Your smartphone may soon be able to detect E. coli and salmonella, so bye-bye food poisoning

Have you ever looked at a questionable piece of produce or fish and wondered: Is this safe to eat? Well, you might not have to worry for much longer. Thanks to food scientists at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, you’ll soon need only your smartphone to detect possible food poisoning. These brilliant minds came up with a high-tech-yet-simple way to detect food poisoning-causing bacteria, like salmonella and E. coli, that can make you sick. All you’ll need is a smartphone app that uses a $30 microscope attachment, along with a bacteria-detecting chip.

The approach seems easy enough: You take your piece of food, like raw lettuce, and run some water off of it, catching that into a container. Then you take the chip and dip it into the potentially contaminated water for half an hour. Afterwards, you point your microscope at the chip, and voila! You get an image on your phone’s screen that allows you to see whether or not your food is unsafe, thanks to the presence of some dots (aka bacteria) that will appear if it’s contaminated.

If this seems a little complicated, don’t worry.

The scientists are confident that the average consumer will be able to figure it out without much trouble. With outbreaks of food-related illnesses appearing to be on the rise, the app could literally be a lifesaver when it comes to food poisoning prevention.

While the tech has already piqued the curiosity of several food-processing companies, the UMass scientists say their prototype is still several years away from market. In the meantime, when in doubt — throw it out.

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