Researchers Develop Transparent Patch to Detect Dangerous Food Threats

Source: McMaster University

Summary: Researchers have developed a test, a transparent test patch, printed with harmless molecules, that can signal contamination as it happens.

According to the World Health Organization, foodborne pathogens result in approximately 600 million illnesses and 420,000 deaths per year. About 30% of those cases involve children five years old and younger. In the future, if you go to a store and you want to be sure the meat you’re buying is safe at any point before you use it. Researchers from McMaster University developed a transparent test patch, printed with harmless molecules, that can signal contamination as it happens. The patch can be incorporated directly into food packaging, where it can monitor the contents of harmful pathogens such as E. coli and Salmonella. This technology has the potential to replace the traditional “best before” date on food and drinks. The study findings were published in the journal ACS Nano.

Food-testing technology

Researchers Hanie Yousefi and Thid Didar examine a transparent patch, which can be used in packaging to detect pathogens on food. Credit: McMaster University

If a pathogen is present in the food or drinks inside the package, it would trigger a signal in the packaging that could be read by a smartphone or other simple device. The test itself does not affect the contents of the package. Mass producing such a patch would be fairly cheap and simple, the researchers say, as the DNA molecules that detect food pathogens can be printed onto the test material. The researchers are naming the new material “Sentinel Wrap” in tribute to the McMaster-based Sentinel Bioactive Paper Network, an interdisciplinary research network that worked on paper-based detection systems. That network’s research ultimately gave rise to the new food-testing technology.

Getting the invention to market would need a commercial partner and regulatory approvals, the researchers say. They point out that the same technology could also be used in other applications, such as bandages to indicate if wounds are infected, or for wrapping surgical instruments to assure they are sterile.

More Information: Hanie Yosefi et al, “Sentinel Wraps: Real-Time Monitoring of Food Contamination by Printing DNAzyme Probes on Food Packaging”, ACS Nano (2018). DOI: 10.1021/acsnano.7b08010 

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