New System that Detects Adulteration and Spoilage in Food


MIT Media Lab researchers developed a wireless system that enhances RFID tags to enable the access of food-safety detection.

The new system is known as RFIQ, includes a reader, which could detect anomalies in wireless signals emitted from RFID tags when the signals interact with food. Food adulterations are a common happening, and this measure will help consumers vigilant about food safety.

The technique is based on machine learning model that detects changes in the signals emitted from an RFID tag correspond to levels of certain contaminants within that product. For this study, they focused on baby formula and alcohol, but the technique has potential to work on a wide variety of products, where consumers might have their own reader and software to conduct food-safety sensing before buying virtually any product.

The researchers demonstrated the presence of melamine in baby formula with 96 percent accuracy, and alcohol diluted with methanol with 97 percent accuracy, through their designed system. They believe that the system could also be implemented in supermarket back rooms or in smart fridges to continuously ping an RFID tag to automatically detect food spoilage.

Fadel Adib, an assistant professor at the Media Lab and co-author of the paper says: “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. We want to democratize food quality and safety, and bring it to the hands of everyone.”

However, the system has one major challenge, it needs a very tight bandwidth wavering around 950 megahertz, which might act as deter for its adoption in supermarkets.


About Author

Cynthia Carrier is a graduate of Texas A&M, where she played volleyball and annoyed a lot of professors. Now as Plains Gazette's entertainment and Lifestyle Editor, she enjoys writing about delicious BBQ, outrageous style trends and all things Texas.