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Check pesticide levels in fruits and vegetables with a new app
Health experts recommend eating at least five servings of fruits and vegetables a day. Organic products are often recommended here, since conventional goods are often contaminated with toxic spray agents. A new app should help to discover pesticide residues in the vegetable diet.
Pesticide residues on fruits and vegetables
Plant-based food is healthy, but fruits and vegetables must always be washed thoroughly, as there are often numerous toxins on them. The dangerous pesticide residues cannot be seen. A new app should help to discover the chemicals that are hazardous to health.
Check food ingredients
With the “HawkSpex® mobile” app from the Fraunhofer Institute for Factory Operation and Automation IFF in Magdeburg, consumers will be able to check the ingredients of food in the future.
The principle is explained in a communication from the institute: "You pull out your smartphone, open the app, point it at the object to be checked - such as the apple - and receive the information you want: for example, whether the apple contains pesticide residues."
Only the smartphone camera is required for the measurement
Systems already exist with which such measurements can be carried out. However, the user usually has to clamp additional parts, for example a prism, in front of the integrated camera - which is expensive and impractical and also disrupts the design of the smartphone.
"What is special about our app: The user needs nothing more than the camera for the measurement, which is already integrated in his smartphone," explained Prof. Udo Seiffert, head of the field of competence at Fraunhofer IFF.
The communication also explains how the researchers around project manager Dr. Andreas Herzog managed to do without a prism: "Since there is no hyperspectral camera integrated in the smartphone, we simply reversed this principle," says Seiffert.
"With the camera, we have a broadband three-channel sensor - that is, one that measures all wavelengths - and illuminate the object with light of different colors."
This means that it is not the camera that measures the light intensity in the different colors, but the display illuminates the apple in a fraction of a second in a series of different colors.
The app then analyzes how the object - for example the apple - reflects the differently colored light. The app then determines whether there are pesticides on the surface or not.
App could be launched later this year
According to the information, the first laboratory version of the app, which is also patent-pending, is ready. Seiffert hopes that it will be launched in late 2017.
"HawkSpex® mobile" should not only be useful when buying food. "There are so many areas of application that the market will surely overrun us," Seiffert is certain.
Therefore, the researchers are using an approach that is based on the Wikipedia online lexicon. "When the app comes onto the market at the end of 2017, committed users can contribute to the big picture and create new applications, for example assessing the load on lettuce heads with pesticides, by teaching the system for such a question," explained Seiffert.
That means: you measure treated and untreated heads of lettuce of different types with the app and send the data to the Fraunhofer IFF. Researchers check the measurements and activate the application for all users. (ad)