Robotic tongues monitor food quality

Electronic sensors are ready to go to work in the food and beverage industry, ensuring consistent taste, purity, and quality in snacks and drinks.

These “tongues” are decks of printed circuits, not slabs of pink flesh, but they work even better than nature’s original: They consistently detect the presence and strength of individual ingredients, allowing brewers, distillers and food processors to proportion raw materials so every cookie or bottle of beer taste exactly the same. The sensors also can be used to taste finished products to detect the presence of contaminants.

Early versions of these automated tongues are about the size of a deck of cards and have proven their skill at consistently discriminating among four kinds of lager beer and gauging the brews’ relative color and alcoholic content. Humans now take on these tasks — but people catch colds, don’t like working the night shift and aren’t always consistent.

TRENDPOST: Electronic tongues and noses in the food and beverage industry will eliminate variations in the taste and quality of mass-produced, signature-brand products. The result will be more consistent satisfaction among devotees of these products, boosting brand loyalty. Instances of e. coli and other food-borne infections also may be reduced. Industry demand for these ensurers of reliability will drive their widespread use by 2020 and make them standard production-line items in mass-manufactured food and drink products by 2025.

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