Laser Zaps Toxic French Fries

It spots the cancer-causing chemical that pops up in overcooked food.

Acrylamide is a potential cancer-causing chemical that pops up in overcooked food, like well-done fries and burnt toast. According to the FDA, it can form in some foods when you cook them at a high-temperature.

In lab studies, high doses of the chemical have caused cancer in animals, and until we know whether or not the much lower levels of the chemical that we ingest on a daily basis will cause cancer, it's best to take precautions. However, all potatoes are not created equally, and some won’t give off too much of the chemical when they are cooked. But how can you tell? 

One scientist, Dr. Lien Smeesters, took the cause into her own hands and has developed a new laser system that scans peeled, raw potatoes in the factory and can detect toxic compounds and prevent them from ever reaching the consumer.

The system scans the potatoes from the front and back with a laser that uses a non-invasive imaging technique and infrared light to spot the unsavory spuds, which are knocked out of the batch and into the reject bin when they are blasted with a stream of air.

Smeesters, working with the University of Brussels in Belgium, collaborated Tomra Sorting Solutions. Her patent pending technology will soon be integrated into one of Tomra’s industrial in-line sorting machines.

Until now, only general quality tests were available, with no real accurate acrylamide detection. A person took a small sample, and if it passed, the entire batch passed. Now, every potato with pass by the scanner's watchful eye.

This is IEN Now with David Mantey.

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