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TellSpec tells consumers just what’s in their food


tellspec1 TellSpec tells consumers just whats in their food

A war is taking place between consumers wanting to know more of what’s in their food and government lobbyists dedicated to making sure that doesn’t happen. The concerns go beyond getting labels on food containing genetically modified ingredients. A new device called TellSpec will let consumers know the details of what’s really in their food. Developed by Isabel Hoffmann with mathematician Stephen Watson, this hand-held scanner will warn you about chemicals, allergens and ingredients you’d rather avoid, help you figure out food sensitivities and track your vitamin intake.

tellspec2 TellSpec tells consumers just whats in their food

Utilizing a small Raman spectrometer, a unique cloud-based algorithm and a simple smartphone app, consumers will be able to aim TellSpec at food on their plate or on shelves in the supermarket. Push the button and it beams a low-powered laser at the item, analyzes the reflected light waves and identifies the chemical makeup of the food. The data is uploaded to the analysis engine which processes the information, compares it to reference spectra, interprets the results with the help of a database containing 3,000 food items, and downloads the results to the user’s smartphone.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kcNj1DknDpg

TellSpec can tell you if there’s gluten or MSG in your food, as well as how many calories it has. It can also reveal the background of little-known ingredients like Tartrazine, a synthetic lemon yellow that’s commonly used as food coloring.

tellspec3 1 TellSpec tells consumers just whats in their food

After raising three times its funding goal on Indiegogo, shipping is slated to start in August 2014. Its $320 US price tag includes one year of free analysis of food scans, with further analyses being made available through subscription plans.

Debra Atlas is a freelance environmental writer and eco-enthusiast based in Northern California, and is the Red Ferret’s Ecological Editor. Debra looks for the upside of eco-change – what’s positive, making a difference. She hunts down those interesting things cooked up by creative minds, especially if they’re strange and eccentric.

Debra Atlas – who has written posts on The Red Ferret Journal.



  • Julian

    I would be highly sceptical that a device like this could be possible any time soon. It is extremely hard to analyse anything but simple ingredients even in a lab. The idea that by pointing a laser at a plate of food (or wine through a wine glass) you can tell its chemical ingredients is implausible to say the least. One of the tests shown in the video is on an apple where the device magically shows the percentage of sugar in the apple even though the laser is pointed at the apple’s skin and not its flesh. How does that work?

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