Scientists have developed a patch that detects harmful bacteria like E.coli and Salmonella in food.
The patch contains sensors that detect dangerous pathogens when placed on food packaging and send a signal to users’ phones warning them it may not be safe to eat.
Researchers hope the patch could one day replace ‘best before’ labels.
Study author Hanie Yousefi, from McMaster University, said: ‘If you go to a store and you want to be sure the meat you’re buying is safe at any point before you use it, you’ll have a much more reliable way than the expiration date.’
The scientists believe the patch could also be applied to bandages to determine if wounds have become infected or the packaging of surgical equipment to ensure they are sterile.
Every year nearly one in 10 people worldwide become ill after eating contaminated food, with more than half suffering from diarrhoea.
Food poisoning is usually caused by raw or undercooked meat, eggs and dairy that are contaminated with E.coli, Salmonella, norovirus or Campylobacter bacteria.
Scientists have developed a patch that could help prevent unpleasant food poisoning by detecting harmful bacteria, such as E.coli and Salmonella, in food (stock)
WHAT IS FOOD POISONING?
Food poisoning is an illness caused by eating food contaminated with bacteria, such as salmonella or E.coli, or a virus, like the norovirus.
Raw meat and shellfish, unpasteurised milk and ‘ready to eat’ foods, like soft cheeses, are most likely to be contaminated.
Symptoms usually start within two days of eating the food.
These may include:
- Diarrhoea, which may contain blood or mucus
- Abdominal pain
- Loss of energy
- Aching muscles
Most people do not require treatment and get better within a few days.
They should ensure they rest and drink lots of fluids to combat dehydration.
They should contact their GP if their symptoms become severe or do not improve after several days.
Doctors should be made aware if the elderly, pregnant women, children, or those with an underlying health condition or weakened immune system are affected.
Food may become contaminated if it is:
- Not cooked thoroughly
- Left for too long at room temperature
- Not sufficiently reheated
- Eaten passed its ‘use by’ date
- Touched with contaminated hands
- Not stored below 5C
Detects even low E.coli levels
A study found the patch detects even low concentrations of E.coli in meat and apple juice.
According to the researchers, the device remains stable for ‘at least the shelf life of perishable packaged food products’.
The patch is made up of genetic probes attached to a thin, transparent film. The probes contain DNA molecules that are specific to the bacteria they are targeting.
Tohid Didar, an author of the study, claims the device would be ‘fairly cheap and simple’ to produce on a large scale, however, it is unclear when it may be available.
The findings were published in the journal ACS Nano.
Walnuts and olive oil could prevent food poisoning
This comes after research released in May last year suggested walnuts, olive oil and salmon could prevent potentially life-threatening food poisoning by ‘switching off’ genes for the listeria bacteria.
Omega-3 fatty acids, found in the aforementioned foods, reduce the bacteria’s ability to cause infection by ‘switching off’ its genes, a study found.
Not killing the bacteria may be beneficial, as they only develop resistance when their growth is threatened, the researchers said.
Study author Professor Birgitte Kallipolitis, from the University of Southern Denmark, said: ‘It’s interesting that naturally occurring, completely harmless and actually healthy fatty acids can be used to suppress dangerous bacteria such as listeria.
‘The long-term perspective is that it may prove possible to develop new treatment methods – not only against listeria, but also against other dangerous bacteria that are currently resistant to antibiotics.’