Food & Drug Safety: Time-Temperature Indicator for Perishables
Inventors: Sundaram Gunasekaran, Yi-Cheng Wang
The Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF) is seeking commercial partners interested in developing nanoreactors for detecting the heat exposure of a food product, pharmaceutical or other perishable good to ensure its quality for consumers.
An important criterion for assessing food safety is the amount of time it spends in the ‘danger zone’ (40-120° F). A 2013 food policy report found that more than 90 percent of Americans throw out food prematurely, and it is estimated that per capita food loss in the U.S. is $390 per year. The report recommends the development of smart labels, such as time-temperature sensors, that indicate the storage history of a product and convey useful safety information to consumers while reducing food waste.
UW–Madison researchers have developed nanoreactors that can detect exposure of a perishable good to an undesired temperature. The device comprises a metal precursor in a stabilizing carrier such as gelatin or chitosan. Upon exposure to heat, the metal precursor forms nanoparticles that can be detected visually or spectroscopically by a change in color, peak wavelength or peak absorbance, as well as the size, number or shape of the nanoparticles that form. The nanoreactors could be applied to product packaging and ‘switched on’ to begin temperature tracking.
- Indicator for safety/quality of food, biological therapeutics, small molecule drugs and other perishables
- Such devices could be used by manufacturers, distributors, retailers, consumers, food suppliers, restaurants and other institutions, e.g., hospitals and schools.
- Potential to enhance product safety and reduce waste
- Visual/color change is easy for consumers to understand.
Stage of Development
Nanoreactors have been developed and tested visually and using UV-vis spectroscopy.
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