Japanese film-like sensor shows when fresh fish is spoiling

A research team at Yamagata University has developed a freshness sensor in the form of a plastic film that can detect when fish and meats have begun to spoil.

The sensor works by detecting histamine, which accumulates when bacteria begin decomposing amino acids and can cause symptoms of food poisoning even in small amounts.

Devices already are available for histamine detection in foods, but the contraptions are large and cumbersome to operate.

In contrast, the new sensor works simply by placing the sensor film over the fish or other food and taking measurements. The goal is to have a commercially viable prototype ready in three years, and also to devise a sensor film that can monitor the ripeness of fruits.

To make the sensor, professor Shizuo Tokito and colleagues in the Research Center for Organic Electronics printed an electrically conductive material on a plastic film to fashion electrodes and circuitry.

Tokito’s team is currently developing the freshness sensor for spot testing in stores. But if a version thin enough to be used as a food wrap were developed, then the freshness of foods could be constantly monitored. This would sooth consumer concerns over safety while helping stores cut down on wasteful discarding of foods still safe to eat.

The researchers also plan to integrate wireless circuitry into the sensor film so food freshness can be monitored with devices like smartphones.

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