This new app can detect cancer-causing chemicals in processed meat

Sausage meat, cherry tomatoes, and basil on a cutting board.—unsplash
  • Scientists use a colour-changing film known as Polysen.
  • It changes colour when it detects high levels of nitrite, a meat preservative.
  • Polysen film turns deep yellow if there is nitrite in meat.

While some studies have shown that processed meat can contain cancer-causing chemicals, it has not stopped people from consuming it.

Researchers in Spain have developed a new smartphone application that could warn users about chemicals in processed meat, such as bacon, sausages, and salami.

Scientists used a colour-changing film known as Polysen which changes colour when it detects high levels of nitrite, which is a meat preservative. 

Consumers can stick these labels onto meat products. They can then click a picture of the film with their smartphones and the application will evaluate the colour to give the concentration value of nitrite.

The polymeric sensor (Polysen) is made of four monomers and hydrochloric acid. Films made out of it are stuck to meat for 15 minutes so that they can react with nitrite.

Then, these discs are dipped in a solution of sodium hydroxide for a minute of the colour to develop.

The film would turn deep yellow if there is nitrite in the meat sample. The higher the ratio of nitrite, the deeper the yellow.

Experts at Universidad de Burgos in Spain, who created the system in the app that judges the colour, published their study in ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces.

“Our method represents a great advance in terms of analysis time, simplicity, and orientation to use by average citizens,” the authors said.

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