Smartphone app could alert you to cancer-causing chemicals in meat

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

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

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

Users 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, such as salami and bacon, are often treated with nitrite or nitrate salts to keep them looking and tasting fresh (file photo)

Cured and processed meats, comparable to salami and bacon, are sometimes handled with nitrite or nitrate salts to maintain them wanting and tasting recent (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 exhibits 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 larger 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 larger 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. 

The system has been created by consultants at Universidad de Burgos in Spain and detailed in a brand new examine, printed in ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces.

‘There is a have to detect and management completely different chemical compounds added to processed meals, comparable to processed meat,’ they are saying. 

‘Our technique represents a terrific advance by way of evaluation time, simplicity, and orientation to make use of by common residents.’

Cured and processed meats, comparable to bacon, sizzling canines, ham and sausages (together with Mortadella, an Italian luncheon meat), are sometimes handled with nitrite or nitrate to maintain them wanting and tasting recent. 

Nitrites are broadly utilized in processed meats to increase their shelf life, by averting micro organism that may trigger ailments like salmonella, listeriosis, and botulism. 

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

Though 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 below the excessive warmth of a frying pan, nitrite can bear a response to kind nitrosamines, which have been linked to the event of varied cancers. 

For this cause, shoppers 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)

Here, a worker packages slices of Mortadella, an Italian luncheon meat, in a factory (file photo)

Here, a employee packages slices of Mortadella, an Italian luncheon meat, in a manufacturing unit (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 larger the nitrite current within the meat, the deeper every movie’s yellowish hue turned.  

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

Next, the researchers created the smartphone app that makes use of colorimetry – which makes use of gentle to find out the focus of explicit 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 much like these obtained with a conventional and extra complicated nitrite detection technique. 

In addition, POLYSEN complied with a European regulation for migration of drugs from the movie to the meals. 

While the staff have solely demonstrated the system for now, it may present a user-friendly and cheap approach for shoppers to find out nitrite ranges in meals sooner or later.

‘This examine 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 are additionally added to meat to maintain it pink and provides flavour.

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

It also can enter the meals chain as an environmental contaminant in water, as a result of its use in intensive farming strategies, livestock manufacturing and sewage discharge. 

Nitrite in meals (and nitrate transformed to nitrite within the physique) could contribute to the formation of a gaggle of compounds often called nitrosamines, a few of that are carcinogenic – ie, have the potential to trigger most cancers.

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

The present acceptable each day consumption for nitrates, in response to the European Food Safety 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.

Source: EFSA