New technology could revolutionize food safety

Rarely does a month go by that there is not some national recall or warning about tainted foods. Food contamination is a worldwide problem. Recently, there was a nationwide ban on romaine lettuce in the U.S.

In 2008, for another example, 50,000 babies were hospitalized in China after eating infant formula contaminated with melamine, an organic chemical used in the manufacture of plastics. Melamine is toxic when present in high concentrations.

In April of last year, more than 90 people died and many others were blinded in Indonesia after drinking alcohol contaminated with methanol. Methanol is a toxic and cheap alcohol that is frequently used to dilute and extend liquor that is sold in black markets around the globe.

Here are some other facts bearing on the issue of food safety:

  • 48 million Americans get sick every year from the food they eat.
  • 128,000 Americans are hospitalized with illnesses that come from contaminated food.
  • Hundreds go blind from contaminants in bootleg alcohol.
  • 3,000 Americans die every year from contaminated foods.

If you have ever gotten sick from the food you have eaten or thought the food in the fridge smelled a bit off or wondered about the freshness or date printed on a food product you were about to consume, help may be on the way.

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) are using artificial intelligence to develop a wireless sticker system, called RFIQ (Radio Frequency IQ), that can check foods and drinks for a wide variety of illness-producing organisms and other tainted products. It would give consumers direct control over detecting contaminants in their food and drink.

They have developed a special, small, and very precise and accurate sensor that can attach to your smartphone and check for contaminants in food and beverages. The system should be able to:

  • Detect E. coli and other germs in produce and foods
  • Detect lead and mercury in water
  • Detect contaminants in alcohol and milk

MIT scientists are excited that they are developing a system that could revolutionize the field of food safety. Eventually, the device would be the size of a phone charger and plug directly into a smartphone. It would then interact with an app that directs the detection.

This technology has the potential to be a groundbreaking advance. There are thousands of people who have become critically ill from foodborne illness. As a result, many have a terrible relationship with food and live in constant fear, dreading every day doing something as essential to life as eating food.

The new system would enable people to test the food in grocery stores, farmer’s markets, restaurants and at home. For commercial foods and beverages, there could be a standardized, unique identifier code on the label that is scanned. If any contaminants are detected, not only would the device’s owner be alerted, but so would the product manufacturer, and even safety organizations like the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), for potential early and widespread warnings.

Ideally, the device will first serve individual consumers. Eventually, the MIT team’s goal is to scale-up the technology for commercial applications and then adopt it nationally, and even globally, so it becomes part of an invisible, seamless, food and beverage production infrastructure. Foods and drinks would then be scanned automatically before they ever hit the shelves or are sold in markets or served in restaurants.

Think about the profound effect this food safety technology can have; we could soon have the ability to check any food or liquid, before we eat it, making sure that they contain no contaminants.

The scientists are also developing additional technologies so the scanner can detect sugar, calories and other components. These additional capabilities would be extremely beneficial for people with diabetes, those watching their weight, or with food allergies.

Researchers say that the devices could be in consumer’s hands in as little as three to five years. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has also expressed an interest in the project.

When it comes to food safety, the future looks bright.

For more information, read MIT’s RFIQ project report at

Cafe Astoria – Sidney’s Taste of the Twin Cities

Cafe Astoria is truly an Instagram heaven, and the food and drinks taste even better than they look. They have something for everyone with sweet or savory crepes, smoothie bowls and drinks.

Astoria Caffe 24k Latte

Cafe Astoria became very popular last year when they came out with their 24K latte that has real gold flakes on it! Continue reading Cafe Astoria – Sidney’s Taste of the Twin Cities

Sidney’s Taste of the Twin Cities

Where our very own foodie, Sidney, dishes on what’s good to eat in the Twin Cities.


4312 S Upton Ave,  Minneapolis, MN 55410

If you’re into food even a little bit you may have heard of Martina. It is an Italo-Argentinian restaurant in Linden Hills. Despite opening just a few months ago it is already one of the most talked about and most popular restaurants. I’ve been there for brunch three times already. That may sound like a lot, but if you’ve been there you know why.

Martinas burger

The double cheeseburger is arguably one of the very best in the Twin Cities. The Crab Carbonara, Lobster Toast and Potato Churros are equally as incredible. The space itself is beautiful and perfect for dates or foodie brunch with friends! 😉 I can’t wait to try dinner there!

sydney of minneapolisFollow Sidney on Instragam @minneapolis.eats

Designing With Chocolate the Easy Way

Adding a chocolate design to cakes, brownies, and other confections gives them a sophisticated touch sure to be appreciated by your friends. To easily use chocolate for decorating, place old candy, unwrapped, in a plastic sandwich bag. Microwave for 30 seconds at a time, turning until melted. Then snip off the corner and use like a pastry bag to write words and create embellishments.

Source: Who Knew? 10,001 Easy Solutions to Everyday Problems
By Bruce Lubin and Jeanne Bossolina-Lubin

Why do we eat popcorn in movie theaters?

Calvin (of Calvin & Hobbes fame) once proclaimed, “It’s not entertainment if you can’t sit in the dark and eat.” Americans really seem to enjoy combining those two activities: concession sales account for about 85 percent of a movie theater’s profit, and popcorn accounts for most of that.

It’s an odd custom when you think about it: while trying to pay attention to what’s happening on the screen, movie patrons absentmindedly reach into a bag of $6 popcorn (actual value: a few cents) and then snarf down handful after handful. It’s greasy, loud, and not very healthy—especially when you add all that butter. So whose bright ideas was it to make popcorn the cornerstone snack at every movie theater from London to Honolulu?

Back in the early days of cinema, eating anything in a theater was frowned upon. The Great Depression changed that. With little money available for more expensive entertainment, Americans flocked to movie theaters (now offering movies with talking!). At the same time, popcorn was becoming a popular—and cheap—snack.

Eager to cash in on both fads at the same time, enterprising vendors started setting up carts with popping machines outside if cinemas. At first, theater owners wouldn’t allow patrons to bring the loud, messy snack inside…until they saw there was money to be made. Then the vendors were invited inside, and the rest is snack history.

Source: “Do Geese Get Goose Bumps?” By The Bathroom Readers’ Institute

Why are organic food products more expensive?

After World War II, many governments awarded subsidies to farmers to ensure that the food shortages during the war would not be repeated. The subsidies still exist, but are only given to large—scale farming companies, which leaves out nearly all organic farmers.

So basically, your tax dollars have already paid for a portion of the conventionally grown food you buy at the store.

Also, chemical pesticides and fertilizers are less expensive and less time consuming to use than organic methods. Organic fertilizers made from compost and animal manure are bulkier and more expensive to ship than their chemical counterparts. And for cattle to considered “organic,” they must be given organic feed, which can cost twice as much as conventional feed.

Source: Do Geese get Goosebumps? By The Bathroom Readers’ Institute

How Does Wine Have “Notes”

Have you ever been to a wine tasting, or read the copy on the back of a wine bottle? If so, then you know that wine has notes. For example, a snooty waiter may inform you, “This full-bodied Chardonnay is heralded as having notes of vanilla and citrus with a walnut finish.” This doesn’t mean that the wine is infused with vanilla, citrus fruits, or nuts. It’s just how our brains(and taste buds) interpret some advanced microchemistry.
Grape juice becomes wine through fermentation. Yeast is added to grapes and grape juice, and it eats the sugar found naturally in fruit. That, in turn, creates alcohol. Along the way, thousands of complex chemical compounds—still within the grapes—are formed. Even though those compounds are still by and large made of grapes, the molecules have been rearranged ever so slightly that they taste different from just grape juice or wine. The brain (and taste buds) interprets them as other, more familiar flavors. For example, let’s say that fermentation creates a chemical compound that has a similar structure to that of apples. Even though the wine is made of grapes, the taste buds will taste that chemical compound, even just a little bit, because the
molecules in that compound are arranged like an apple molecule.

Source: Do Geese Get Goosebumps? By The bathroom Readers Institute

Minnesota’s Grape Expectations – Wine History

Minnesota vintners’ passion for wine and the efforts of local scientists have created a wine industry in a state more often associated with ice fishing, snowmobiles, and grapes of minnesota

In some ways, Southern Minnesota is well suited to producing wine grapes. After all, the famous French vineyards in Bordeaux grow at a latitude of 45 degrees north, the same as Minneapolis. There’s a catch, of course: Bordeaux doesn’t have Minnesota’s short growing season and those killer winters where temperatures drop to -30 degrees.
This fact didn’t stop Minnesota wine lovers who tried to grow wine-producing grapes despite the climate. One of the first was August Schell, who founded the Schell Brewery in 1860. Schell planted vineyards on his estate to make wine for his family, and he did cultivate a small crop, but it was a challenging process. Continue reading Minnesota’s Grape Expectations – Wine History

Milk – Gandhi Wished He Could’ve Skipped It

Mohandas Gandhi was a strict vegetarian, vowing “not to live upon fellow animals.” He explained that “the basis of my vegetarianism is not physical but moral. If any said that I should die if I did not take beef tea or mutton, even under medical advice, I would prefer death.” He regretted that he could not forsake the consumption of all animal products. “ I would give up milk if I could, but I cannot,“ he said “I have made that experiment times without number. I could not, after a serious illness, regain my strength unless I went back to milk. That has been the tragedy of my life.”  

Source: What the Great Ate By Matthew Jacob and Mark Jacob