INSPIRALIA presents intelligent packaging to monitor meat

The TOXDTECT project aims at a significant reduction of food waste by using printed electronics technology

Packaging in general and active packaging in particular are conceived for reducing food waste by extending the shelf life of fresh and processed products, thereby extending the benefits for retailers, producers and consumers. Now, INSPIRALIA, a Spanish-based new product development company with expertise in energy and environment, as well as industry and healthcare, has developed a novel intelligent packaging solution for fresh bovine meat products based on printed electronics. This work is part of a European project called TOXDTECT that involves a number of European companies (e.g. LINCIS and Carnicas Alonso) and associations (e.g. ASINCAR, PAFA, UECBV and ARC).

Compared to existing test methods that are expensive and destructive, TOXDTECT’s solution offers a non-invasive, accurate and cost-effective method to determine the integrity of packed meat and predict its remaining shelf life.

The novel packaging consists of a laminated multilayer film provided with an array of electrochemical sensors able to measure volatile compounds produced by the meat during its spoilage. The sensors are directly embedded within the flexible substrate by means of cheap printing technology, such as inkjet or screen printing, and are modified with different polymer formulations, so that a particular analyte can change their ability to carry an electric current. More in detail, each coated sensor forming the array is sensitive and selective to a specific volatile analyte (volatile organic compound, VOC) produced during spoilage. The interaction VOC-sensor causes a physical change of the polymer coating that can be converted into a change in the conductivity of the sensor itself. This change can be directly correlated to the presence/amount of the volatile compound produced in the headspace. The response of the sensors will be analysed statistically and correlated with the microorganism population associated with beef spoilage.

The packaging will consist of inexpensive sensors integrated into a film, for measuring in real time the freshness of meat products. The final product will allow the reduction of food waste representing a clear benefit for the packaged meat producers.

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