Smart Packaging Can Alert Consumers to Food Contamination

Canadian developers hope the informative packaging material will soon be in the marketplace.

October 26, 2018

HAMILTON, Ontario, Canada – For 30 years, the packaging industry has predicted the invention of a package that can flag food and drinks containing bacteria or contaminants in an effort to prevent foodborne illnesses. Now that day may be here, according to a report from Winsight Grocery Business.

Researchers at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, have created what they call Sentinel Wrap—a small, transparent indicator strip affixed to the food packaging that is designed to let consumers know if the food contains pathogens. Without removing the product from the package, consumers would be able to see if packaged meat or salad is potentially contaminated. 

The indicator strip is coated with DNAzymes—microdroplets of DNA molecules. If a pathogen comes into contact with the DNAzymes, the strip will fluoresce. In tests, Sentinel Wrap has detected even low levels of E. coli in meat and apple juice.

Consumers can download an app that allows them to “read” the fluorescence and see if the food is contaminated. The researchers have published their test results in scientific journals and hope Sentinel Wrap will be on the market soon.