With the latest new sensor technology from Washington State University, expiration dates on milk become a part of the past.
Researchers from BSE, the WSU/UI School of Food Science, and other organizations have build up a sensor that can efficiently work to ‘smell’ if the milk is good or if it has gone bad.
The sensor’s chemically coated nano fleck analyzes the gas formed by milk and the bacterial expansions that work to identify spoilage, according to Shyam Sablani, a professor in Department of Biological System Engineering (BSE). The milk itself isn’t directly touched by the sensor.
“If it’s going bad, most food produces a volatile compound that doesn’t smell good,” Sablani said. “That comes from bacterial growth in the food most of the time. But you can’t smell that until you open the container.”
The sensor tries to identify constituent gases, and it changes color accordingly. Progress is still in the early stages, but Sablani and his colleagues published in the journal Food Control, where they showed in a paper that their chemical reaction works well in a controlled lab environment.
The team is working in the next stages to develop a path to visually show how long a product has validity before it spoils. At present, the sensor only works to show if milk is good or spoiled.
Sablani is also working with the food industry to integrate his sensor into a milk bottle’s plastic cap, where consumers can easily see how much time the product will remain fresh.
At present, the sensor has one problem with current expiration dates: it is based on best-case scenarios.
“The expiration date on cold or frozen products is only accurate if it has been stored at the correct temperature the entire time,” Sablani said. “We’ll have to work with the industry to make this work. But we’re confident that we can succeed and help improve food safety and shelf life for consumers.”
Story materials provided by Washington State University. And the original writer of the story is Scott Weybright. Article edited for length and style.
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