Could a smartphone app soon identify dangerous food bacteria?


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There’s nothing worse than getting sick from food poisoning. And adding insult to literal intestinal injury? It’s often unclear whether E. coli or salmonella or nothing harmful at all is present in your food—especially if you’re not preparing it yourself. Luckily, a method for easily detecting dangerous bacteria is in the works, and all it requires is an app and a $30 microscope attachment that clips right onto your smartphone camera.

According to NPR, University of Massachusetts Amherst microbiologist Lynne McLandsborough, PhD, and food science professor Lili He, PhD, have been developing a device that detects sickness-causing bacteria in food through a chemically-coated chip that binds to bacteria. After sitting in contaminated water for 30 minutes, the chip displays results.

“Right now, this is really preliminary. We can detect bacteria with the iPhone, but we don’t know if they’re pathogenic—if they’re harmful bacteria or good bacteria.” —Dr. Lynne McLandsborough

“Right now, this is really preliminary,” Dr. McLandsborough said. “We can detect bacteria with the iPhone, but we don’t know if they’re pathogenic—if they’re harmful bacteria or good bacteria.”

You won’t be able to buy the product for a few more years since the creators are still figuring out how to identify which type of bacteria shows up on the app, but once it’s available, they think it will not only be great for people who want to test food in their kitchens at home, but also for making sure drinking water is safe after natural disasters.

But, until you can make sure all your meals are bacteria-free with the help of your smartphone, continue doing your due diligence the old-fashioned way: Wash your produce, even it’s pre-washed, and be wary of oysters, undercooked meat, and undercooked eggs. This way, those microscopic bad guys won’t stand a chance.

Do women have a red-meat problem? Or, check out 10 healthy uses for apple cider vinegar

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