VTT, a research and technology company based in Finland, has created a sensor that can detect spoiled food in the package; the sensor detects the ethanol that spoiled food emits into the environment of the packaging. Ethanol, in addition to carbon dioxide, is the main volatile spoilage metabolite in fresh-cut fruit. The signal can then be wirelessly read using a radio-frequency identification (RFID) reader in a mobile device. 

The innovation is the one of the latest food packaging products using smart technology—a major trend this year. This technology also addresses another growing concern for the food industry and consumers alike, food waste. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, 133 billion pounds of food (31 percent of the available food supply at the retail and consumer levels) was uneaten in 2010.

With this technology, the freshness data can be stored in real time in the cloud, enabling the comparison of food quality with its previous or later condition. The sensor and the RFID tag can be manufactured into a label or sticker and easily attached to a food package, bringing the sensor price low enough for use in food packages.

The sensor was developed for the European project SusFoFlex, which represents “Smart and Sustainable Food Packaging Utilizing Flexible Printed Intelligence and Materials Technologies.” VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland Ltd is searching for a partner to commercialize the sensor.

 For more information: Thea Sipiläinen-Malm, 358-20-722-111, thea.sipilainen-malm@vtt.fi, www.vttresearch.com