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Local Invention Could Tell If Food Is Fresh, Save Money

BOSTON (CBS) - Keeping the food in our kitchen fresh isn't always easy, but a tiny new gadget could keep us safe and help us save hundreds or even thousands of dollars in the process.

Professor Fiorenzo Omenetto and his team of researchers at Tufts University are developing edible sensors. "Think of it as a tattoo," says Omenetto while describing a little square that contains thousands of tiny antennas. The "tattoo" is made up of silk and gold and it can stick to any type of food. With the swipe of a smartphone, or other device, you can see if your food is safe to eat.

It all starts by boiling down silkworm cocoons to transform the silk into an edible plastic. Gold is placed on top of the plastic in the shape of little antennas. Those antennas can detect if the milk is spoiled or pinpoint e-coli in a healthy looking bag of salad. "The idea is that, for example, if you have a build-up of bacteria then the antennae will be able to report whether the food is safe to eat or not," says Omenetto.

The average family throws away $500 - $2,000 in spoiled food every year. This device could keep that from happening in the near future. It's possible these edible sensors could be a reality in three to five years.

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