Sensor Shows Whether Meat Is Fresh, Regardless Of ‘Best Before’ Date


Sensor Shows Whether Meat Is Fresh, Regardless Of ‘Best Before’ Date

By Shiri Epstein, NoCamels -

So many of us have thrown away meat, fish or chicken because of a little sticker telling us it is past its prime, fearing that the freshness has been compromised and sickness will follow.

We tend to obey the “best before” labels, even if our common sense – and noses – tells us that the food is still good and even when official bodies say that correctly stored food can be safe to eat after the expiration date.

In fact, the United Nations Environment Programme says that global households waste 17 percent of food annually – which comes to more than one billion tons. And its sister institution, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), says that 20 percent of all meat produced globally gets thrown away every year.

Conversely, food that has gone bad can be eaten by unsuspecting consumers who have placed their faith in the date stuck to it. And that can exact its own cost in terms of physical wellbeing, with the World Health Organization warning that 550 million people fall ill and 230,000 die each year from consuming contaminated food.

Israeli foodtech company BioTip hopes to put an end to both meat-related waste and ailments, developing a sticker that can tell whether meat products in the fridge are still fresh and fit for consumption.

The BioTip sticker is actually a sensor that measures the amount of microbes (which include viruses, parasites and bacteria) in a food product, which tells it whether the product is safe to eat.

“Everyone relies on expiration dates and they are really not accurate,” BioTip CEO Zur Granevitze tells NoCamels.

He explains that this leads to the twin issues of waste, when food is thrown away before it goes bad, and health problems caused by eating food whose sticker says it is fine even though it is in fact rotten.

“Our sensor solves these two problems at one time,” he says, “because when you know exactly when the food is good or not, then you avoid waste and you avoid health problems.”

The proprietary sensor, known as the Food-Metrics Sensing Platform (FMSP), changes color when the microbial load in the food exceeds safe levels for consumption of the meat, as determined by United States and European Union food safety agencies.

The sensor sticker goes directly onto the meat itself and changes color due to the chemical reaction caused by the microbial growth in the food.

The blue sensors change to clear and the green ones turn yellow – and the company is also developing an intermediate stage that tells you the time to eat the food is running out.

“It will tell all the supply chain – producers, distributors, retailers and eventually of course consumers – when a specific piece of meat has a high microbial load,” Granevitze says.

The sticker sensor was inspired by time temperature indicators (TTI), an industry standard smart device placed on packaging whose color shows whether the product inside has been kept at the right temperature.

The TTI changes color if the temperature is too high, and is used primarily for easily spoiled products such as medication and milk or meat products.

Granevitze, a veteran of the biotechnology field, came up with the new and more accurate way to measure spoilage during a conversation with his father about the TTI sensors.

“I told him this is not the way to do it: you have to measure the microbes and not the temperature,” he recalls.

Microbes already exist in meat products and grow throughout its time in storage. Once the microbial load exceeds the approved threshold set by food regulators, it can produce dangerous bacteria such as E. coli, salmonella and listeria.

“The challenge is to know when [foods] reach that certain level – beyond that level, it would not be recommended to consume,” says Granevitze.

He says that aside from meeting all the standards of the FDA and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), the FMSP sticker was even created solely using compounds already approved for food consumption.

The sensor also works when placed on meat that has been frozen. And while it is inactive while in deep freeze, the sensor comes back to life as soon as the meat defrosts, once again monitoring the microbial load.

Founded in 2020, the Ashkelon-based company initially worked with dairy products, but decided to focus instead on meat and fish, as, Granevitze explains, they are more costly and do have a tendency to go bad quickly.

He says that BioTip considered developing individual sensors to measure the amount of microbes for each potential risk. But, he explains, that would have meant placing 10 to 15 stickers on each piece of meat, something that could have deterred some consumers.

The name of the company also comes from an early incarnation of the sensor, which instead of being placed directly on the meat itself, was put on the packaging and required a sample – or tip of the product – to be activated.

Funding comes from private investors, Granevitze says, but the company has also received grants from the Israel Innovation Authority, the government branch dedicated to promoting the country’s high-tech sector, including a recent stipend for marketing the startup.

BioTip is currently carrying out pilot tests of the sensor with several companies in the US as well as one of the largest operations in Israel. The company aims to be fully commercialized by Q4 of 2024.

“The sensor can really create a difference,” says Granevitze, “and really can have a huge impact globally.”


More News