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The Food Sniffer
December 1, 2014   
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Scientists are working on a small device attached to a smartphone that can quickly test whether a drink contains harmful substances, mold or allergens.

The device, called the Foodsniffer, can detect mold in beer as well as in cereal products, and it can also “sniff out” allergens in milk and pesticides in grapes and wine. The results will be known within a few seconds.

An international team of researchers from Germany, the Netherlands, France, Spain, Finland and Poland is working on the device. The Polish researchers come from the Marian Smoluchowski Institute of Physics at the Jagiellonian University in Cracow and from the city’s AGH University of Science and Technology.

“All you need to do is pour a little amount of liquid: juice or beer into the device,” says JakubRysz, Ph.D., from the Institute of Physics. A smartphone application will display the result in a clear way.

The Foodsniffer promises to become a breakthrough in food testing. Detecting harmful substances is currently possible only in specialist laboratories. Such tests are expensive and normally take a few days. The Foodsniffer is able to detect even small amounts of harmful substances.

First, researchers will test the device on several types of products and chemical substances—in residual pesticides hidden in grapes and wine, toxins produced by fungi in cereals and beer, allergens in water used to wash food, and allergy-provoking casein found in milk. The results will be sent to specialists who will confirm whether or not a given concentration of a dangerous substance means a product should be withdrawn from the market. Moreover, the researchers want to create a European database containing data collected by the device.

The Foodsniffer is made up of several components. The Cracow researchers are currently working on the most important of these, a small chip—an optoelectronic integrated circuit covered with special substances that can detect harmful compounds.

The device can be used out in the field, during the production process and in retail outlets. It will also make work easier for food safety inspectors.

Olga Majewska
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