10 tech innovations to sniff out food spoilage
When you’re out of home, travelling to a different country or dinning out in some fancy restaurant in your locality; one thing you cannot trust is the safety of the food you’re served. How fresh or safe is that dish you are about to eat? You can never be sure! Spare a thought for some of these existing new gadgets and technologies that can now travel with you to help you know if the food you’re having is just safe?
# Smart chopsticks
Developed by Chinese search engine giants, Baidu, the so called Smart Chopticks, aka Kuaisou in Chinese can help detect oil containing unsanitary level of contamination in your food. The Kuaisou can detect freshness of water, food items and oil and can also measure nutrition content, PH levels, temperature and calories in your food – marvelous for chopsticks to be doing all this. Interestingly, the chopsticks can sync with your smartphone to indicate if food is “good” or “bad” to eat. The chopsticks aren’t commercially ready yet, so there is no word on the price.
# Edible gold sensors
A team of researchers from Tufts University, led by biomedical engineering professor Fiorenzo Omenetto and Hu Tao have successfully developed a gold and silk spoilage indicator to detect the health of your food. This is basically a very thin gold antennae placed in a purified silk substrate, which is completely edible and can stick onto or float in any food item to detect its pureness. The sticky sensors detect the slightest of changes in the food (if spoilt) and emit unique electromagnetic signals which can be picked by an external reader.
Peres is a sensor designed to detect freshness of food. Using a smartphone or tablet, the Peres can let you know if your food is fresh and safe to eat. All you have to do is, hold Peres over the food you are about to consume. Four built-in sensors of the Peres will then in real time monitor temperature, humidity, ammonia content and volatile organic compounds in and around the food. This information is sent to the smartphone or tablet via Bluetooth and the app on the device offers information about freshness of the food. The app is available for iOS and Android platforms.
Work of industrial design student Solveiga Pakstaite of the University of Brunei, Bump Mark is bio-reactive expiration label for packaged food. The clever food label is designed in such a way that it decays with the same rate as the food inside the package. Providing an accurate account of how fresh the packaged food item is. Bump Mark is a is basically a smooth label made of a special type of gelatin. As time passes and the food within the package begins to spoil the smooth label begins to develop small bumps which are easy to feel on the finger. Still work in progress, the Bump Mark is scheduled to be available in the market soon.
# Intelligent plastic packaging
Sick of guessing whether the food inside a packaging is still safe to consume? Here is a way you can know it well before opening the package and eating it. Researchers at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow have developed intelligent plastic film that changes color when the food packed inside is going bad for consumption. Researchers believe this technology will help reduce risk of people eating packaged food not fit for consumption.
# Thinfilm printed sensor
There are devices and chips that change color as the food item begins to spoil, Thinfilm printed sensor on the other hand comprises a temperature sensor, a battery, memory and a display to monitor and record temperature history of any perishable item, which can then be retrieved later to know about the food item’s freshness.
# Peking tags
Team of researchers at the Peking University in Beijing, China, led by researcher Chao Zhang have developed a color coded intelligent tag, which uses nanotechnology to detect if certain packaged food is still safe to eat or not, regardless of what the label says. Dubbed Perking tabs, after the University, these are gel-like tags, which change colors from red to green indicating food is not safe for consumption. Costing as little as US$0.002 a tag, the Perking tags react to ambient temperature around them and change color from red (fresh) to orange (getting old) to green (unsafe to eat).
Chemists at MIT have created near-field communication tags called CARDs, which can detect gases (all including hazardous and heinous). Easily connectable to smartphones, the tags can draw power from the connected device and help detect the spoiling packaged food.
# Smartphone biosensor
Researchers at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign have developed a smartphone and cradle, which combine to transform a smartphone into a household biosensor. Using the cradle, fitted with lab-type lenses and filters, and the accompanying application, the smartphone can be used to detect toxins and bacteria in food items right on the spot.
# FoodScan 3000
Researchers at MS Tech in Herzilya, Israel, have developed the FoodScan 3000, a handheld device which can test food items for presence of bacteria in just three seconds. The makers claim FoodScan 3000 to be the only handheld device in the world, which can detect the presence of contaminants in food items in three seconds flat. The environmentally friendly 800 gram FoodScan 3000 has an array of high Frequency Quartz Crystal Microbalance (HGQ-CM) sensors and coatings, which allow the device to detect the sensitive information regarding food stuff.