A new detector film technology from Fraunhofer may soon make its way to your local grocery store, where it will be able to tell you if you really should buy that jumbo pack of chicken.
Even with "best before" dates on meat products in the grocery store, it is difficult for consumers to be sure that the food they are buying is not actually spoiled. Examining wrapped meat products with the naked eye is not sufficient to tell if they are expired, and there have been cases of best before dates being wildly inaccurate.
Most people will know as soon as they open up their meat if it has gone rotten or not; a distinct smell will permeate the air, especially if the meat is fish or chicken.
Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute in Germany have now developed a way to harness that smell and make sure that every piece of packaged meat bought is still good to eat.
The technology relies on a sensor film that is integrated into existing package. This film can detect the release of what are known as "amines", molecules that are released by meat products into the air when they start to decay and that give these products their distinctive odor.
If the meat is still good, the sensor film will have a yellow color. If amines are detected, the sensor will shift to green and then to blue, meaning the meat has gone bad, and Fraunhofer is also working on a measuring module that can be used in packaging plants to catch bad meat before it is ever shipped out.
This is a great idea - simple, effective, and visual - and should prove useful in a variety of settings. While the color yellow might not be the best choice to frame meat and make it the most appealing for sale, a little color can go a long way to saving a buyer from wasted money or a serious case of food poisoning.
Photo Credit: Fraunhofer