Food allergens present a significant health risk to the human population, so their presence must be monitored and controlled within food production environments. This is especially important for powdered food, which can contain nearly all known food allergens. Manufacturing is experiencing the fourth industrial revolution (Industry 4.0), which is the use of digital technologies, such as sensors, Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence, and cloud computing, to improve the productivity, efficiency, and safety of manufacturing processes. This work studied the potential of small low-cost sensors and machine learning to identify different powdered foods which naturally contain allergens. The research utilised a near-infrared (NIR) sensor and measurements were performed on over 50 different powdered food materials. This work focussed on several measurement and data processing parameters, which must be determined when using these sensors. These included sensor light intensity, height between sensor and food sample, and the most suitable spectra pre-processing method. It was found that the K-nearest neighbour and linear discriminant analysis machine learning methods had the highest classification prediction accuracy for identifying samples containing allergens of all methods studied. The height between the sensor and the sample had a greater effect than the sensor light intensity and the classification models performed much better when the sensor was positioned closer to the sample with the highest light intensity. The spectra pre-processing methods, which had the largest positive impact on the classification prediction accuracy, were the standard normal variate (SNV) and multiplicative scattering correction (MSC) methods. It was found that with the optimal combination of sensor height, light intensity, and spectra pre-processing, a classification prediction accuracy of 100% could be achieved, making the technique suitable for use within production environments.
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