Food Irradiation Detector Doesn’t Use Banana For Scale

How do the potatoes in that sack keep from sprouting on their long trip from the field to the produce section? Why don’t the apples spoil? To an extent, the answer lies in varying amounts of irradiation. Though it sounds awful, irradiation reduces microbial contamination, which improves shelf life. Most people can choose to take it or leave it, but in some countries, they aren’t overly concerned about the irradiation dosages found in, say, animal feed. So where does that leave non-vegetarians?

If that line of thinking makes you want to Hulk out, you’re not alone. [kutluhan_aktar] decided to build an IoT food irradiation detector in an effort to help small businesses make educated choices about the feed they give to their animals. The device predicts irradiation dosage level using a combination of the food’s weight, color, and emitted ionizing radiation after being exposed to sunlight for an appreciable amount of time. Using this information, [kutluhan_aktar] trained a neural network running on a Beetle ESP32-C3 to detect the dosage and display relevant info on a transparent OLED screen. Primarily, the device predicts whether the dosage falls into the Regulated, Unsafe, or just plain Hazardous category.

[kutluhan_aktar] lets this baby loose on some uncooked pasta in the short demo video after the break. The macaroni is spread across a load cell to detect the weight, while [kutluhan_aktar] uses a handheld sensor to determine the color.

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen AI on the Hackaday menu. Remember when we tried those AI-created recipes?

66 thoughts on “Food Irradiation Detector Doesn’t Use Banana For Scale

  1. The premise for this project is incorrect – food irradiation does not induce radioactivity in food! The claims that irradiated food is potentially dangerous is also very misleading. A Geiger counter is only going to detect the ambient radiation and what is naturally present in the item of food.

      1. I agree that irradiation is usually performed at low-enough doses (and not with neutrons) that activation isn’t a concern. But if there are radioisotopes present in the fertilizer, that can carry on into the food. An example is Polonium-210 used in fertilizer for growing tobacco, which ends up becoming an internal alpha dose source for smokers.

        1. The Po-210 is not intentionally added to the fertilizer, it is naturally occurring in the rock that the fertilizer is made from. And at this point if you are still smoking with all the publicly known risks that’s on you.

        2. I do not care how high of a dose of Gamma you give it will not make the target radioactive. It might burn it to a crisp but it will not make it radioactive. Only neutron can activate elements.
          So no this whole thing is a large amount of Ecco bunk. Right up with vaccines causing autism.
          And yes if the food has any potassium in it then it will be radioactive. Since we need to potassium to live you better have some of it in your food.
          Truth is radiation is a natural part of our environment. It is only when we add a whole lot extra into the environment does it become a problem.

          1. Dont forger the radioactive building in taiwan where some Co-60 accidently got mixed in when they melted down scrap. Studies of the residents of building have actually found lower rates of cancer.

    1. Yah, at best this sounds like something from KickStarter that one would find in a debunking video.

      At worst it’s a good way to eliminate Potassium from your diet.
      I guess if your life goal is to ring a church bell….

  2. Even after reading the entire article I’m not sure how this is supposed to give a meaningful result. Materials that have been irradiated with gamma rays do not emit any more radiation than they did beforehand.

    Using sunlight on produce as an analog to gamma rays seems problematic as it will cause changes in colour and moisture content that gamma rays do not. The amount of time needed to get even a small amount of radation dose from sunlight will drastically alter the characteristics of the produce in ways that would not occur from a gamma source.

  3. “Though it sounds awful,”

    No, not really, and the whole project is pretty much junk science.

    Color? Only relevant from product of the same batch. One additional egg yolk in the pasta could change the color.
    Radiation? Gammas do not activate and “leave” radiation like neutrons. They just pass right through. There are a lot of naturally occurring isotopes in out food that give off detectable radiation like K40.
    Weight? Without knowing volume what’s the point? Same species of apple could have different densities based on when they were picked and the amount of water they had.

    1. Using sunlight as an analog for hard gamma irradiation is also going to wildly skew the results. Sunlight effects colour a lot more than gamma rays do even at a tiny fraction of the dose rate.

    2. Gamma(10MeV and higher) do activate stuff – but it isn’t that easy to measure(small quantities of short lived radionuclides).
      Thing is that food etc. is irridiated with a Co-60(1,25MeV) or – historically – cesium 137(only .662MeV), so much less than required for so called “photonuclear reaction”.

        1. The effect of Photonuclear Reaction, which 12L14 mentioned, is also called Photodisintegration and Phototransmutation. It’s how lightning creates Nitrogen-13, and how Iron decays into Helium in supernovae. This would knock loose a proton, neutron or alpha particle, and could turn a stable isotope into a radioactive one.

          A very similar process is called Photofission, where gamma rays cause a fissile element to undergo fission. I’m pretty sure that’s not gonna happen in relevant amounts in an apple.

  4. There’s irradiation to reduce spoilage, and then there’s radioactive stuff in the food.

    Irradiation uses souces of ionizing radiation. This will not leave your food radioactive , it just kills it (and nearly all bacteria) dead.

    Radioactive material in your food is a different problem altogether. That’s bad. If the feed is contaminated, then the meat (or other animal products) that you eat will be radioactive.

    Are you dealing with irradiation or contamination?

  5. I have an ethical problem with the project. It’s one thing to make a movie prop that blinks lights and displays “DANGER – RADIATION”. It’s another thing to use that prop to scare people. But it’s another thing entirely to use it to scare people into making poor decisions that will negatively impact their health.

    Even if it worked as described (which is doubtful for numerous reasons) this project may result in people declining to obtain food that has been disinfected by irradiation, causing them to get a perfectly avoidable case of salmonella (or other food-borne disease.) Worse, they may put at-risk people in harm’s way by serving tainted food.

    If you’re going to continue to carry stories of such projects, at least tag them as “pseudoscience”, “holistic”, “religious”, or other appropriate terms to let readers know clearly that they’re dealing with a deceitful product.

    1. “The radioactivity is due to the local geology. Underground water dissolves radium in uraniferous igneous rock and carries it to the surface through at least nine known hot springs.”

      Man, when they say hot springs they ain’t kidding!

    1. That’s the extra confusing thing about that statement, this isn’t new! I’m in my 40s and I remember reading about irradiating food as a preservative in like middle school and according to wikipedia, it wasn’t a new process then! (the first commercially sold irradiated food was in 1958 but the idea dates back about half a century).

  6. … it should be regulated strictly to avoid any health risks and nutritional value drops.
    Sounds like a tobacco company coming after ecigs. Any clue what all the plastic packaging this guy is supporting does to the food? How about that food being simply unavailable to lower classes. What is the healte cost of the refrigerants we use?

    This seems more like harmful misinformation and FUD than helpful technology.

  7. Same vibe as warning readers against hand sanitizers containing toxic and dangerous chemicals such as methylcarbinol.

    “Radiation” by itself doesn’t mean anything bad, in this very moment you’re deliberately exposing yourself to the radiation emitted by your smartphone’s or computer’s display.

    Ionizing radiation would be bad if it was hitting your DNA or creating a considerable amount of radioactive isotopes. Using UV to sterilize food does neither.

    Oh, and there’s also a specific frequency of UV that can’t penetrate your skin’s dead cells, so a properly filtered UV lamp would be reasonably safe even for direct exposure (In all likelyhood, much safer than sunlight), although it might also be less effective for food disinfection.

    One last thing: the photons of red light emitted by a candle carry around a billion times the specific energy of those emitted by 5G, so the only way 5G can hurt you is if you stick your head right next to a powerful emitter – which would literally just be the equivalent of sticking your head in a microwave and turning it on. I’m saying this just in case you’re also one of *those* people.

  8. Usually irradiation of food sources is done by multiple exposures to a Co-60 source or a similar radioisotope, and while it can, and absolutely will, kill you if you get too close, it leaves no trace and will not harm you in any way when eating the fruit that was irradiated, the cellular damage caused by the ionizing radiation is no more dangerous to you than the cellular damage that occurs when you cook vegetables and meat with thermal radiation since the item being irradiated and cooked is already dead, unlike the microbes and parasites that may be on it, the goal is to make them as dead as the item being irradiated.
    Detecting something like Cs-137 in your food would make more sense, if you are in an area that may have a leaky nuclear power plant, or in case of nuclear war, as that would be very bad to ingest, but outside of that use this project serves no purpose at all.

      1. In this instance, my personal distinction between alive and dead would be that the organism, either as a whole or its organs are able to sustain normal functions, once the stem is cut from a plant it is potentially in a state between being dead and being regrown from the seeds there may be in it, what made it the original fruit will eventually decay away and it will cease to exist in the form that defined it as a fruit, so while the normal function of the fruit is to decay away to make way for the seeds, it is also dead, I guess it becomes a problem for Schrodinger at this point.

        1. Someone needs to build an air cannon to fire these so called Irradiated Quantum Fruit through a couple of slits to get to the bottom of this! Am reasonably sure that’s how all of this works…

    1. Why slag the people who work hard to bring you the content that you enjoy? Looks like the people commenting know lots about this, which is great, and I’m sure that Kristina (and me too) knows more about the subject now than before. Maybe she didn’t know it was pseudoscience. I certainly didn’t.

      I’m still thankful that I get to come to HaD an read interesting articles.

  9. I would love to see irradiated food on sale in the UK, think of the waste it could save – and waste saved is carbon not burnt, what’s not to like except for unfounded fears surrounding the word “radiation”?

    Prove it is unsafe, and I will happily change my mind :-)

    Also, while I am on it, fears around nuclear power are half of why we’re so dependent on Russian gas…

  10. The whole thing is wrong on so many levels. The type of radiation you use to sterilize things does not make them radioactive or dangerous. The rest of it really doesn’t need to be explained why it’s wrong. To me it almost feels somebody with a bit of knowledge is using it to trick those with none. Disappointing

  11. This is junk sience – and unworthy of hackaday. Kristina : Please put a disclaimer at the top of the article warning that this is basically just blinkenlights with a fantasy story to accompany it. Unless they are using neutrons to irradiate the food (which nobody does, and why would they) there will be no radioactivity added to the items. Ionizing radiaton does just that – ionize, i.e mess with the electrons around the core. To make something radioactive, it would have to mess with the core. Neutrons do that, depending on speed. Nobody uses neutron sources to irradiate food, it would be much more expensive than beta/ gamma irradiation, and have no added bonus. — As a cherry on top, the authors seems to put all ionizing radiation in one bin, which is ludicrous. Please, please amend.

  12. “predicts irradiation dosage level using a combination of the food’s weight, color, and emitted ionizing radiation after being exposed to sunlight” This is typical “garbage in, garbage out” of the sort that we should expect from any attempt to use a neural network to predict results based on flawed underlying assumptions.

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