Easy Test for Spoiled Food?

by Roberta Murphy

spoiled foodScience Daily reports today that a consumer test kit may soon be available that will quickly reveal whether you are approaching spoiled food that is safe to eat. Researchers at the University of South Carolina report that their dipstick test has a 90 percent accuracy rate and could help prevent many of the illnesses and deaths caused by food poisoning. These food-borne ailments sicken several million people each year in the United States and far more overseas.

The test is still in development stages, but could be available to consumers in two to three years, says study leader John Lavigne, Ph.D. He says it may change the way we view our food and could greatly and positively affect public health. Lavigne imagines portable dipsticks that people could carry with them and use both at home and in restaurants.

How might the dipsticks react to spoiled food? Well, in the presence of badly spoiled fish (which my own well-trained nose can detect), the stick would change from dark purple to yellow. Dipped into mildly spoiled fish, the purple stick turns to a reddish hue. I think I would turn white with the former, and green with the latter.

But the tests extend far beyond the seafood menu. It is anticipated they will also be effective in detecting decay in other meats, as well as vegetables and fruits. The dipsticks are apparently capable of detecting even small amounts of decay caused by bacterial activity, says Levigne.

And all of this leads me to wonder if reactive dipsticks might one day be as common in restaurants as toothpicks? And would restauranteurs dare?

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