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Lasers reveal food quality

Fruit and vegetables can now be tested for quality without destroying large samples of fresh produce in the process.

Digital Economy

By reflecting light off a fruit or vegetable, it is possible to discover many of its properties and, because the technique is based purely on optical and visual analysis, no food is wasted or ruined by the test. Laser light from both inside and outside the visible spectrum is used, and a wide range of information can be revealed. The device can determine levels of sugar, acid and fibre, as well as its texture and firmness in, for example, an apple. By comparing this information with a database of standard levels, the food can be graded accordingly. In this way, fresh produce can be accurately sorted into grades of high, medium and low quality, using only optical information. No expert knowledge is required to use the equipment because the self-contained units are equipped with all the hardware and software needed to interpret the data. Because no expertise is required, the equipment will be suitable for businesses such as supermarkets that may want to perform their own quality tests. As well as being suitable for research in universities, the non-destructive technology will be particularly welcome to the horticultural industry, where money is lost through quality testing when produce is destroyed.

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