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Science Hardware Technology

Scientists Create Smart Labels To Tell You When To Throw Away Expired Food and Makeup (sciencemag.org) 74

At the 254th National Meeting and Exposition of the American Chemical Society, researchers are presenting a low-cost, portable, paper-based sensor that can let you know when to toss food and cosmetics. The sensor can detect antioxidants in tea and wine, and be used to explore remote locations, such as the Amazon rainforest, in search of natural sources of antioxidants. "I've always been interested in developing technologies that are accessible to both industry and the general population," Silvana Andreescu, Ph.D., says. "My lab has built a versatile sensing platform that incorporates all the needed reagents for detection in a piece of paper. At the same time, it is adaptable to different targets, including food contaminants, antioxidants and free radicals that indicate spoilage." Phys.Org reports: What sets Andreescu's sensors apart from others, she says, are the nanostructures they use to catch and bind to compounds they're looking for. "Most people working on similar sensors use solutions that migrate on channels," Andreescu says. "We use stable, inorganic particles that are redox active. When they interact with the substances we want to detect, they change color, and the intensity of the change tells us how concentrated the analyte is." Additionally, because all of the reagents needed to operate the device are incorporated in the paper, users don't need to add anything other than the sample being tested. The American Chemical Society has published a video detailing the sensor. Their paper has been published in the journal Analyst.
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Scientists Create Smart Labels To Tell You When To Throw Away Expired Food and Makeup

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  • Just don't make my cheese IOT. I don't want a hacker tricking me into eating mold if I get lazy, drunk, and/or Monday'd.

    • we do have a "smart" fridge that the housekeeper takes care of but a "smart" bathroom. how do you spell $divorce.
    • Mold gives cheese an earthy flavor like a musty sock. Some people like it.
      • by Tablizer ( 95088 )

        I don't think it's healthy to eat mold, at least not in volume.

        "Foods that are moldy may also have invisible bacteria growing along with the mold. Yes, some molds cause allergic reactions and respiratory problems. And a few molds, in the right conditions, produce "mycotoxins," poisonous substances that can make you sick."

        ( https://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/... [usda.gov] )

        • Molds also give us bread and alcoholic beverages. Of course, given what too much of either will do to you, perhaps you have a point.
    • I don't need even more notifications that I ignore...

  • But apparently, we are now preparing for a population that becomes illiterate. Sure, expiry dates have some leeway, but people figure these out. Also, sensors can only tell when it is already bad and standard human sensors do a pretty good job of that as well.

    Sounds like yet another product that nobody needs and that will just serve to create more garbage.

    • I thought they were referring to leftovers. If so, this might be an improvement over the "Is it growing hair? If not, it's edible!" system some of us currently use.

      • by JohnFen ( 1641097 ) on Monday August 21, 2017 @05:55PM (#55060099)

        Actually, the ordinary person's sense of smell and taste is incredibly good at telling if food is inedibly spoiled.

        With only a tiny number of exceptions, if food smells OK and doesn't taste funny, it's safe.

        • But how bad does it have to taste to be bad?

          Orange juice which taste .. weird? Like tart/yeasted?

          Old cock lentils and vegetables which taste... creamy? I don't know what it taste really.

          I notice the difference in taste and given the option wouldn't pick it over fresher food but what if one don't want to throw it or its the only option?

          Avoid all that taste weird or eat it unless terrible?

          • But how bad does it have to taste to be bad?

            Orange juice which taste .. weird? Like tart/yeasted?

            Old cock lentils and vegetables which taste... creamy? I don't know what it taste really.

            I notice the difference in taste and given the option wouldn't pick it over fresher food but what if one don't want to throw it or its the only option?

            Avoid all that taste weird or eat it unless terrible?

            When food is going bad, its taste will be different from what it used to be (or its original taste). If it starts going that way, dump it, period. If you keep eating it, then be ready to run to the bathroom more often and may end up in a hospital. Though, I found some people who can't distinguish between what the normal taste and what not...

            • by aliquis ( 678370 )

              When food is going bad, its taste will be different from what it used to be (or its original taste). If it starts going that way, dump it, period. If you keep eating it, then be ready to run to the bathroom more often and may end up in a hospital. Though, I found some people who can't distinguish between what the normal taste and what not...

              Yeah. That's what I figure and how I'd feel "safe", then again I've eaten it even though it has tasted or smelled weird (and been out in the open for 24-48 hours) and I may not have noticed any actual problems from doing so later but that of course doesn't necessarily mean it's been just fine because of that ..

              I guess what I mean was whatever it had to taste HORRIBLE or just "wrong", but yeah, if "wrong" is the answer then I've of course noticed it up "stomached" it.. which may have been stupid, but also th

        • by houghi ( 78078 )

          .... but the label says it isn't good anymore. It is past its sale date, so I should throw it away and buy new stuff, right?

          Oh wait, their customers are not the consumers. They are the companies that hope that people will throw away food sooner, so they buy food sooner.

        • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

          Only if the individual is healthy. Lots of people have impaired smell (allergies being the most common reason) and lots of people have weakened immune systems that can't tolerate things that a normal immune system could.

          That's why the use-by dates are so conservative. They have to account for poor quality refrigeration and the weakest members of society.

          If these labels are cheap and environmentally OK they could both save a lot of food waste and protect people better than use-by dates.

          • by gtall ( 79522 )

            Also, older people tend to lose a bit of their sense of smell. And they can sometimes fail to recognize dangers their younger selves would have.

    • by JohnFen ( 1641097 ) on Monday August 21, 2017 @05:53PM (#55060087)

      Expiry dates don't really work. You can't know in advance when food is going to go bad, because it depends very, very heavily on things like the conditions under which it has been stored.

      • You'd be surprised. For example, I find expiration dates for dairy products to be quite accurate. One day to expiration? tastes fine. Day of? wow, nasty.

        • Yes, milk is an exception. That's probably why (in the US, anyway) milk is the only food product that is required to have an expiration date, and the date is standardized.

          • Depends on your fridge. I've found yogourt buried in the back of the fridge that was supposedly expired 90 days before, and it was just fine. Milk and eggs? Good for a month after the date. Just gotta keep your fridge cold enough.

            Drugs? They found a stash of medications that had been overlooked for between 30 and 40 years, so they were decades beyond their expiry dates. All were still within 90% of their original potency, and some were at 100%. The ones you have to be most careful of are some antibiotics s

            • Then again, US milk is generally adulterated, which is why other countries limit imports of US dairy.

              What do you mean by adulterated? Most milk in the USA is ultra-pasteurized, and has nothing added. Of course, using rBGH in cows increases illnesses that affect the udders, leading to substantial increases in the percentage of milk which is actually made up of pus...

              • Antibiotics, for one. And the aforementioned growth hormones. Also, "ultra-pasteurized" and "ultra-filtered" don't mean anything wrt whether the milk is adulterated or not. It's not somehow "purer" - it's just marketing BS that is obviously effective at getting people to pay extra. Same as people are paying almost the same price for skim milk as for whole milk thinking it will help them get thin. Works just as well as those shopping carts with diet soft drinks and tons of junk food, because it "gives them p
            • Yogurt is milk that's already spoiled, so the're not much else that can go wrong with it, unless it's ancient.
              Unless there's some sort of mold growth, the only thing that happens to old yogurt is that more water separates out, so you just need to stir it more.

              • Just because something is already fermented doesn't mean it can't go bad. Ever had a beer that had gone skunky? No amount of stirring will fix that. It's gross.
            • Yoghurt lasts for years ...
              Eggs in theory too, but I heard in the US they get frozen before they get on the market to kill germs. No idea f that is true. Obviously if they get stored so long they dry out.

              My favourite is always an "end of usage" date on salt. Facepalm.

        • by gl4ss ( 559668 )

          leave it outside of fridge and it's nasty long before..

    • Humans actually already have 3 sensors for that:
      Eyes, Nose, Tongue.

      Seems plenty of them forgot how to use them.

      Sounds like yet another product that nobody needs and that will just serve to create more garbage.
      Exactly.

    • by tlhIngan ( 30335 )

      But apparently, we are now preparing for a population that becomes illiterate. Sure, expiry dates have some leeway, but people figure these out. Also, sensors can only tell when it is already bad and standard human sensors do a pretty good job of that as well.

      Sounds like yet another product that nobody needs and that will just serve to create more garbage.

      Expiry dates have a LOT of leeway. Inf act, there's a reason most foods don't have expiry dates anymore - they have "Best before" dates, and that's not an

  • I hope that it works out.

    Food expiration dates stamped on products right now are worthless. It would be handy to have some actual indication of food going bad.

    Of course, I already have a pretty sensitive device to detect food spoilage: my nose. It works with a high degree of accuracy.

  • by ClickOnThis ( 137803 ) on Monday August 21, 2017 @05:53PM (#55060083) Journal

    They should put expiration dates on clothing so we men will know when they go out of style. -- Garry Shandling

    Or maybe when they need laundering? :-J

    • The money collected selling these "smart labels" might need laundering at some point.
    • They should put expiration dates on clothing so we men will know when they go out of style.

      No need. In my experience, wives and girlfriends are quite good at letting you know when your style has expired.

      • But you generally still don't listen. Until they're literally falling apart (and sometimes even after) you won't throw them out or donate them "because". Like the underwear you won't throw out because when you were single you needed that ratty pair of underwear for "laundry day." (Mind you, women aren't completely immune to that last one - I knew one woman who actually stapled together one pair of panties that had split on one side so she had something to wear for laundry day. Seriously boys and girls, how

      • by Tablizer ( 95088 )

        No need. In my experience, ex-wives and ex-girlfriends are quite good at letting you know when your style has expired on the way out.

        FTFY

  • There is no such thing as wine or tea having too many antioxidants. Wine becomes vinegar and dry tea becomes less potent, but either is still usable years after "expiration" (just don't drink it).

    If you need a label to tell you your food is off, your food isn't off. Most foods are edible way past it's printed expiration date and if it's expired it turns weird colors and smells bad and we have very much evolved noses particularly sensitive to the byproducts of wasting food (which is why we notice sulfur and

    • I don't know of any cosmetics that would go 'bad', they pretty much all contain pure alcohol or some other non-spoiling products,

      The cosmetics industry is a leading consume of waste tallow. Lipsticks and other makeup products with similar consistency are typically made out of processed animal fats.

      • by guruevi ( 827432 )

        Is that you Tyler Durden?

        Lipstick is primarily wax, not animal fat. The animal-makeup is mostly a PETA thing, there is no independent scientific source that confirms it because chemically speaking it would be ludicrous. Most (cheaper) makeups contain monoglycerides and diglycerides, the majority of animal fat is triglycerides only the most expensive makeups contain it and there it is generally rendered from coconut oil.

    • RE: Cosmetics. Some mascaras (the gunk used to enhance/thicken/lengthen eyelashes to you guys) can go moldy. It's pretty rare, but if you develop pink eye, it may be the source of some nasty bacteria or mold, and even if it isn't throw it out because you've cross-contaminated it if you've used it recently. That's one reason never to share mascara or eye liner. Even lipstick can be risky if the other person has a cold sore, etc. If someone wants to borrow it, just gift it to them.

      Then there are things like

    • by Tablizer ( 95088 )

      Most foods are edible way past it's printed expiration date and if it's expired it turns weird colors and smells bad and we have very much evolved noses particularly sensitive to the byproducts of wasting food

      I once tested this theory on a 5 year old jar of pickles (newly opened). I got sick so friggen fast. If you believe the above, go ahead and look directly at the sun also.

      • by guruevi ( 827432 )

        Correctly pickled foods should be good for decades, it will eventually become mushy and nasty-looking but if your pickled foods waste, it wasn't pickled right in the first place and again, if you see molds growing or it smells funky, don't eat it.

    • if it's expired it turns weird colors and smells

      nah, it's not expired. It's just a newly improved favor! When you eat them, you'll get a chance to taste the new favor, pain! Not only that, but you food will also get new colors that color your life with a week full of sick leaves! Imagine the possibilities!

  • by Anonymous Coward

    It's called my "nose". Now fuck off you software/trend weenies, go make something useful.

  • What next? A label that tells you what to eat, when you should eat it, and how you should eat it?
    • by gtall ( 79522 )

      Just think of it as Clippy for food:

      Food Clippy: it looks like you want to eat that, are you sure you should do that?

      Human: It smells okay, looks okay.

      FC: Yeah well, I woudn't eat it.

      Human: You're a bot!

      FC: (sniff) That's cruel, go ahead and eat it, I won't care if you die.

      Human: (snarf...gag...thunk)

      FC: (snicker) Actually it went bad several days ago, I just thought it would be fun to watch you croak...bye fella!

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Great, a label that tells someone when a food *really* goes bad. Doesn't matter, my mother would still think it is good and make me eat it.

  • Hopefully these manufacturers are less greedy than drug companies with their pharmacuticles' expiry dates. [slashdot.org].
  • by Goldsmith ( 561202 ) on Monday August 21, 2017 @08:34PM (#55060721)

    I am a scientist, and I work on chemical sensors.

    Colorimetric sensor arrays are not new by any stretch of the imagination. There are several companies that make and sell them, many using "nanostructures" to boost something (usually the markup). We've been through food freshness, fruit ripeness, coffee roast detection, wine quality... Some of these are worth the $0.05 sensor and $1.00 labor required to package with the food, and some are not, but detecting these things is not a problem.

    More and more, I'm seeing academic scientists demonstrate a lack of understanding of what real world problems and opportunities are. Someone in the academic grant backed research machine needs to have an eye on what's happened prior to recently published literature (and maybe look at what happens outside the literature too). 15 years seems to be the horizon of forgetfullness.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    "I'm sorry, Dave, but I cannot allow you to eat this sandwich."
    "Why not? It only arrived last Tuesday."
    "It has expired, and I am programmed to destroy ALL expired foods."
    "Sandwich look fine to me, its only the label that isn't green. And it's only yellow, not red or black. Perfectly safe to eat."
    "I cannot allow you to eat the sandwich. No NetFresh 9000 has ever made an operational error."
    "Aw, come on..."

    Is this the "future" we want? NO!!

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Marketers Create "Smart" Labels To Tell You When To Buy More Even If The Product Is Still Perfectly Fine.

  • by Weirsbaski ( 585954 ) on Tuesday August 22, 2017 @12:27AM (#55061369)
    Why do they need a smart-label for this?
    Food => throw it away when it starts turning colors.
    Cosmetics => throw it away when it STOPS turning colors.
    • You don't need a smart label. Consumer products is to some degree guaranteed to be in good shape.
      However, a store might need one. So instead of a label on each product(i.e giant box filled with meat), the box has a smart label on it.
      So when the product has reached store, the store can tell if there has been any normal degradation.
      Temperature, humidity, pressure, light, time.
      What is useful here is that by design, things that get moved in large quantum will be exposed to moving: Delays, bad temporary storage

  • My system (Score:4, Funny)

    by backslashdot ( 95548 ) on Tuesday August 22, 2017 @01:57AM (#55061503)

    Eat a couple bites of it and if it causes me to keel over and have to go to the emergency room, then it is probably not a good idea to eat the rest unless it is tasty.

  • Samsung has this new IoT fridge that has cameras inside it ostensibly to allow you to see what's in your fridge while you're out food shopping so you don't forget something or buy something you already have. Ok, but who else can see that video feed? Will you get e-mails telling you that you're eating too much junk food and not enough kale?

  • I've never had a problem deciding when to throw something away. We don't need planned obsolescence for food.

To be a kind of moral Unix, he touched the hem of Nature's shift. -- Shelley

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