New meat sensor aims to help combat waste

Scientists at the Massachusetts University of Technology (MIT) have created a sensor which detects gases emitted from rotting meat, which could help to reduce food waste.

With food waste a hot topic, the scientists behind the sensor said it could be used on ‘smart packaging’, enabling consumers to accurately tell when meat has gone off.

Speaking to the journal Angewandte Chemie about the sensor, Timothy Swager, the John D MacArthur professor of chemistry at MIT, said: “People are constantly throwing things out that probably aren’t bad.”

The sensor was modelled on a similar device used to measure the ripeness of fruit. It uses carbon nanotubes that have been chemically modified to be able to carry electric current changes in the presence of a particular gas – putrescine and cadaverine in decaying meat.

Researchers said a regular smartphone, using software developed by Swager’s lab, could read outputs from the sensor.

The technology has been welcomed by Roberto Forloni, senior science fellow at Sealed Air, supplier of food packaging. “There are several potential advantages in having an inexpensive sensor for measuring, in real time, the freshness of meat and fish products, including: preventing foodborne illness; increasing overall customer satisfaction; and reducing food waste at grocery stores and in consumers’ homes,” said Forloni.

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