In this article
The future of scanning foods with a smart phone is near.
 2 min read

People increasingly want to know what is in their food and where it is coming from. Affordable, easy to use, real-time, small devices are developed to test for contaminations, nutritional value, vitamins, and food quality etc. These new devises allow for more frequent on-site testing. Some examples can be found here. A great example of such a device is the Tellspec device.

How Tellspec works

Tellspec is a small device that can measure the composition of many food compounds and more. For instance, you can scan to see if your French fries have acrylamide or if your fruit is sweet and the device can also be used for identification and authentication. The system uses artificial intelligence techniques to predict the results from spectra obtained by a near-infrared spectrometer.

To scan is simple: first you connect the scanner via Blue Tooth to your smart phone or tablet, then you hold the device against the product and press the button to scan. The result is shown on your smart phone in less than 5 seconds. The more data that is gathered in the cloud data-base, the more precise the outcomes will be.

In two to three years, the first smart phone with integrated Tellspec technlogy will be a reality.

Who can use it?

The Tellspec scanner is helpful for all actors along the value chain, helping to make informed decisions. Agricultural producers can benefit from testing for proteins, fats and moisture content to inform on how to optimize their harvest. Distributors and food processors benefit by ensuring that the raw materials they are buying are pure, not adulterated and are of high quality. Supermarkets and food retailers can minimize food spoilage by regularly testing the quality of fresh products, meat and fish. Restaurants need to ensure that their menu offerings are not contaminated with possible bacteria, like E. coli, or with allergens like gluten, that may cause their customers a serious reaction and, finally, the consumers want to know what exactly is in their food, especially in relation to allergies. However is is important to note that using Tellspec does not exempt from complying with current legislation.

A satisfied customer

Frederik Nieuwenhuijs, Quality Assurance Manager at Meelunie, is a very enthusiastic user of Tellspec. Meelunie is a global supplier of agricultural ingredients. Trading overseas in countries like China, they have to deal with food fraud and food contamination on a daily basis. Nieuwenhuijs explains that adding urea or melamine to products is a cheap but illegal way to enhance the nitrogen content of the product thereby fooling some of the quality tests done on these products.

Meelunie can now test more frequently for urea and melamine in the products they buy by using Tellspec, well before they actually buy the raw materials. So far, using Tellspec does not create more profit, but they can sensure safety of their products. “Such devices are becoming increasingly important for the future,” according to Nieuwenhuijs.

The Future

Isabell Hoffman, founder and CEO of Tellspec, says they are currently working to get their device integrated in smart phones. Imagine!! Wherever you are, either in a supermarket, restaurant or at home, you can test foods for allergens, harmful bacteria or other substances.


This article was adjusted from 'Smart devices impacting our ways of living' that was written for the Trends and Technology campaign of the EU funded KATANA project.

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