Tracing Food History (and other objects)
There’s now an odorless, tasteless, DNA-infused spray that can trace food and other objects back to their origins. This new technology is called DNATrax; it was developed at Lawrence Livermore Laboratory, originally intended to expose gaps in biodefense. But since being licensed to the Livermore startup DNATrek, it’s proving to have a ton of previously unimagined applications. “It uses this diversity that exists in nature to now encode other information, whether this is traceability or something else in the future,” said Anthony Zografos, DNATrek’s founder and CEO. “It doesn’t need to be visual anymore. It doesn’t need to be something that is scanned electronically….It’s like the invention of ink. This is another form of ink that now enables a new field of applications, some of them we haven’t even thought of.”
The material’s also edible (a mixture of powdered sugar and a small amount of DNA; it was ruled safe by the Food and Drug Administration). When released in powered form, it travels like a cloud of dust, with each particle carrying a unique DNA sequence that can be traced back to its source. Because the material is safe for human consumption, the next logical procession, according to lab scientist leader George Farquar, was to apply the technology directly to food. The current focus is on stopping the spread of foodborne illnesses by quickly tracing food back to its source. The material can be sprayed on produce, either at the farm or along the food supply chain, creating a biological marker containing information such as: Where the product was farmed, the date it was picked, where it was processed. In essence, the DNA mixture would be “printed” on the produce, which is then mapped to a database.
In the event of a foodborne illness, the produce can then be swabbed, analyzed and the source identified using a polymerase chain reaction machine, a DNA copier and analyzer. Using the machine would take about an hour to identify all the data encoded in the spray, including the origin (this process would normally take weeks or even months to determine). According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, contaminated foods hospitalize 128,000 Americans and foodborne illnesses kill about 3,000 each year. Recalls can cost the food industry almost $70 billion a year. “It allows you to contain the economic impact,” Zografos said. “But you can also prevent occurrence and protect public health because you can zoom into the actual root cause quickly and address it while the tracks are still there.”
Future use of the DNA spray could be to also tag and track items like paintings, jewelry, designer clothes and mislabeled foods. And eventually, consumers themselves will be able to use smartphone attachments to determine exactly where the their food came from, or establish the authenticity of other products (Source: “This spray with DNA is like a tracking device”-San Jose Mercury News (TNS)-The (Sunday) Vindicator, March 1, 2015).
New and Innovative Grocery Products
Seeking healthier options? Consider Weight Watchers Smart Ones Smoothies; it’s a blend of yogurt and fruit. The new French’s Tomato Ketchup is gluten-free and has no high fructose corn syrup, preservatives, artificial flavors or colors. Love candy (chocolate and other-wise?). M & M has the new Crispy Chocolate Candies, and there’s also the new Chili Nut, Coffee Nut and Honey Nut that’s now available. And there’s Soft & Chewy Ropes from SweeTarts.
Lysol Click Gel applicator allows you to press it against the inside of the bowl; every time you flush, the toilet’s automatically cleaned for up to a week (how cool is that?). Laundry can now get done faster with the Tide HE Turbo Clean Detergent, a more advanced and powerful version; the new formula has six times the cleaning power in quick cycle. Consumers are also seeking products that multi-task; Soft Lips Cube will not disappoint. The formulation of shea butter with vitamins A, C, E and SPF 15 features a sleek product design that mixes function and style in a glass-like cube. And Ultime Omega Repair 11-in-1 Leave In intensively repairs damaged hair (Source: “5 Ideas for easier household shopping” by StatePoint-Vindy Homes-The (Sunday) Vindicator, March 6, 2016).