chemists set bar high for food safety
Source of Article: http://media.www.ramcigar.com/media/storage/paper366/news/2009/02/19/News/Uri-Chemists.Set.Bar.High.For.Food.Safety-3637592.shtml
Issue date: 2/19/09 Section:
02/19/09 - The University
of Rhode Island
chemistry department has paired up with SIRA technologies to create food
safety barcodes that indicate when food has expired when being scanned at
SIRA technologies came up with the barcode idea and two members of the
chemistry department discovered the effect pigments have on food safety
"SIRA technologies had this idea, but couldn't make it work,"
William Euler, chairman of the chemistry department, said.
Euler and Brett Lucht, a URI chemistry professor,
wanted to create barcodes containing a pigmentation that reveals whether a
food product is too old to eat.
Currently, perishable foods sold in grocery stores only contain one barcode
that reveals the name and price of the product. The new pigmentation labels
will contain two barcodes.
The top label determines the food product while the bottom label suggests
unsafe conditions. If the food's temperature decreases and goes bad, a red
pigment will appear on the bottom label.
The red pigment will prevent the scanner from reading the top label. This
will cause an error message to appear, indicating the item is no longer purchasable.
Lucht said they have made a solution using a mix of
pigmentation and ink to make these barcodes printable. The pigments involve
an activation process, but Lucht said it is too
complicated to reveal.
He said the company's main target is the refrigerator market, particularly
dairy and meat aisles.
The chemistry department is currently working to adjust freezer temperatures
that will eventually reveal if meat has been thawed correctly.
Lucht said the barcodes have been tested in
military grocery stores, and there are some barcodes ready to be marketed by
Euler said the barcodes are currently being developed, but are not being
used. They should be on the market in a year, he added.
URI began developing and experimenting with a similar label about 12 years
ago. The initial pigmentation barcodes were called inversable
Rather than revealing if a food was too old to eat, it indicated when a food
was warm enough to eat. Items such as frozen dinners and hot coffee were used
URI has been working on the current pigmentation food safety labels for the
past 8 years and undergraduate students are helping Lucht
and Euler produce them.