Baidu, the Chinese Internet search giant, showed off an intriguing prototype at its annual Beijing conference yesterday. Baidu Kuaisou is a set of “smart chopsticks” that can tell you whether your food was cooked with potentially toxic recycled cooking oil—better known as “gutter oil,” because it sometimes is pulled from sewers.
In the future, the chopsticks could also test contaminated water, Baidu said. The company may also make food-testing devices that detect melamine in dairy, and calories and contaminants in food (you can watch a demonstration here).
As China grapples with ongoing food, environmental, and agricultural contamination, expect more food-safety innovations like Baidu’s. Already, researchers at Tianjin University of Science and Technology are working on a food-testing kit for consumers that will detect 60 different chemicals and “identify food products contaminated with pathogenic bacteria and excessive drug residues.” Over at Taobao, the online shopping mall, there are hundreds of food-testing kits designed for consumer use, from a $6 family-safety “rapid test trip” to a $120 fruit-testing device.