Innovation That Matters

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Clear food packaging patch provides contamination alert

Sport & Fitness

A new transparent material can tell smartphone users whether or not dangerous pathogens are present.

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Reducing food waste is essential. New innovations throughout the life cycle of food products are finding ways to better manage resources. More sustainable processes include supermarket delivery trucks that are fuelled by food waste and a nano-sensor that can detect food-borne illnesses in a matter of hours. The supermarket chain has introduced 10 trucks that run on biomethane, which produces 70 percent less pollution than diesel. The nano-sensor is helping manufacturers and producers speed up detection of pathogens, particularly salmonella and e-coli, in order to prevent widespread infection. Traditional methods of testing for potential outbreaks take up to three days for results. This involves lab fees and investment in expensive microchip technology. Now, a new material developed by a team of researchers from Canada’s McMaster University aims to prevent vast amounts of food being wasted by reducing the volume of contamination.

Named the Sentinel Wrap, the small, transparent patch can be included in traditional food packaging to provide contamination alerts. The patch can be read by a smartphone or other similar devices. It would provide a much more accurate reflection of a product’s freshness than the current system of expiry dates. Based on research completed by the Sentinel Bioactive Paper Network, an interdisciplinary research network that worked on paper-based detection systems, the Sentinel Wrap should be easy to mass produce. The team behind the detector says that large-scale production should also be fairly cost-effective. Manufacturers could include the patch in their current processes.

Regulatory approvals are currently needed to allow for commercial use. However, the researchers say the new material could be used in other industries as well, which may help speed up its availability. It could, for example, be used to indicate infections in wrappings on wounds. What other sensor-based materials could be adapted for use in multiple industries?



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