Lasers could save us from food poisoning

Scientists in South Korea have developed a fridge-mountable laser that can detect microorganisms in food products and alert potential consumers accordingly.

The researchers from the Korea Advanced Institutes of Science and Technologydescribed the technique as “a simple, non-destructive, non-contact, and rapid optical method for measuring living microorganisms in meat products using laser speckle decorrelation”.

“By simply measuring dynamic speckle intensity patterns reflected from samples and analyzing the temporal correlation time, the presence of living microorganisms can be non-invasively detected with high sensitivity,” the researchers continued.

As arstechnica.com points out, they then contaminated some chicken breasts with E. coli or B. cereus and used the laser technique to test them. In addition, they tested some chicken which was not contaminated.

They successfully identified which pieces were contaminated and would cause food poisoning if consumed and which were safe to eat.

Compared to other methods of detecting microorganisms, this method is simple, cheap and non-invasive. And the lasers can even detect microorganisms through plastic wrapping.

However, the fridge laser technique has its limits. It is unable to detect contaminants that don’t move, like viruses or toxins.