August 16, 2022

A brand new smartphone app might alert customers to cancer-causing chemical compounds in processed meats like sausages, ham, bacon and salami. 

Scientists in Spain have created a system that features a colour-changing movie known as ‘POLYSEN’ that customers can stick onto meat merchandise.

The labels get darker after they detect excessive ranges of nitrite – a meat preservative that may kind probably cancer-causing compounds. 

Customers can then snap an image of the movie with a smartphone, and a specially-developed app will analyse the color and provides a nitrite focus worth. 

Cured and processed meats, equivalent to salami and bacon, are sometimes handled with nitrite or nitrate salts to maintain them wanting and tasting contemporary (file picture)

Graphic from the researchers' paper shows the system works. Discs punched from the film are placed on meat samples for 15 minutes to allow them to react with nitrite. The discs are then removed and dipped in a sodium hydroxide solution for one minute to develop the colour. The higher the nitrite present, the deeper the film’s yellowish hue. A smartphone app self-calibrates when a chart of reference discs is photographed in the same image

Graphic from the researchers’ paper reveals the system works. Discs punched from the movie are positioned on meat samples for quarter-hour to permit them to react with nitrite. The discs are then eliminated and dipped in a sodium hydroxide answer for one minute to develop the color. The upper the nitrite current, the deeper the movie’s yellowish hue. A smartphone app self-calibrates when a chart of reference discs is photographed in the identical picture

HOW DOES ‘POLYSEN’ WORK?

POLYSEN, or ‘polymeric sensor’, is a movie made of 4 monomers and hydrochloric acid.

Discs punched from the movie are positioned on meat samples for quarter-hour to permit them to react with nitrite.

The discs are then eliminated and dipped in a sodium hydroxide answer for one minute to develop the color.

The upper the nitrite current, the deeper the movie’s yellowish hue. 

A smartphone app self-calibrates when a chart of reference disks is photographed in the identical picture. 

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The system has been created by specialists at Universidad de Burgos in Spain and detailed in a brand new research, revealed in ACS Utilized Supplies & Interfaces.

‘There’s a must detect and management completely different chemical compounds added to processed meals, equivalent to processed meat,’ they are saying. 

‘Our technique represents an awesome advance when it comes to evaluation time, simplicity, and orientation to make use of by common residents.’

Cured and processed meats, equivalent to bacon, scorching canine, ham and sausages (together with Mortadella, an Italian luncheon meat), are sometimes handled with nitrite or nitrate to maintain them wanting and tasting contemporary. 

Nitrites are extensively utilized in processed meats to increase their shelf life, by fending off micro organism that may trigger illnesses like salmonella, listeriosis, and botulism. 

Crucially, in addition they add an alluringly tangy style and a pink hue to merchandise like bacon, making them seem extra appetising. 

Although nitrate is comparatively steady, it may be transformed to the extra reactive nitrite ion within the physique. 

When within the acidic surroundings of the abdomen or underneath the excessive warmth of a frying pan, nitrite can bear a response to kind nitrosamines, which have been linked to the event of assorted cancers. 

Because of this, customers need to restrict consumption of those preservatives, however figuring out how a lot is in a meals has been troublesome to find out. 

Nitrites add an alluringly tangy taste and a shopper-seducing fresh-pink hue to products like sausages, ham, bacon and salami (file photo)

Nitrites add an alluringly tangy style and a shopper-seducing fresh-pink hue to merchandise like sausages, ham, bacon and salami (file picture)

So the researchers crated the brand new POLYSEN movie – an abbreviation of ‘polymeric sensor’ – which is made of 4 monomers and hydrochloric acid. 

First, to create a ‘reference chart’, discs punched from the movie had been positioned on 5 completely different meat samples for quarter-hour, permitting the monomer items and acid within the movie to react with nitrite.

The meat samples all had completely different nitrite concentrations, so the researchers knew the discs would differ in color. 

The discs had been then eliminated and dipped in a sodium hydroxide answer for one minute to develop the color. 

The upper the nitrite current within the meat, the deeper every movie’s yellowish hue grew to become.  

To calibrate the system, discs punched from the film were placed on five different meat samples for 15 minutes, allowing the monomer units and acid in the film to react with nitrite

To calibrate the system, discs punched from the movie had been positioned on 5 completely different meat samples for quarter-hour, permitting the monomer items and acid within the movie to react with nitrite

Subsequent, the researchers created the smartphone app that makes use of colorimetry – which makes use of mild to find out the focus of specific compounds.

When photographed in the identical picture because the reference chart, the app can return a nitrite estimation for the pattern disc. 

The staff examined the movie on meats they ready and handled with nitrite, along with store-bought meats. 

They discovered the POLYSEN-based technique produced outcomes just like these obtained with a conventional and extra advanced nitrite detection technique. 

As well as, POLYSEN complied with a European regulation for migration of gear from the movie to the meals. 

Whereas the staff have solely demonstrated the system for now, it might present a user-friendly and cheap means for customers to find out nitrite ranges in meals sooner or later.

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‘This research is meant as a proof of idea during which it has been demonstrated that the methodology is sensible and works,’ they conclude.  

NITRITES AND NITRATES: A PRIMER 

Nitrite and nitrate are generally used for curing meat and different perishable produce.  

They’re additionally added to meat to maintain it purple and provides flavour.

Nitrate can also be discovered naturally in greens, with the best concentrations occurring in leafy greens like spinach and lettuce. 

It could additionally enter the meals chain as an environmental contaminant in water, because of its use in intensive farming strategies, livestock manufacturing and sewage discharge. 

Nitrite in meals (and nitrate transformed to nitrite within the physique) might contribute to the formation of a bunch of compounds generally known as nitrosamines, a few of that are carcinogenic – ie, have the potential to trigger most cancers.

In 2015 the World Well being Organisation warned there have been vital will increase within the danger of bowel most cancers from consuming processed meats equivalent to bacon that historically have nitrites added as they’re cured. 

The present acceptable each day consumption for nitrates, in line with the European Meals Security Authority (EFSA), is 3.7 milligrams per kilogram of physique weight per day.

The EFSA’s acceptable each day consumption for nitrites is 0.07mg per kilogram of weight every day.

Supply: EFSA