Food technologists face more work once new smartphone technology takes hold enabling consumers to test the quality of food on supermarket shelves, according to experts.
Germany’s Fraunhofer Institute is developing a mini spectrometer 30% smaller than a sugar cube, which uses infrared technology to penetrate food surfaces and packaging to measure water, fat, protein and starch content. This would give a good indication of product qualities such as ripeness or moisture levels.
Stephen Whyte, business development director of UK firm Qadex, which specialises in food safety quality systems and training, denied claims the technology would increasingly render food technologists obsolete.
Instead, he claimed it would put even more pressure on such staff, demanding greater resources at a time when they are already stretched very thin. Speaking to FoodNavigator, Whyte said the technology would lead to “more work and headaches, with the need to respond swiftly as issues emerge on social media which are outside the control of the food industry”.
Far from such developments taking the power out of the hands of food tech and quality control personnel, he asserted: “Traceability and complaint management systems will need to provide rapid responses to ensure an issue is isolated quickly and consumers reassured that the issue is isolated and contained.”
He warned that food technologists jobs could be at risk if they and their companies failed to move with the times. However, if they embraced it, they could turn such tools to their own use and it could make their life easier. “The evolution of technology in our world is constant, those who embrace technology may benefit from it, but those who ignore technology run the risk of becoming obsolete.
“Innovative and proactive food technologists and quality control managers will adopt whichever technologies emerge that add value and make a difference to what they do.”
The Fraunhofer Institute said its technology worked by shining a broad-bandwidth light on the item to be tested. Depending on the food’s composition it would reflect different wavelengths of light in the near infrared range of different intensities. The resulting spectrum would tell scientists the amounts of substances present in foodstuffs.
The centre has developed a breakthrough process for producing the devices which makes them far cheaper to produce than before. Their size and cheapness makes mass production and incorporation into devices such as smartphones much easier.