The 5 things poultry processors should know about food safety

5 Food Safety Food Processing

Global demand for poultry food products continues to increase. As production increases, so do competition and the risks for contamination, product recalls, and reputational damage.

According to a recent report from Research and Markets, the global poultry market will eclipse $400 billion US dollars by 2023. Our own research suggests demand could grow by 20% or more in the next decade. Those figures are good news for the poultry industry.

But there are challenges ahead too. Anxiety about food safety jumped up 10% last year, food recalls are more visible than ever thanks to social media, and we’re learning more about the causes of food contamination every day.

Thankfully, there are solutions available. Poultry processors who invest in training and equipment, and implement protocols to curb food contamination, will reap the benefits of a growing market.

Here are five future-looking tips to protect consumer health, improve productivity, and meet the demands of a market that continues to grow and diversify.

Marel food contamination inspection

1. Contamination (and cross-contamination) in poultry processing

Contamination of food is an ever-present risk in poultry processing. By the time a delicious chicken fillet reaches the end consumer, it has endured a long journey through the processing and production chain, with innumerable food contamination hazards along the way.

Physical contaminants like bone fragments, plastic, metal, glass and wood can be detected with X-ray scanning. On the other hand, if soft contaminants would be detectable too, this would evade traditional human detection.

Chemical and biological packing contaminants are similarly invisible – at least to the human eye.

The risks, however, are enormous. Contaminations put consumer health at risk and can severely damage a processor’s reputation should the product not meet quality, hygiene, or safety expectations.

Contamination risk Marel solutions
Cross-contamination from scalding medium Marel AeroScalder virtually eliminates cross-contamination while reducing water use by up to 75% and energy use by 50%.
Bird-to-bird cross-contamination in transfer Marel transfer solutions like the TR-DE NT, TR-EC, TR-EC GI, LineLink EC and LineLink DE provide intelligent, hygienic solutions for high-capacity lines.
Pathogenic cross-contamination in evisceration The fully automated Marel Nuova eviscerator allows for fast, easy and more hygienic giblet harvesting.
Physical contamination from plastic and soft materials Marel SensorX detects bone, metal, glass and other hard contaminants with the highest accuracy and lowest false positives.
Contamination from chemicals in packing material The Innova packing module traces all products, including packing material, for total confidence and process control.

These are just some of the contamination risks that pose a threat to consumer safety and company reputation. Reducing contamination risk requires constant vigilance and strict sanitation regulations, as well as state-of-the-art inspection equipment designed to detect and eliminate hidden threats.

Peace of mind is possible for both processors and consumers. It starts with strict safety measures, quality control and the right equipment to de-risk poultry processing.

Innova software for SensorX

2. Software and technology

Industry 4.0 is no longer over the next horizon – it’s here.

From the smallest sensor to manufacturing execution systems (MES) and enterprise resource planning (ERP), software drives automation and gathers data for decision-making. Software is essential at every stage of the poultry production process.

Before you invest in software, consider how the solution stacks up for your business:

  • Scalability – will the system grow with you?
  • Reliability – when downtime means lost revenue, can you trust your software system 100%?
  • Flexibility – innovation keeps our industry moving forward, so how does your software support bringing new products online?
  • Capability – with so much data accumulating in every stage of poultry processing, do you have access to the right information when you need it?
  • Security – is your data secured and protected?

On top of all that, food processing software plays a crucial role in reducing food recall risk. An intelligent traceability software like Marel Innova enables transparency and total control for poultry processors, significantly reducing the risk of contaminated food ending up on supermarket shelves.

X-ray inspection equipment increases food safety for consumers - boneless chicken meat free from hard contaminants

3. Food recalls

When contaminated food finds its way to the consumer, the resulting food recall comes with a high price tag. But consumer safety should be the number one concern, even above the financial and reputational damage done to food processors.

Food recalls actually stagnated or fell slightly in most developed countries. So, why are we – collectively as consumers as well as food industry leaders – seemingly seeing more about food safety in the news and online? Here are two possible reasons:

  • Consumer trends

Heightened allergen awareness, the minimally processed food movement (see also: sushi and ceviche), and widespread bans on plastic that might be useful in preventing contamination were identified as contributors to rising food safety concerns in 2020. Consumers are paying closer attention and demanding food that forces processors to adapt.

  • Social media visibility

Now that most of the world’s population is online, news of food contamination cases spreads like wildfire. However, this is also an opportunity to limit risk factors on both sides. Social media should be a key consideration in a recall crisis plan. Keeping consumers informed of evolving situations, and engaging in real-time conversation with a large audience, are two things that weren’t possible before social media became mainstream.

Sensorx Poultry Brochure Page (1)

4. Reducing giveaway and increasing versatility

Poultry prices have fluctuated so far in 2021 as suppliers work hard to meet rising demand. While the focus might be on the big picture – sustainable, affordable food production for a growing population – there are measures every poultry processor can take to deliver more end product.

Marel offers two industry-leading solutions in this space.

  • I-Cut 122 TrimSort broadens the scope of possible cuts while also improving accuracy and speed, giving poultry processors more return on raw material
  • SensorX x-ray bone detection reduces giveaway by 97%, from 10kg to 0.3kg per bone detected in red meat production – and for poultry processors, the savings are similar

Marel’s SensorX solution has set the poultry industry standard for bone detection. The system can detect hard contaminants down to 5 mm with 99% reliability, increasing product quality and minimizing the risk of recalls and complaints.

That means less over-trimming, less rework and product handling, fewer operators, and improved product quality.

5 Regulation Legislation Foodborne Illness Sm

5. Collaboration across the supply chain

In the developed world, the public and private sectors have collaborated to introduce legislation and regulations around foodborne illnesses. However, many developing countries are still in the early stages of that journey. Foodborne diseases remain a significant threat in places where populations are rising fastest.

Regulation by food authorities is a key step in foreign material control and other food safety concerns.

But regulations alone might not be enough. Only a close collaboration between poultry processors, suppliers, customers, partners and end consumers can safeguard the future of the world’s food supply.

Here at Marel, we strive for partnerships, working closely with customers to transform the way food is processed around the world. By investing heavily in innovation, partnering with visionary companies like TOMRA, and localizing our service offering to stay close to customers, we can keep ahead of emerging trends.

Marel is investing in the future of food

Our vision is of a world where quality food is produced sustainably and affordably. We get closer to that goal every day by working together with customers and innovation partners.

To find out more about the ways Marel is transforming food processing and get industry insights delivered to your email inbox, sign up to receive our regular newsletter. You can choose your interest areas and update your preferences at any time.


Get in touch

Our dedicated team is here to help and answer any questions you may have. Please complete the form, and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible. We look forward to hearing from you.

Login to get full access

Enter password to continue

Wrong password