Nanotechnology is being used to develop solutions to one of the big challenges in food science — detecting the kind of impurities that can spread contagions such as salmonella.

Companies are developing nanosensors that can detect bacteria and other contaminates such as salmonella and E. coli on the surface of food at a packaging plant. These sensors will allow for frequent testing that costs much less than sending samples to a lab for analysis. This point-of-packaging testing, if conducted properly, has the potential to dramatically reduce the chance of contaminated food reaching grocery store shelves.

A company called Nano Science Diagnostics has developed a diagnostics system that can test for bacteria on the spot in 15 minutes.


Nanosensors are also being developed to detect lingering pesticides on fruit and vegetables. Researchers are working on an electronic nose that would be more sensitive than a dog’s nose and be able to detect a few molecules of the pesticides in the air above vegetables.

Obviously this technology would be useful at a packing plant. Perhaps someday there will be a handheld version so you can check out the lettuce, spinach, apples and grapes in your local grocery store!