Have you ever wondered if that chicken is truly antibiotic-free? Or if the nutrition facts have been slightly fudged? Does the organic vegetable have more vitamins than the cheaper one? Target and two collaborators have developed a hand-held scanner that could answer all those questions and more.

Journalist Tamar Haspel recently wrote an article with all the nitty gritty details of this new technology and the science behind how it works. It is able to identify what is in a food and how much of it just by scanning its surface. In the long run, these companies want to make the scanner so small that it can be included in smartphones and used by everyone to revolutionize how we consume food.

new technology

Photo by Marlee Goldman

The implications of this scanner are endless. Imagine that instead of logging every chip, sandwich, and soda you consume into your food tracker app, you could scan it and get an even more accurate reading of what you are eating. The exact amounts of calories, vitamins, and minerals could be instantly recorded for you. Life (and dieting) would be much easier.

Have an allergy? With the scanner, you won’t have to worry that your afternoon snack could send you to the hospital. Simply scan the food to make sure it isn’t contaminated.

Haspel also proposes that though it is a more difficult undertaking, the scanner could help with food safety too. It could be used to determine if there is E. coli or other food borne pathogens on food items. Who doesn’t love technology that keeps them safe?

new technology

Photo by Santina Renzi

Though it seems crazy, Haspel poses that we could see this scanner within the next decade. Instead of some lofty dream of the future, this technology could be revolutionizing the food industry in the next few years.