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Smart Packaging Sensors to Identify Fish & Meat Spoilage

Feldman Yuri, HUJI, School of Computer Science and Engineering, Applied Physics
Ben Ishai Paul, HUJI, School of Computer Science and Engineering, Applied Physics

Category

Food

Keywords

Spoilage Sensor, Food Sensor, Bio Sensor

Current development stage

General list: TRL3 Experimental proof of concept             

 

Collaboration Opportunity

Sponsored Research with an option to License Research Results

 

Background

The meat and fish industry —worth an annual U.S. $2-3 billion — currently has no reliable method to determine product freshness. Consumers and suppliers rely on arbitrary expiration dates, sell-by dates, and the freeze/thawing cycles (if known). Meat freshness can be measured by (unseen) bacterial growth, but to date there is no immediate and reliable method, such as a food bio-sensor, that can accurately inform consumers and supplies of product freshness.

This lack of precision results in tremendous amount of food waste in the current meat and fish markets.

Our Innovation

We propose to convert our smart phones into food bio-sensors. To do so, the packaging of vacuum packed food would include a printed electrode array, linked to the power of a Near Field Communication (NFC) tag, and would be readable through the smart phone allowing consumers to:  

 

  • Gauge the freshness of food (meat & fish initially)
  • Discover if it has been defrosted en route or repackaged
  • Compare its quality to an online database

Technology

Our proposed food-bio-sensor can measure the particular electrical differences caused by a change in tissue structure of spoiled food. Spoilage occurs as microbes break down the flesh.  A by-product of this is the release of ions and change in the structure of tissues.  Once frozen, it may be impossible to note these changes by visual inspection, however, electrical signals are able to detect these differences.The smartphone would activate the chip ensconced in the packaging and would be able to measure the electrical differences and compare them to standards on a server that would inform consumers of the product “freshness.”

In practice the consumer would be able to tell if fish that was frozen after capture remained frozen through transport to the supermarket, or if it thawed and was refrozen during handling. Once the consumer reads the chip with the smartphone, the difference in the measured signals of the fish would be analyzed in the cloud and rated to help the consumer decide if the product had been tampered with or if it is safe for consumption.  Our data shows a clear distinction in the electrical signal of fresh vs spoiled fish. Note that the sensor can detect changes in both frozen and thawed fish.

Opportunity

We predict that an independent, quantifiable and objective measure of food quality and freshness will create major savings on warehousing, inventory and transport costs for the industry, as well as increasing consumer confidence. 

While our initial studies have only been done with raw fish and meat, the concept can be extended to processed foods as well. The use of a smartphones means that cloud based data can be used to constantly improve the prediction, to integrate with supermarket and wholesaler databases, and to reward reliable producers and improve customer satisfaction.

Our researchers are looking for industry support and collaboration to continue research and development. Our next goals are to:

  • move beyond proof of concept measurements to commercial fish and packaging materials.
  • implement NFC for power and communication purposes
  • design a small impedance analyzer circuit to be incorporated into an NFC chip set.

Patent Status

A provisional patent was filed in the USA and there have been no publications.

Contact for more information:

Ilya Pittel
VP, BD AGTECH, FOODTECH, VETERINARY & ENVIRONMENT
+972-2-6586693
Contact ME: