Amazing Things

Scannable Fruit,what’s next?


As the saying goes, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” That’s because this healthy food choice is supposed to be chock-full of nutritional goodness. The apple you grab at the supermarket, though, might be so old that it has lost many of its vitamins and minerals. But soon there might be a way to check the quality of fruit by scanning it.

Scientists at Food + Future coLAB came up with the idea of a handheld spectrometer that scans food. The device will work by shining infrared light—an invisible form of energy waves—on a piece of produce. By measuring how chemicals in the fruit or vegetable absorb the light, the scanner can identify the food’s chemical makeup.

“The machine could tell you exactly how old an apple is, how many calories it contains, what nutrients are present inside it, and even subtle nuances in taste,” Greg Shewmaker of Food + Future coLAB recently told Fast Company magazine.

Good Apple, Bad Apple

For the new device to be useful to consumers, researchers first need to create a database that contains a range of possible chemical compositions for a particular type of fruit, like an apple, for example. Scientists will need to scan lots of pieces of produce to gather this data. Luckily, Food + Future coLAB has access to hundreds of thousands of apples thanks to its collaboration with the retailer Target. The information collected will allow the scanners to tell customers exactly where an apple falls on a nutritional scale.

Food in the Future

Once consumers know what’s inside an apple, they can decide if they want to purchase it. Knowing fruit quality could also affect how a store prices items. “We could price produce based on the nutritional weight of the item and offer a discount for produce with lower nutritional value,” Shewmaker recently explain to

Food + Future coLAB has already created a working prototype, or model, of its device. It says you could see one in your local supermarket within the next few years. Then deciding whether you’ve picked the healthiest snack option will be just a quick scan away.


About Barry G. Morris

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