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.
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.
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.
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.