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Wednesday, 24 July 2013 00:00

Development of a sensor for real-time analysis of the authenticity of the Ibérico pig

Chema Concellon Chema Concellon

Researchers from the Agrifood Campus of International Excellence at the University of Cordoba have developed several applications for real-time detection of the quality and authenticity of food products in sectors such as Ibérico pork or fruits and vegetables. To do this, experts used handheld spectral sensors based NIRS technology, which is basically based on the relation of the spectral measures with physical and chemical parameters in food, and allow for the instant and non-destructive analysis of different samples of products, such as “lomo” (loin), ham, plums, asparagus or oranges.

More specifically, in the study 'Prediction of fatty acids content in pig adipose tissue by near infrared spectroscopy: At-line versus in-situ analysis', published this year 2013 in Meat Science magazine, they show the potential and feasibility of a classification and authentication tool based on a sensor called MEMS-NIRS, for the analysis of the channel speed of the Ibérico pork directly at the slaughterhouse. "The results obtained show that this technology can determine both the fatty acid content of the carcass and the pigs’ diet, both of which are key to ensuring their quality to consumers," explains ceiA3 researcher Ana Garrido Varo to the Discover Foundation.

In this sense, the MEMS-NIRS instrument used by the research team adds a number of advantages over the traditional quality control system typically used I the Ibérico pig industry. "This approach allows operators may analyse each channel individually, without the need to take samples and send them to the lab. This process, in its immediacy, implies a very significant optimization of time in the decision-making process related to quality control of each piece of ham or meat," said Garrido.

Thus, the main innovation of this study is the fusion of NIRS technology with other emerging techniques such as the so-called MEMS (Micro-Electro-Systems-Mechanical)-NIRS and hyperspectral image, which uses low-cost sensors, smaller in size and faster than the traditional ones. Moreover, the NIRS-image combination provides not only spectral information using near-infrared radiation, but also spatial content, ie a visual representation of product characteristics, very similar to a satellite image. "This combination allows us to obtain not only general information regarding moisture, proteins, sugars or fatty acids, but also other parameters such as the valuable level of fat between the fibers of the ham (grain), or, in the case of determined fruits, internal damage " she points out.

These results are an outcome of the excellence project MEMS Sensors and NIRS-image for the non-destructive and in situ analysis of animal and plant products, funded by the Ministry of Economy, Innovation, Science and Employment of the Junta de Andalucía (Government of Andalusia).

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