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Live navigation on food expiration dates and way to set a new benchmark in food industries, Health News, ET HealthWorld

by Dr. Anirban Sarkar

Ensuring the safety and quality of food products is critical in today’s world, especially in countries like India where population growth and environmental concerns pose significant challenges. The World Health Organization reports that foodborne diseases affect almost 600 million people worldwide each year, causing 420,000 deaths.

To ensure the safety of food products, many countries, including India, have implemented regulations mandating the use of “best by” dates. However, these tests only provide an estimation of the shelf life under ideal conditions and do not offer real-time information. Once the products leave the manufacturing plant and are transferred along the supply chain, the manufacturer has limited control over the conditions they are subjected to. This is particularly relevant in the case of dairy and other easily perishable food products, where it is difficult to maintain consistency and microbial quality of raw materials, leading to batches that may not last until the “best by” date.

A straightforward approach is to check the product before use when it approaches its expiry date and immediately after expiry. However, local shops and retailers in remote areas often mention expiration dates without conducting proper food quality assessments. As a result, consumers may unknowingly consume degraded food and suffer from health issues. It is crucial for consumers to take responsibility for evaluating the quality of products prior to consumption and discarding any that show signs of spoilage.

Efficient sensors are vital in addressing these concerns, allowing for real-time monitoring of food quality and safety. By implementing advanced sensor technologies, it is possible to detect chemical and microbial degradation in food products and facilitate real-time updates on the status and quality of intended food items. This represents a crucial step toward protecting consumers and promoting food safety in the long run.
real-time Monitoring of Food Quality Using EM Sensors and IoT Applications

Despite significant advances in the field of food sensors, there remain various challenges associated with the current technology. These include high manufacturing costs, the use of non-compostable materials, and limitations with regard to operating temperature. Specifically, current food sensors are unable to accurately sense at all storage temperatures, including room, refrigeration, and sub-zero temperatures.

Electromagnetic (EM) sensing and imaging technologies have the potential to make significant contributions toward enhancing the detection of contaminants and food adulterations, as well as monitoring various food quality indices. The use of EM waves provides a non-invasive and potentially contactless means for sensing changes in the surrounding environment, while also facilitating remote access to such information. EM sensors can be integrated into the packing, leading to “smart packaging” of food items.

Smart food packages can also be integrated with IoT devices. This is the approach that our lab has been exploring in the past few years. We aim to develop IoT-enabled EM sensors wherein EM sensors equipped with micro-battery modules are installed on food packets in the form of EM Tags. These tags continuously transmit EM signals from within the packets. A separate wireless module installed in the market plaza tracks the reflected signal, quantifies and analyzes it, and facilitates a real-time update of the stock database. This enables consumers to receive an assured update on the status and quality of intended food items.
The non-invasive and contactless nature of EM sensing and imaging technologies, along with their ability to be integrated with IoT, presents a promising outlook for the food safety industries, With the increasing demand for safe and high-quality food products, such advancements in food monitoring technologies will undoubtedly play a critical role in ensuring the overall safety and well-being of consumers.

Assistant Professor School of Computing and Electrical EngineeringIIT Mandi

(DISCLAIMER: The views expressed are solely of the author and ETHealthworld does not necessarily subscribe to it. shall not be responsible for any damage caused to any person / organization directly or indirectly.)

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