Thursday, February 27, 2020

Food Freshness Sensors Could Replace ‘Use-By’ Dates To Cut Food Waste



Imperial academics have developed low-cost, smartphone-linked, eco-friendly spoilage sensors for meat and fish packaging.

The researchers say the new sensors could help detect spoilage and reduce food waste for supermarkets and consumers.

One in three UK consumers throw away food solely because it reaches the use-by date, but sixty per cent (4.2 million tonnes) of the £12.5 billion-worth of food we throw away each year is safe to eat.

PEGS, incorporated into packaging, could soon detect spoilage gases in meat and fish
Photo of salmon fillets in packages
Credit:  Imperial College London

These new laboratory prototype sensors, developed at Imperial College London, cost two US cents each to make. Known as ‘paper-based electrical gas sensors’ (PEGS), they detect spoilage gases like ammonia and trimethylamine in meat and fish products.

The sensor data can be read by smartphones, so that people can hold their phone up to the packaging to see whether the food is safe to eat.

PEGS are made of carbon electrodes printed onto readily available cellulose paper.

Credit:  Imperial College London

Dr Firat Güder's team at Imperial’s Department of Bioengineering, made the sensors by printing carbon electrodes onto readily available cellulose paper.

The materials are biodegradable and nontoxic, so they don’t harm the environment and are safe to use in food packaging. The sensors are combined with ‘near field communication (NFC)’ tags – a series of microchips that can be read by nearby mobile devices.

During laboratory testing on packaged fish and chicken, PEGS picked up trace amounts of spoilage gases quickly and more accurately than existing sensors, at a fraction of their price.

The researchers say the sensors could also eventually replace the ‘use-by’ date – a less reliable indicator of freshness and edibility. Lower costs for retailers may also eventually lower the cost of food for consumers.



via GIPHY  Credit:  Imperial College London  

Dr Güder said: “Although they’re designed to keep us safe, use-by dates can lead to edible food being thrown away. In fact, use-by dates are not completely reliable in terms of safety as people often get sick from foodborne diseases due to poor storage, even when an item is within its use-by.

“Citizens want to be confident that their food is safe to eat, and to avoid throwing food away unnecessarily because they aren’t able to judge its safety. These sensors are cheap enough that we hope supermarkets could use them within three years.

“Our vision is to use PEGS in food packaging to reduce unnecessary food waste and the resulting plastic pollution.”

The research is published in ACS Sensors.

Consumers rely on use-by dates or even ‘sniff tests’ to see if their food is safe to eat, but there is currently no commercially viable, reliable alternative that provides objective feedback on food freshness and safety.

Although developed by food technologists over many years to ensure safety, use-by dates don’t take storage and processing conditions of specific food items into account. Thus, they can lead to safe and edible food being thrown away by shops and consumers. In addition, most of the food wasted is packaged in plastic, thus contributing to plastic pollution.

First author of the study Giandrin Barandun, also from Imperial’s Department of Bioengineering, said: “Use-by dates estimate when a perishable product might no longer be edible – but they don’t always reflect its actual freshness.

“Although the food industry – and consumers – are understandably cautious about shelf life, it’s time to embrace technology that could more accurately detect food edibility and reduce food waste and plastic pollution.”

Because PEGS work on high-value items like meat and fish, they could save money for shops and their customers, by reducing waste and by enabling shops to use targeted price reduction for specific items based on PEGS rather than use-by dates.

Current sensors
Credit: Shutterstock

Consumers rely on use-by dates or 'sniff tests'

Existing food spoilage sensors are either too expensive for common use (often comprising a quarter of overall packaging costs) or too difficult to interpret. Some types, like colour-changing sensors, could in fact increase food waste as consumers might interpret even the slightest colour change as ‘bad food’.

  • PEGS aim to address both these issues. As well as being cheaper to produce and easier to interpret with electrical readings, the authors found that PEGS overcome many of the disadvantages of current gas sensors:
  • They function effectively at nearly 100 per cent humidity, where most sensors struggle above 90 per cent.
  • They work at room temperature and do not need to be heated, so they consume very low amounts of energy.
  • They're sensitive only to the gases involved in food spoilage, where other sensors can be triggered by non-spoilage gases.


What’s next?

The researchers used ballpoint pens and robotic cutters to create the sensors. Dr Güder said: “We believe our very simple technique could easily be scaled up to produce PEGS on a mass scale by using existing high-volume printing methods such as screen printing and roll-to-roll printing.”

The authors hope that PEGS could have applications beyond food processing, like sensing chemicals in agriculture, air quality, and detecting disease markers in breath like those involved in kidney disease. However, before they can be applied beyond their current use, the researchers will address how sensitive PEGS are to lower humidity.

They are also developing an array of PEGS in which each sensor detects a different chemical. Using this technique, the array will give unique signals for different gases and/or changing humidity, which would make the technology applicable to a wider variety of food types.

This work was funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).





Contacts and sources:
Caroline Brogan
Imperial College London

Publication: "Cellulose fibers enable near zero-cost electrical sensing of water-soluble gases” by Giandrin Barandun, Matteo Soprani, Sina Naficy, Max Grell, Michael Kasimatis, Kwan Lun Chiu, Andrea Ponzoni, and Firat Guder, published 5 June 2019 in ACS Sensors.






20 comments:

  1. I guess production business is the toughest of all, especially in food and nutrition niche, mainly due to short life cycle of the product. So perhaps this management software fieldd.co will help you to better control your resources that is including but is not limited to time and payments.

    ReplyDelete
  2. This is my first time i visit here. I found so many interesting stuff in your blog especially its discussion. From the tons of comments on your articles, I guess I am not the only one having all the enjoyment here keep up the good work armed security guard

    ReplyDelete
  3. Your work is very good and I appreciate you and hopping for some more informative posts subdivision auckland

    ReplyDelete
  4. Interesting post. I Have Been wondering about this issue, so thanks for posting. Pretty cool post.It 's really very nice and Useful post.Thanks yellow light therapy

    ReplyDelete
  5. It was a very good post indeed. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it in my lunch time. Will surely come and visit this blog more often. Thanks for sharing. social media marketing agency mississauga

    ReplyDelete
  6. I enjoy it for creating the details, keep up the truly amazing perform continuing custom aftermarket wheels

    ReplyDelete
  7. I want you to thank for your time of this wonderful read!!! I definately enjoy every little bit of it and I have you bookmarked to check out new stuff of your blog a must read blog! url shortner

    ReplyDelete
  8. It's late finding this act. At least, it's a thing to be familiar with that there are such events exist. I agree with your Blog and I will be back to inspect it more in the future so please keep up your act. Cbd oil uk

    ReplyDelete
  9. I’ve been searching for some decent stuff on the subject and haven't had any luck up until this point, You just got a new biggest fan!.. chocolate block wein

    ReplyDelete
  10. This is a wonderful article, Given so much info in it, These type of articles keeps the users interest in the website, and keep on sharing more ... good luck. fashion dresses

    ReplyDelete
  11. I was very pleased to find this site.I wanted to thank you for this great read!! I definitely enjoying every little bit of it and I have you bookmarked to check out new stuff you post. dropshipping video editor

    ReplyDelete
  12. This is a great article thanks for sharing this informative information. I will visit your blog regularly for some latest post. I will visit your blog regularly for Some latest post. personalisierter schlüsselanhänger

    ReplyDelete
  13. After reading your article I was amazed. I know that you explain it very well. And I hope that other readers will also experience how I feel after reading your article. https://aromacc.com/

    ReplyDelete
  14. so happy to find good place to many here in the post, the writing is just great, thanks for the post. Car insurance

    ReplyDelete
  15. The next time I read a blog, I hope that it doesnt disappoint me as much as this one. I mean, I know it was my choice to read, but I actually thought you have something interesting to say. All I hear is a bunch of whining about something that you could fix if you werent too busy looking for attention. engagement instagram

    ReplyDelete
  16. so happy to find good place to many here in the post, the writing is just great, thanks for the post. animierte Videos erstellen lassen

    ReplyDelete
  17. It is the intent to provide valuable information and best practices, including an understanding of the regulatory process. how to make money online as a teen

    ReplyDelete
  18. I have read your article; it is very informative and helpful for me. I admire the valuable information you offer in your articles. Thanks for posting it. Easy way to make money online

    ReplyDelete
  19. Actually I read it yesterday but I had some thoughts about it and today I wanted to read it again because it is very well written. sun glasses

    ReplyDelete
  20. I’m excited to uncover this page. I need to to thank you for ones time for this particularly fantastic read!! I definitely really liked every part of it and i also have you saved to fav to look at new information in your site. electric cars dealership

    ReplyDelete