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The Food and Drug Administration has turned a mobile tablet that it calls the "Egg Pad" into a virtual detective squad to uncover the presence of tainted eggs and health violations during farm inspections.
Using a Panasonic Toughbook and software developed for the FDA by Booz Allen Hamilton, the Egg Pad guides inspectors through a series of questions. Based on the answers, the device brings up additional questions and information the inspectors need to answer. As the process unfolds, the Egg Pad builds a form that captures the inspector's observations and the responses to the questions. At the conclusion of the inspection, the Egg Pad automatically generates a draft of the final report that would normally require investigators to go back to their offices to complete.
One advantage for the FDA is that the Egg Pad was designed for clinical use and can be chemically sanitized. This was a core requirement for the egg farm inspections because FDA inspectors need to be able to sanitize their equipment between hen houses, Corrigan said. In August 2010, the federal government recalled 500 million eggs in 14 states following a salmonella outbreak that affected thousands of people. The source of such outbreaks can be rodents, shipments of contaminated hens, tainted feed and improper storage. And the symptoms range from headaches to nausea. The elderly and children are especially vulnerable, and salmonella can result in death of not properly treated.