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Next: labeling lasers

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Monday, September 01, 2008
NextOnion

Admit it. Peeling those little stickers off fruits and veggies is annoying. And those pesky labels waste paper and ink, too. They bugged Dr. Qingyue Ling enough that he’s adapted laser technology to find a way to get rid of them. Two years ago Ling, a researcher at Oregon State University’s Food Innovation Center in Portland, investigated the idea and, to his astonishment, discovered nobody had thought of it. “My mind went wild,” he says. Ling’s food laser is a heat-energy beam that rapidly peels away the surface layer of the item; the strength of the laser can adjust for varying textures and thicknesses so it minimizes any damage to the food. But don’t expect to see laser-labeled produce for at least a couple of years. More study is needed on how it alters the composition of food and what, if any, effect it has on humans when the food is eaten. Work also is being done on a clear, edible coating that immediately seals the lasered label to retain freshness. Now all we need is an invention that eradicates those pesky tax collectors. 

JASON SHUFFLER


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