What if your local supermarket had milk cartons that change color when the milk spoils and fruit packets that monitor internal air quality and temperature in real time? Better yet, what if you could purchase a device that could instantly check any item for contamination, both chemical and bacterial? All this and more is now possible with the rapid strides made in food safety technology.
The food and beverage sector often faces complications in maintaining safety and quality, particularly in the case of perishable goods; such as bacterial contamination to pesticide seepage which can adversely affect the health of the end-user and result in losses for a retailer. Furthermore, increasingly stringent regulations have placed the onus on retailers to maintain the highest level of quality.
Today, steps are being taken as early as the farming stage to prevent contamination and disease. For example, advanced biocompatible sensors can catch pathogens before they manifest as a disease. Another example is a device that integrates a silicon chip and a camera to control E. coli contamination. While the silicon chip uses protein to capture the bacteria, the camera photographs the process for data collection and analysis. The recent creation of the ‘e-nose’ is a significant step forward in detecting airborne toxins, such as pesticides, down to the billionth unit.
As the food supply chain grows to an extensive global network, maintaining safety and integrity of products in transit is a challenge. Printed sensors and intelligent packaging are fast becoming viable solutions. Electronic labels capable of powering themselves can be directly fixed onto packages before shipment. In addition, the fact that they can store information for a ten-year period makes them a robust data solution. Elsewhere, silver is being integrated into storage containers to give them an anti-bacterial quality which, studies prove, has reduced 24-hour bacteria growth by 98%.
Another solution – ‘Hyper spectral imaging’ is being used now in various other applications and Wipro has use cases in various industries. A measurement of energy levels in a specific range of spectral bands that objects have is termed as the spectral signature of the object at that point. The spectral signatures can be used to identify a particular object and elemental composition of a substance by comparing it against a reference. Hyper-spectral imaging solutions can now be used to build cameras that can detect textures to tell you the properties of a product, for instance it can be used for checking if a food product is old or new or contaminated.
What are your thoughts on the role technology can play in improving food safety? Please leave your comments in the section below.