RIKILT Wageningen UR is part of the international knowledge organisation Wageningen UR (University & Research centre). RIKILT conducts independent research into the safety and quality of food. The institute is specialised in detecting and identifying substances in food and animal feed and determining the functionality and effect of those substances.
RIKILT is currently carrying out research on various portable instruments that can measure the composition of products within seconds – even through the packaging. These small instruments need only a few seconds to measure the composition of products and provide information about, for example, their freshness or contamination.
The principle used by these scanners is well-known and dates from the nineteen-fifties. Many of us associate infrared with TV remote controls and supermarket scanners. In fact, measuring the composition with infrared is comparable to scanning the shopping. In both cases, a scanner shines infrared light on the product and receives the infrared light reflected by the product. A barcode scanner uses this reflected light to identify the barcode, whilst the analytical scanner collects the infrared spectrum that constitutes the product’s unique fingerprint.
Measuring with your tablet
The product’s infrared spectrum is processed by complicated algorithms programmed in the scanner’s software. The scanner uses algorithms of the same type as those used by Google. Although these computation algorithms and software impose a very heavy burden on the computer hardware, following the latest technological developments the software can now run on a tablet or even a mobile. This makes the use of these scanners – even in the field – very simple.
Soon you will be able to use a food scanner to check whether the information on food packaging is accurate. Is that packet of organic minced pork truly from an organically-raised pig? A food scanner can provide more transparency in this.
For more information please contact: dr.ir. YJA (Yannick) Weesepoel