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Could New Device Prevent Food Poisoning from Meat?

By Principal Lawyer, Occupiers and Public Liability

A new device has been developed by chemists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology that could help to prevent food poisoning from meat.

The tiny sensor can detect the gases released by rotting meat. “Imagine that your fridge could alert you that you need to cook something in the next day or throw it out, rather than forgetting about it and throwing it away,” said MIT chemistry professor Timothy Swager. But, further to potentially cutting down on food wastage, the device could reduce the number of cases of food poisoning at home, but also in restaurants.

A 2014 study by the Food Standards Agency stated there were more than 500,000 reported cases of food poisoning a year from known pathogens – a figure that would have doubled if it included unknown pathogens. The highest number of food poisoning cases was from poultry meat, with an estimated 244,000 cases every year. Campylobacter was the most common foodborne pathogen, with roughly 280,000 cases every year. It is a form of bacteria that spreads easily in uncooked and spoilt food, including poultry and red meat. Professor Sarah O'Brien, the study's lead researcher from the University of Liverpool, said, “These findings will help the FSA to target its resources more effectively in tackling food poisoning. They confirm that the FSA is right to put campylobacter at the top of its priority list. It is the biggest food safety problem we have and more needs to be done to tackle it.”

According to Professor Swager, there are other similar sensors out there, but with 25 years’ development, MIT’s ‘carbon nanotube’ is “the cheapest, smallest, easiest-to-manufacture” sensor able to detect the gases released by rotting meat. The device also requires little power to work and could be linked to a wireless platform, meaning smartphone users could read the device through their mobiles.

This raises the question of, if and when, the technology becomes commercially available, should it be mandatory in establishments responsible for the handling and preparation of food for the public. Slater and Gordon Lawyers have handled cases for many people who were unfortunately victims of food poisoning, currently representing a young couple who, nine months later, suffer the effects of food poisoning from a holiday in Egypt.

In light of the statistics detailing the colossal number of food poisoning cases each year, perhaps the use of this new technology could assist where, even in the most cautious chef’s kitchen, human error results in food poisoning from spoilt meat.

Slater and Gordon have won compensation for many people who suffered from food poisoning in the UK and abroad caused by Salmonella, Listeria, Campylobacter, Hepatitis A virus and E. coli. For a free consultation call our No Win, No Fee Solicitors on freephone 0800 916 9046 or contact us online to begin your claim.

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