SAFETY FIRST

Researchers develop smart food packaging to detect spoilage

The innovation seeks to ensure food safety for the consumer and reduce losses

In Summary
  • Besides the smart packaging, the food industry is also working on convenient, environmentally friendly packaging that would prevent food loss.
  • A firm has recreated the popular local dawa into a ready to drink commercial product.
Premier Food Industries Limited chief executive Joseph Choge with one of the newly innovated products.
Premier Food Industries Limited chief executive Joseph Choge with one of the newly innovated products.
Image: JKUAT

Researchers are developing food packaging that can detect spoilage.

This is aimed at ensuring food safety and reducing food losses. Experts drawn from the food industry in Kenya say it can detect spoilage and disease-causing microbes.

The move, they believe, would ensure consumers access safe and nutritious foods, especially during this threatening era of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Dr John Kinyuru, a food and nutrition expert at the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, said besides smart packaging, the food industry is also working on convenient, environmentally friendly packaging that would prevent food loss.

This is in addition to utilisation of blockchain technology to track food distribution processes from the producer to the consumer that would be instrumental in tracking sources of contamination.

Other trends being considered include the use of non-conventional bioresources such as algae, mushrooms, insects to boost bioactive compounds in food.

These were the key highlights of the 15th informative and interactive webinar series hosted by the Directorate of Research and Innovations at the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology last week.

Kinyuru said recent studies carried out in Nairobi during the Covid-19 pandemic revealed a 10 per cent decline in the consumption of healthy foods such as fresh fruits, vegetables and dairy products.

This was partly due to fear of contamination during the handling of fresh foods in the market.

“In light of the Covid- 19 pandemic, it is imperative to innovate within the various key dimensions of the food systems such as capitalising on immune-boosting foods and enhancing food safety to counter the current threats to the sustainable development goals on zero hunger and health well-being for all,” Kinyuru said.

“This includes the prevention of communicable diseases such as the Covid-19, which may be transmitted through food handling," he said.

Speaking during the webinar, Premier Food Industries Limited chief executive Joseph Choge explained how the company had leveraged locally available immune-boosting nutraceuticals such as ginger, garlic, turmeric, honey to produce high-demand products.

He pointed out that one of these has been recreating the popular local dawa into a ready-to-drink commercial product that has a stable shelf life and no added sugar.

“I am urging stakeholders not to hold back but instead find the opportunities in every adversity regardless of the uncertainties that plague the market. Innovations are eureka moments that can actually come amidst tough times like Covid-19,” Choge said.

Lauding the progressive gains made by both industry and academia in coming up with solutions, Prof Mary Abukutsa-Onyango, the Research, Production and Extension deputy vice chancellor at JKUAT, called for more collaborations between researchers and the food industries to boost productivity.

She regrettably noted that some of the resources such as ginger are sourced abroad, yet they can be produced locally with help from local researchers in horticulture.

-Edited by SKanyara