European Training Network FoodSmartphone

Published on
November 30, 2016

Smartphone-based sensors for on-site quality and safety testing of foods

Checking food for the presence of harmful substances using your smartphone: that is the aim of the new European FoodSmartphone consortium. A group of 11 PhD students will develop an entirely novel approach towards food safety monitoring. Recently, the European Research Executive Agency granted almost €3 million to this consortium, which consists of Wageningen University & Research and institutes from five other countries.

Using your smartphone for food testing

With American and German partners, we previously developed a protein microarray with quantum dot labeling on a smartphone (plus an app) for the detection of a banned hormone in just one drop of milk. Now all aspects of smartphone sensing will be studied: surface chemistry, nanopatterning, multiplexing, optical and electrochemical readouts, image- and App software development and a range of application demonstrators.

Testing on the spot

At present, samples are still taken throughout the food production chain, registered and sent to laboratories where they are tested for residues of pesticides, antibiotics, natural toxins, allergens and other contaminants. Depending on the numbers of samples and the difficulty of testing, it may then take several days before the results are available, even though nothing is wrong in most cases. It is envisaged that in the future some of these tests will done on site by food inspectors using their smartphone. This would not only save time and money, but also mean that laboratories can use their more advanced equipment to focus on the much more relevant suspected cases and to obtain evidence of any food safety violations.