As a tool for the <i>in situ</i> characterization of meat quality, a hand-held Raman sensor head using an excitation wavelength of 671 nm was developed. A microsystem-based external cavity diode laser module was integrated into the sensor head and attached to a Raman probe, which is equipped with lens optics for excitation and signal collection as well as a Raman filter stage for Rayleigh rejection. The Raman signal was guided by an optical fiber to the detection unit, which was in the initial phase a laboratory spectrometer with a charge-coupled device (CCD) detector. The laser and the sensor head were characterized in terms of stability and performance for <i>in situ</i> Raman investigations. Raman spectra of meat were obtained with 35 mW within 5 seconds or less, ensuring short measuring times for the hand-held device. In a series of measurements with raw and packaged pork meat, the Raman sensor head was shown to detect microbial spoilage on the meat surface, even through the packaging foil.

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