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Taking food safety into our hands

Food contamination is a killer, with an estimated 600 million people falling ill and 420 000 dying every year, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

In this age of acceleration, where innovation is transforming all aspects of society, new solutions for tackling this food challenge are clearly important. Researchers at MIT Media Lab are offering one such solution with the new system they have developed called RFIQ. The wireless system ‘leverages the cheap RFID tags already on hundreds of billions of products to sense potential food contamination’; and ‘includes a reader that senses minute changes in wireless signals emitted from RFID tags when the signals interact with food’.

“In recent years, there have been so many hazards related to food and drinks we could have avoided if we all had tools to sense food quality and safety ourselves,” explained Fadel Adib, an assistant professor at the Media Lab. “We want to democratize food quality and safety, and bring it to the hands of everyone.”

RFID tags found on food products are cheap and have ‘tiny, ultra-high-frequency antennas’. The information they send to a reader is distorted by the ‘molecules and ions of the contents in the container’. So if what’s inside changes, the signal reflects this, alerting users to a problem. The research is ongoing.

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