What if we’d go to a supermarket and see a patch especially engineered to tell us that the food we buy is 100% safe to eat? It would surely be a good thing. And that’s not all of it, imagine you have that piece of patch that can also help you find out of that carton of milk is no longer good.
Even if we have best before labels, we don’t know if the products contain or not E. Coli, salmonella. Testing in labs for different foods in supermarkets take long and are not done often.
But it’s now possible to detect harmful bacteria in an instant, using an invention created by researchers from McMaster University in Hamilton, Ont.
The ‘Sentinel Wrap’
This test patch was created by a lot of bright minds: Tohid Didar (team leader, mechanical engineering), Carlos Filipe (chair of the chemical engineering department at the school) and Yingfu Li (biochemist).
How does it work? Well, researchers print molecules that can recognize bacteria that get on the patch which is attached to the food. Tohid Didar stated the following:
“Part of the whole packaging could contain those molecules that we print. The beauty here is that you don’t need to open the packaging. We wanted to have a system where you can find out on the spot, in real time.”
Hanie Yousefi (with the McMaster’s Faculty of Engineering) is the lead author of the research said that the patch is thin, flexible and transparent, and it will have molecule sensors on one side to detect bacteria that installs on the food. The patch has no impact on the food inside the package.
You Have the Scanner in Your Pocket
The test patch is created in such a way that anyone that has a smartphone can scan the package with the patch and see if it has discovered anything harmful.
Yousefi said that we could get a new kind of ‘best before’ date with this patch in the future:
“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, you’ll have a much more reliable way than the expiration date.”
Thinking Out of the Box
Didar said that the technology can also be used in bandages and it can test if the wound has been infected. Or you can use a patch to see which surfaces are contagious in a hospital.
The patch will go to market after several more tests. They will need to find a commercial partner and pass regulatory approvals.
“This is quite innovative compared to previous work where you always had to analyze it. We’re really excited about it,” said Didar. You can find their study in the journal ACS Nano.
Andre Blair s is the lead editor for Advocator.ca. He holds a B.A. in Psychology from the University of Toronto, and a Master of Science in Public Health (M.S.P.H.) from the School of Public Health, Department of Health Administration, at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Andre specializes in environmental health, but writes on a variety of issues.