Tellspec

Mini scanners to reveal what we really eat.

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By choosing that apple over this one on your market stall, you let your eye or your knowledge of fruit varieties go. This bright red apple looks better than this one, which is less attractive. But we now know that the canons of agricultural production, quantitative and calibrated for our supermarkets, have long since abandoned the notions of taste and nutritional quality. With these scanners integrated into smartphones, we will be able to know at a glance the precise quality of the products we eat.
 
Saccording to research It would take fifty oranges today to obtain the level of vitamin C that one orange in 1950 could provide. In half a century, the potato has lost more than half of its vitamin C and iron and more than a quarter of its calcium. And 100 % of its vitamin A, an essential nutrient for cell development and immune system function! Our fruits and vegetables have lost between 50 and 80 % of their nutritional value in a few decades.
The reasons are known: intensive agriculture, the race for productivity, selection of resistant varieties, excess fertilizers that increase the speed of plant growth and proportionally decrease the time of fixation of micronutrients, etc. We produce more, but the nutritional quality of the products we eat has dropped considerably. Fewer vitamins, minerals, nutrients.
 
This information never appears in the product composition information sheets. We buy blindly and conscientiously, following the rule of five fruits and vegetables a day, without knowing whether the nutritional qualities we believe are really there.
The growing success of organic farming is one of the consequences of this phenomenon. Consumers want to eat quality products, not only in terms of taste but also for their essential contributions to human health. The late Jean-Pierre Coffe had become the colourful champion of the fight against junk food. He would have loved the innovations that are coming out of our laboratories and which will give considerable weight to the consumers that we are. No more cheating. From now on, the qualities of the food we are offered will be brought out into the open.
 
Several applications have been released recently. We reported on the Scio scanner, an Israeli-made mini spectrometer capable of measuring the composition of food.

READ IN UP' : Scio, the revolutionary pocket scanner

Today it's the turn of a startup from MIT, TellSpec to offer us a scanner the size of a grain of rice, integrated into a smartphone. You just have to direct it to the product you want; fruit, vegetable, meat, etc. to immediately know its level of vitamin C, iron, mineral salts, calories, but also how much time it will have spent in a cold store and what is the variety or species, if it is a fish or meat, that you are being offered.
 
 
How is that possible? These technologies combine spectroscopy, bioinformatics sensors that, coupled with algorithms linked to complex databases located in the cloud, make it possible to measure the composition of a food at the molecular level. The information appears instantly on your smartphone so you don't have to buy anything.
 
These devices answer all the questions that an informed consumer may have:
 
  • Are there pesticide residues on this strawberry?
  • Is the calorie/fat/protein-vitamin content on the label correct?
  • Is it beef or horse meat?
  • Does this organic spinach have more vitamin A than regular spinach?
  • Is it honey or amber corn syrup?
  • What is the actual percentage of fat in this cheese?
  • How much water is in this yogurt?
  • Does this cake contain gluten?
 
These devices, sold at very accessible prices, herald a revolution. Indeed, today consumers are obliged to trust governments and professional authorities on, for example, the pesticide content of food products. These scanners are becoming genuine lie detectors. They will not only change our relationship with food, develop our "nutritional awareness", but also change the practices of some of those who sell or produce it.
 
On this last point, the nutritionist Christian Rémésy invited, in a column published in The World to cease" stuff ourselves with animal products that are expensive to produce and processed products that are high in empty calories; let's learn how to consume food of good nutritional quality. The agri-food industry has succeeded in providing us with microbiologically safe food, now it must produce nutritionally sound food. Its obvious responsibility in the obesity epidemic could prompt it to take up a new nutritional challenge, which also carries an interesting economic stake. ".
 
Of course, in order to achieve this, we need to rethink our agricultural and food model from top to bottom. We need to implement an agroecology that is very sparing in terms of inputs and increases soil organic matter, and develop a food agriculture that is geared towards meeting human nutritional needs and less centred on animal production. A long road strewn with pitfalls and pressures from all sides. Technological innovations such as these small scanners, if they become widespread, will undoubtedly accelerate the movement and change of mentalities.
 
 
 

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Corine Pelluchon
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