Chinese scientists are trialling a device that could help meat consumers determine if their local butcheries are selling stale or fresh meat.
If approved and distributed globally, the hand-held device could help buyers ensure that the meat they are buying is fit for human consumption based on its chemical composition rather than on its smell or appearance.
In Kenya, recent studies on meat bought from supermarkets and butcheries showed that meat sellers were using unregulated preservatives to keep meat and pass it off as fresh for as long as three months. They spray chemicals on the meat to give it a red colour that disguises the meat as fresh.
The so-called “freshness-sniffer” uses sensor and measurement technologies long employed in missiles and space equipment and developed as part of China’s missile programme to detect gas leaks in space.
FRESH OR STALE?
The device detects and measures ammonia and volatile organic compounds given out by decaying meat. It then analyses the results to judge meat’s freshness and displays the verdict on the phone.
The technology can be used with almost every kind of meat including fish, beef, pork, mutton and chicken.
“It can tell you whether the meat is fresh, or not so fresh and if it needs to be cooked well, or if it is already spoilt. You open the device and an application on your mobile phone and then place the device very close to the meat for about 10 seconds,” said Niu Ye, one of the developers.
The device can also be used to test if meat refrigerated for long or left out of cold storage for a while is still fit for consumption.
The scientists hope that with further development, the device can detect if the animal the meat came from had an undiagnosed disease before slaughter.