Technology advance to measure oyster freshness

The University of Tasmania and ConTag Systems (ConTag) have teamed up in the application of temperature measuring and recording technology for oyster farmers.

The technology is aimed at providing reassurances to oyster growers and eventually to consumers about the shelf life of oyster shipments.

The Oyster Refrigeration Index (ORI) has been teamed with a rugged time-based temperature sensor which is included in oyster shipment and stores temperature data over the entire transport phase to produce a prediction of oyster health and merchantability.

ORI developer Professor Mark Tamplin from the Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture’s Food Safety Centre said one of the more common contamination risks to oysters is Vibrio parahaemolyticus, a natural bacterium found in seawater, the growth rate of which is sensitive to temperature.

The ORI will allow companies to predict how V. parahaemolyticus, if present, might increase in supply chains, particularly for products exported into markets that test for this bacterium.

“Until recently there has been insufficient information about how fast V. parahaemolyticus grows in Australian oyster species at different storage temperatures, but now the ORI has been field-tested with Pacific oysters and shown to make reliable predictions,” he said.

The Director of ConTag, Michael Jarvis, said that at the end of the transport phase, his company’s temperature data logger will be returned to Contag.

“When ConTag receives the tag, we use the temperature data to run the ORI model and can provide estimates of bacterial growth to the oyster growers within 24 hours,” he said.

”For now, the technology is principally providing operators with confidence that their produce is being shipped under the right conditions. However that’s just first generation. When we release our GPS-enabled version we will have the ability to analyse near real-time data, so that retailers can make evidence-based decisions about the oysters they are putting on their shelves.”


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