Food scanners determine food quality at the press of a button
The “Monitoring Quality Changes” working group at Fraunhofer IVV is researching the application of food scanners in the food industry. The sensor technology deployed in food scanners is often based on infrared spectroscopy, which uses specially designed sensor concepts that are a fraction of the price of conventional IR spectrometers.
Infrared spectroscopy is already used to rapidly determine the chemical composition of food. Thanks to the compact design and cost efficiency of the sensor technology, in the future, it will be possible to use these devices for a wide range of mobile applications at various levels of the supply chain. One key feature of this technology is the detection of quality changes that are not visible to the naked eye, which offers huge potential for reducing food waste and verifying the authenticity of products. When combined with mathematical models to determine shelf life, the ability to determine food quality in real time with the press of a button should help to reduce food waste by using food at the right time, processing it further or using it for an alternative purpose.
The working group has already demonstrated the range of possible applications for infrared spectroscopy across various research projects.
Food scanner for proving food authenticity
As part of the German Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL) project “BaoQuality - Quality improvement and more efficient utilization of products derived from the baobab tree (Adansonia digitata L.) to enhance food security and nutrition in Sub-Saharan Africa,” a food scanner was used to safely identify baobab powder that had been adulterated with rice flour, thereby establishing a rapid method of ensuring product safety. The results have been published in the International Journal of Food Science and Technology (https://ifst.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/ijfs.16313).
Food scanner for shelf life estimation
As part of the joint project funded by the Bavarian State Ministry for Food, Agriculture and Forestry (StMELF) entitled “Food scanner - Non-destructive measurement methods for rapid quality evaluation and shelf life estimation of food using food scanners” (Fraunhofer IVV, Fraunhofer IOSB, Weihenstephan-Triesdorf University of Applied Sciences, Technology Campus Grafenau), the use of compact NIR (near infrared) spectrometers for rapidly evaluating the quality and estimating the shelf life of two selected food products (ground meat and tomatoes) was researched. A key part of this involved subjecting packaged ground meat to various storage tests with simultaneous evaluation of the microbiological quality and selected chemical parameters (e.g., water, fat and protein content). The NIR spectra recorded were used alongside statistical methods to correlate microbiological characteristics. This allowed an assessment of microbiological quality to be made.
The ongoing BMEL project “SmartGrape - Using AI-based measurement systems to characterize raw materials in viticulture” is using infrared spectroscopy to characterize wine grapes. The infrared spectroscopy could be used to provide viticulturists with information about the maturity and composition of their wine grapes.