Australia: 'Rotten' egg a cracking invention

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Marissa Calligeros | December 9, 2008 - 8:21AM



A small, egg-shaped device may become the latest weapon in the fight against food poisoning, thanks to the efforts of a Queensland University of Technology (QUT) industrial design student.

The Tetra-Egg is a handheld gadget aimed at preventing food poisoning by detecting the concentration of gases given off by bacteria on meat and other food products.

It works in combination with a label that is integrated into the clear film of hermetically sealed meat packaging. The label is coated in new ink that changes colour according to the concentration of various gases emitted by bacteria on the meat.

"The label will visually change colour through eight stages telling you how fresh the meat is, as gas levels rise,'' said student inventor Thomas Blackwell of his final-year project.

"You can then apply the Tetra-Egg to the label and it will advise you how many hours remain before the food becomes unsafe to eat.

"[It] contains a spectrophotometer which analyses the light that bounces off the ink on the label.''

As well as preventing possible poisoning, Mr Blackwell also hoped his invention would educate consumers on food hygiene.

"There is a dangerous period of time between supermarket and home, 25 minutes usually, during which bacteria have the chance to multiply.''

The current expiry date on meat gives only an indication of the meat's freshness if it has been stored under the optimum, regulated temperature, Mr Blackwell said.

He said he expected the device would be used by those who were at an increased risk to food poisoning, including pregnant women and young children.

He now hopes a commercial company will help bring the Tetra-Egg to market.

Food Safety Information Council executive director Juliana Madden said the success of the device would depend on the user.

"We all have meat thermometers but do we actually use them?'' Ms Madden said.




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