Resource Efficient Innovations Database (REID)

Early detection of poultry spoilage

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Early detection of poultry spoilage
New technique identifies low volatility compounds that are present early in the decay process
In Development – This is ongoing R and D work. Further development is required before tools and techniques based on this technology reach the market.

Product Waste Reduction

Product Categories

Relevant Materials
Not Applicable

Relevant Packaging Formats
Not Applicable

Supply Chain Phase
Filling, Storage


The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in the US has designed an instrument that quickly and precisely sniffs trace amounts of chemical compounds that indicate poultry spoilage at an early stage without damaging the product itself.
The process can detect minute amounts of spoilage compounds and can be used by suppliers during all stages of processing, transport and storage. Detection of volatile organic compounds created when lipids and/or proteins decompose has been used to test for spoilage for several years.
The new technique developed by NIST research chemists relies on identifying the much more difficult to detect trace amounts of low volatility compounds that are present early in the decay process. Analyzing such low-volatility compounds used to require impractically long collection times to get a big enough sample for testing and identification. The key to detecting minute levels of the low volatility compounds produced when chicken spoils is a new method of sampling the headspace (the air above a test sample).
The team devised a technique using a short alumina-coated tube cooled to very low temperatures to promote the adsorption of low-volatility chemicals, a technique called cryoadsorption. Among other advantages, this sampling method is robust and flexible in terms of where and how it can be used, an important feature for the food industry. The researchers separated and identified six potential chemical markers that could be used to indicate poultry spoilage before it becomes unhealthy. Those markers were found in the air above spoiled chicken breasts, maintained in their original retail packaging and kept at room temperature for two weeks.

Potential Benefits

As well as helping to identify and manage product waste in the supply chain this improved testing method for spoilage could have significant health implications.

Intellectual Property

The research work has recently been published:
T.Bruno and T. Lovestead. Detection of poultry spoilage markers from headspace analysis with cryoadsorption on a short alumina PLOT column. Food Chemistry, Volume 121, Issue 4, Aug. 15, 2010, pages 1274-1282.

Consultant View

Identifying food deterioration at an early stage in the process will not in itself prevent food waste, but it will help to improve knowledge of the mechanisms that cause food degradation and therefore help to improve supply chain management processes.

Contacts and Further Information

Company details:
NIST, 100 Bureau Drive, Stop 1070, Gaithersburg, MD 20899-1070
Phone: (301) 975-NIST (6478) or Federal Relay Service (800) 877-8339 (TTY)
Technology contact details:
Tom Bruno (Group Leader)
Tel: + (303) 497-5158
Tara Lovestead, Research Chemist
Tel: +(303) 497-5614

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