suppliers, consumers and public health officials remain concerned over the presence of pathogenic and spoilage micro-organisms in poultry meat and its by-products, which have resulted in large numbers of food poisoning attributed to poultry," said the university's Dr. Michael Lee. “This project will investigate and develop a system for screening poultry carcasses so that unseen fecal contaminants will be visualized. By doing so, any microbial contamination can be greatly reduced or removed completely, depending on the level of intervention.

According to Lee, the project will improve public health by reducing food poisoning outbreaks and may even lead to new products, processes and services, including new feeds formulated to contain the most fluorescent and stable marker and the development of a spectral imaging system for the detection of the marker.