Detect Bad Food With a Mobile Phone Scanner

News   •   Mar 29, 2012 13:00 BST

Still in the design stage, researchers in California have come up with a new device that attaches to your mobile phone’s camera and when hovered over left-over food it will detect whether there is harmful bacteria on it or not. It can pick up on small samples of E.coli, which has many strains that are extremely harmful to people and can even cause death. The World Health Organisation (WHO) maintain that E.coli is becoming worse with new strains developing and it is having even more of an effect on developing countries. The new scanner could help people detect whether the food they are about to eat is safe or not.

E.coli is usually transmitted through contaminated foods being consumed, mostly undercooked meat products or raw vegetables or milk. Although scanners are usually very expensive, this mobile phone scanner does not need to have its own sensor as it uses the camera as a lens and to show on screen where the problem bacteria is. As five billion people have mobile phones, eating contaminated food could be a thing of the past if the scanners are rolled out. Just think, you could have your doubts about some food you’re about to eat, fit the scanner to your mobile and check it, so you can be free from food-borne diseases and maintain your health.

As smartphones are becoming smarter every day, we are relying on them more and more, so why not put the technology that is already there to good use. The screen and cameras act as a portal for the glass capillary tubes in the scanner to pick up any unwanted bacteria. Using the LED from the flash, the tubes will flash the food and the scanner will be able to show on screen if there is E.coli or not. Many pictures are taken by the camera, which effectively turns it into a mini-microscope, and the display of the food is shown on screen in cell format.

The team of researchers have been testing low concentrations of E.coli from milk, water samples and food. The scanner has already been proven to show other bacteria and E.coli in most cases. The plan is when the scanner is launched that it will be more advanced than it is now so it can pick up on a variety of different diseases and bacteria.

The mobile phone bacteria scanner could prove to be very popular in the food industry and it could help save many lives. By using a mobile phone, there is no need to have an extremely expensive scanner or have food and hygiene safety specialists close down restaurants or any food establishment as the food can be checked easily. For the public who head to developing countries on holiday, they can easily slip on the scanner to their mobile and check the food that they are just about to eat. Any E.coli will be flagged up and discarded. It might be a while before we see the scanner rolled out to the mainstream but if this is what researchers are looking at, whatever next will our smartphones be used for?