Got Milk? New U of M Technology Could Better Detect When it Spoils

Updated: 08/05/2014 6:23 PM
Created: 07/31/2014 10:12 PM
By: Brandi Powell

We've all been there: Smelling our milk to see if it's spoiled. Now, new technology might change the way you know if your milk is ok to drink.

State lawmakers allocated $3 million toward Minnesota's Discovery, Research and InnoVation Economy - known as MnDRIVE. It is a partnership between the University of Minnesota and the state of Minnesota

We got a close-up look at one of project that's making big milestones this week at the university, and scientists say it will help stop food illness, and save you some money.

U of M Bio nanotechnology researcher Dr. Abdennour Abbas is the innovator of a special bio-responsive sticker. "We are looking to get a commercially viable product in less than a year," Dr. Abbas said.

The sticker-sensors would let you know if milk goes sour. The color-changing polymers respond to things like temperature and can detect bad bacteria.

"If it's blue then it's safe," Dr. Abbas explained. "If it's red then it's spoiled."

Dr. Abbas says they're already looking to gauge the interest in the prototype. "The only challenge is to get this integrated into the packaging system for the industry," Dr. Abbas said.

He thinks the industry will soon say good-bye to expiration dates and hello to the stickers.

"The problem is there is no continuous control, so you cannot know at a certain point if it's spoiled or not. The only way to do that is to put sensors in the packaging," Dr. Abbas said.

Dr. Marin Bozic, a marking and applied economics researcher at the U of M is working with Dr. Abbas on the viability of the product.

"If you trust your product more, if you trust the information delivery system," Dr. Bozic said. Then you won't toss your milk too soon.

"If we can convince consumers that the milk they are considering buying, and the milk that they already purchased,is still good, we may keep some of the good milk in the refrigerators rather than waste food," Dr. Bozic said.

Dr. Bozic adds some research shows one-third of the dairy products we buy end up in the garbage not in our stomachs.

"This will help families save money and this will bring sexy back to milk," Dr. Bozic said.

U of M researchers adds if the sticker-sensors go to market, it would likely only increase the cost of milk by a few cents.


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