A Look at 2010 Through Food Patents

As a new year approaches, we like to reflect on the last 12 months through different lenses: the year in politics; the year in sports; the year in memes. But GOOD magazine's Nicola Twilley has discovered an even better venue for not only assessing last year's progress, but also predicting next year's trends: the year in patents -- food patents, to be exact.

As Twilley explains, looking at patent literature reveals both the problems of right now and also the innovations of the future:

I assumed that a quick browse through the year's patents might serve as a guide to the future of food. It does -- but as with all futurology, it works even better as a diagnostic of our prevailing food anxieties and obsessions.Thus anti-obesity techno-fixes, in both pet and human food contexts, were a recurring theme.

Meanwhile, in a year of food recalls and safety reform, several patents claimed to fight bacteria and other pathogens through innovations in food processing, packaging, and preparation devices.

Twilley's findings, which she presents in a gallery featuring those pretty patent drawings, most definitely prove that patent literature serves as a "diagnostic of our prevailing food anxieties and obsessions." The gallery includes both high-tech cures for obesity -- a refrigerator for obese persons -- alongside low-tech enablers to overeating -- a method for combining Buffalo wings and shrimp into one tasty morsel. American certainly is obsessed with finding quick cures for a deep social issue.

Read the full story and peruse the gallery of patents at GOOD.

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Rebecca Greenfield is a former staff writer at The Wire.

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