A night out at a questionable oyster shack will soon be less anxiety-inducing. NPR reports that food scientists at the University of Massachusetts Amherst found a way to combat food poisoning–a smartphone app.
At the moment, sourcing out the culprit–E. coli or salmonella–requires a sample for 24-hour testing via specialized equipment. But researchers developed a new $30 microscope attachment that simply hooks up to a phone (in tandem with an app).
The device comes with a chemically coated chip that binds to small traces of bacteria. You just rinse the contaminated food in water, then submerge the chip in the water. Within a half hour, the app spots the bacteria. You can then see the actual organisms on your smartphone screen.
Researchers told NPR they hope the product will be useful to food consumers as well as those who need safe drinking water after natural disasters. It’s still a few years away from being available, partially because the team is still tuning the product to more accurately distinguish “good” from “bad” bacteria.