Researchers have developed a smartphone app which pairs with a $30 microscope attachment to analyze food and determine if bad bacteria are present.
Food poisoning is caused by eating or drinking food or water contaminated with viruses, bacteria, toxins, parasites, or chemicals. Symptoms often start within hours and include anything from mild intestinal discomfort to severe dehydration, vomiting and diarrhea. Contamination can even occur at home if the food is not handled or cooked properly.
Food scientists at the University of Massachussetts Amherst are working on technology that binds to even the smallest amounts of bacteria. The video below shows the procedure.
A user rinses a contaminated food item with water and then places the chip into the liquid. This is a specially coated chip which relies on 3-mercaptophenylboronic acid (3-MBPA) to attract and bind bacteria. Within half an hour the microscope, which attaches to any smartphone camera, reveals the bacteria.
This is more proof of concept rather than a working device as it does not distinguish good from bad bacteria. A commercial product is still several years away from hitting the market.
The hope is that one day consumers will buy the low-cost testing kit for their own kitchens. The gizmo could also be used by aid workers responding to natural disasters. Its not surprising the technology has already piqued interest from several food-processing companies.