High-tech ‘best before’ label aims to ensure you never get food poisoning

The “best before” date on food is a quick and easy way to know at a glance whether the food is safe to eat or if it needs to be tossed in the trash. Researchers from Canada’s McMaster University may have come up with a superior high-tech update, however — in the form of a transparent patch, capable of actually sensing contamination in food. Printed using harmless molecules, the smart label could be incorporated directly into food packaging, and would monitor for pathogens including E. coli and salmonella.

“We developed a method to modify the surface of plastic packing material plastic so that it becomes fluorescent when a specific bacteria in the food comes in contact with that surface,” Tohid Didar, one of the researchers on the project, told Digital Trends. “The key to this method was the creation of a smart ink that can be printed onto the internal parts of the packaging for food. The ink is essentially made of DNA, which has a sequence that provides it with the ability to recognize and signal the presence of a specific bacteria. The current application centers on packaged meat, but we can see the same ink being printed in containers containing liquids, such as milk or being printed in surfaces in hospitals to signal the presence of harmful bacteria.”

The World Health Organization claims that foodborne pathogens result in around 600 million illnesses and 420,000 deaths each year. Thirty percent of these cases involve kids under the age of five.

“Our goal is to develop new inks for different bacteria that are relevant for problems in multiple aspects of our daily lives that present a threat to human health,” Carlos Filipe, the other senior author on the study, said. These could potentially include water contamination or even creating special surfaces which are used to prepare foods in places like restaurants and hospitals. To get to this point, though, the researchers will need to secure a commercial partner and gain the necessary regulatory approvals.

“The potential is very vast,” Filipe continued. “Our focus is on research and on generating creative solutions. We believe that industrial partners will be the ones that truly have the capability to bring this technology to the market. Moving forward, this could be potentially applied in other healthcare settings such as wound dressing, biomaterials, and hospitals. We are excited just with our work having the potential to contribute towards protecting people’s health.”

A paper describing the work was recently published in the journal ACS Nano.

Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Write music with your voice, make homemade cheese

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Smart Home

Is your coffee maker hiding mold inside? Here's how to clean it

Are you a coffee drinker? If you brew your coffee at home and you don't clean your machine, you could be drinking mold, yeast, and other bacteria. Here's how to clean your coffee maker.

Make the most of your toner with our five favorite color laser printers

Color laser printers have improved dramatically over the years, and today's models offer both blazing print speeds and great image quality. Here are our favorite color laser printers, from massive all-in-ones to smaller budget options.

4 women innovators who are using tech to help others live better lives

Meet four women leaders who are not only at the forefront of technology today, but also using tech — from robotics and medicine to food and undergarments — to help others.

Nvidia’s A.I. Playground lets you edit photos, experience deep learning research

Nvidia is making it easier to access information on deep learning research. It has launched an online space with three demos for image editing, styling, as well as photorealistic image synthesis. 

British Airways’ new Club Suite for business class comes with a door

British Airways is going after a bigger slice of the business class market with the imminent launch of the Club Suite. The plush seating option offers a more private space as well as an easier route to the bathroom.
Emerging Tech

The U.S. Army is building a giant VR battlefield to train soldiers virtually

Imagine if the U.S. Army was able to rehearse battlezone scenarios dozens, or even hundreds, or times before settling foot on actual terrain. Thanks to virtual reality, that's now a possibility.
Smart Home

Sony’s Aibo robot dog can now patrol your home for persons of interest

Sony released the all-new Aibo in the U.S. around nine months ago, and since then the robot dog has (hopefully) been melting owners' hearts with its cute looks and clever tricks. Now it has a new one up its sleeve.
Emerging Tech

Inflating smart pills could be a painless alternative to injections

Could an inflating pill containing hidden microneedles replace painful injections? The creators of the RaniPill robotic capsule think so — and they have the human trials to prove it.
Emerging Tech

A silver bullet is being aimed at the drug-resistant superbugs on the ISS

A bacteria which is benign here on Earth can mutate into a drug-resistant superbug once it enters space. Now this problem is being tackled by a team of microbiologists who have found a way to inhibit the spread of bacteria in the ISS.
Emerging Tech

Tombot is the hyper-realistic dog robot that puts Spot to shame

Forget Boston Dynamics’ Spot! When it comes to robot dogs, the folks behind a new Kickstarter campaign have plans to stake their claim as makers of man’s (and woman’s) newest best friend.
Emerging Tech

Researchers gave alligators headphones and ketamine, and all for a good cause

Researchers in Germany and the United States recently gave ketamine and earphones to alligators to monitor how they process sounds. Here's what it reveals about alligator evolution.
Emerging Tech

Cheese tastes different when it listens to Led Zeppelin, Swiss study finds

A funky new study says that exposing cheese to music changes its aroma and flavor. What’s more, the genre of music matters. Researchers from the Bern University of Arts played music to nine, 22-pound wheels of Emmental cheese.
Emerging Tech

Astronomers plan to beam Earth’s greatest hits into deep space, and you can help

A new project from the SETI Institute (search for extraterrestrial intelligence) will give the public the chance to submit compositions to be beamed into space, with the aim of connecting people around the world through music.