Researchers are trying to build smartphone-compatible devices that will help prevent food-borne illness

Researchers are trying to build smartphone-compatible devices that will help prevent food-borne illness

  • A new device being developed by Purdue University can detect the E.Coli bacteria faster than existing testing procedures.
  • Another device that will help detect food contamination is being developed by a startup called OwlTing.
  • OwlTing plans to use blockchain-based technology that will help keep a record of each and every production step the food goes through before entering the market.
Everyone who has had food poisoning knows the agonising pain the E.Coli bacteria can cause. Food poisoning is really common and sometimes in extreme cases, it can even result in death. But who knew that someday smartphones could help us avoid food poisoning. Researchers at Purdue University are developing a technology to help farmers detect contaminants that cause food poisoning before the food hits the grocery shelves. This device can easily be hooked up to a smartphone and can sniff out bacteria in food in just minutes.

How does the device work?

It uses a unique virus to detect bacteria. The manufactured food sample is allowed to soak up in a solution containing phages, a virus that attacks bacteria. Another chemical is added, that lights up infected E.Coli, and using the phone camera the glowing bacteria is picked up. This rather complex process is completed in a matter of minutes and is faster than the procedures that currently exist.
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But what happens if contaminated food product reaches the market?

A startup called OwlTing founded in 2013 plans to use blockchain technology to keep track of each and every step involved in food production. The company plans to allow shoppers to pick up any food item, scan the sticker, that will possibly bear a QR code, and that will be it.


As soon as the code is scanned, all the information about the food will be available to the customers, including the batch number, where it was manufactured and all other related information.

Now, suppose a person gets infected by the consumption of some food item. Then he or she can scan the code and let other users know that the food is not safe for consumption. This will help shoppers avoid particular batch numbers corresponding to infected food.