Infrared pocket scanner tests shelf life
A pocket-size food scanner will allow future consumers and supermarket operators to test food freshness via a project commissioned by The Bavarian Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Forestry.
In collaboration with the Deggendorf Institute of Technology and the Weihenstephan-Triesdorf University of Applied Sciences, researchers at Fraunhofer have designed the prototype scanner, which uses infrared measurements to determine the ripeness and shelf life of produce, displaying results via an app.
The core of the mobile scanner is a near-infrared sensor that measures the ripeness of food and identifies the amount and composition of its contents. Dr Robin Gruna, project manager and scientist at Fraunhofer IOSB, explained, “Infrared light is beamed with high precision at the product to be investigated and then the scanner measures the spectrum of the reflected light. The absorbed wavelengths allow us to make inferences about the chemical composition of the food.”
Julius Krause, a member of Gruna’s team, added, “In the laboratory, we’ve long been able to quantify individual components using near-infrared spectroscopy. What’s new is that this can now be done with small, low-cost sensors. Foodstuffs are often counterfeited, for example, salmon trout is sold as salmon. Once suitably trained, our device can determine the authenticity of a product. It can also identify whether products such as olive oil have been adulterated,” said the physicist.
The project is one of 17 initiatives established by the ministry’s We Rescue Food alliance aiming to combat unnecessary food waste. In the German state of Bavaria, 1.3 million tons of food is thrown away unnecessarily every year and, according to environmental organization WWF Germany, 10 million metric tons of edible food are discarded in the nation as a whole.
A test phase of the device is scheduled to begin in supermarkets in early 2019 to investigate how consumers respond to the device. More broadly, it is expected that the technology will be used throughout the value chain, from raw material to end products.
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