Intelligent Packaging Systems: Sensors and Nanosensors to
Monitor Food Quality and Safety
Guillermo Fuertes,1,2 Ismael Soto,3Raúl Carrasco,3Manuel Vargas,4
Jorge Sabattin,1,5 and Carolina Lagos6
1Industrial Engineering Department, University of Santiago de Chile, Avenida Ecuador 3769, Santiago de Chile, Chile
2Facultad de Ciencias Econ´
3Electrical Engineering Department, University of Santiago de Chile, Avenida Ecuador 3519, Santiago de Chile, Chile
4Facultad de Ingenieria, Universidad Andres Bello, Antonio Varas 880, Santiago de Chile, Chile
5Departamento de Matem´
aticas y F´
ısica, Facultad de Ingenier´
ıa y Administraci´
on, Universidad Bernardo O’Higgins,
6Faculty of Management and Economics, University of Santiago de Chile, Avenida Libertador Bernardo O’Higgins 3363,
Santiago de Chile, Chile
Correspondence should be addressed to Guillermo Fuertes; firstname.lastname@example.org
Received April ; Accepted September
Academic Editor: Stephane Evoy
Copyright © Guillermo Fuertes et al. is is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution
License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly
e application of nanotechnology in dierent areas of food packaging is an emerging eld that will grow rapidly in the coming
years. Advances in food safety have yielded promising results leading to the development of intelligent packaging (IP). By these
containers, it is possible to monitor and provide information of the condition of food, packaging, or the environment. is article
describes the role of the dierent concepts of intelligent packaging. It is possible that this new technology could reach enhancing
food safety, improving pathogen detection time, and controlling the quality of food and packaging throughout the supply chain.
Globalization and dynamism in the exchange of products,
along with reduced time for selection/cooking with fresh
ingredients, and the growing interest in health safety and
environment are the main challenges and enhance the devel-
opment of new improved packaging concepts . According
to , among packaging optimization strategies to reduce
food waste, there are size diversication to help consumers
buy the right amount and new packaging designs to prevent
e safety of food products is one of the main objectives
of food law. Quality control in food manufacturing is closely
related to technology, physical and sensory attributes of the
product, the microbiological safety, the chemical composi-
tion, and nutritional value .
e functions of the packages include protection, con-
tainment, communication with the user, ergonomics and
marketing (Figure ). Containment means ensuring the right
quantities of products to avoid spills. e communication
ence the consumer acceptance of the product. e informa-
tion must contain features such as weight, origin, ingredients,
nutritional value, precautions for use, mode of transport, and
recycling or disposal. Trademarks used packaging and labels
for promotion, marketing, and product sales . Ergonomics
in the consumption of a food product is related to minimizing
physical eort and discomfort to transport, store, use, and
dispose of the container . It has been shown that the
physical characteristics and improved containment aspect of
food packaging are expectations that aect sales of products
and consumer attitudes .
According to , the global market for active and intelli-
an annual rate of % until , reaching US , million,
and later at an annual rate of , %, reaching US ,
Hindawi Publishing Corporation
Journal of Sensors
Volume 2016, Article ID 4046061, 8 pages
Journal of Sensors
Heat/mass transfer Nanobiotechnology Molecular synthesis
Communication ErgonomicsProtection Containment Marketing
Time and Temperature
Sensors and nanosensors
F : Application matrix of nanotechnology in food science and technology.
million in . e global demand for electronic smart
packaging will grow to over . billion in the next decade
. Several relevant markets are forecasted for this type
of packaging over the next decade; the most important is
United States, with an annual growth of .%, reaching US
, million, followed by Japan, the second largest market,
lion; UK, US , million; and nally Germany, US ,
2. Smart Packaging Concepts
IP is any type of container that provides a specic func-
tionality beyond function physical barrier between the food
product and the surrounding environment . Knowing
information about the product quality, the packaging or the
environment establishes a bond of responsibility throughout
the food supply chain (storage, transport, distribution, and
sale). IPs are packaging technologies that through internal
and external indicators monitor interaction between the
food, the packaging, and the environment . is type of
packaging analyzes the system, processes information, and
presents it, without generally exerting any action on the food.
ere are two ways in the intelligent packaging systems,
supporting data systems (bars labels or radiofrequency iden-
tication plates) used to store or transmit data and indicators
of incidents or biosensors in packaging that allow control of
Consumers increasingly need to know what ingredients
or components are in the product and how the product
should be stored, used, and discarded aer use. Smart tags
and stickers, for example, will be able to communicate
directly with the customer via thin lm devices that provide
visual information. Many companies have deployed IP solu-
tions on the market (Table ).
T : Commercial applications available on the market IP.
Applications Tra d e n a m e Company
Cook-Chex Pymah Corp.
OnvuCiba Specialty Chemical and
Fresh-CheckTem p t i m e Co r p .
NovasInsignia Technologies Ltd.
Timestrip Timestrip Ltd.
Ageless EyeMitsubishi Gas Chemical Inc.
Fresh Tag COX Technologies
SensorQDSM NV and Food Quality
RipeSense RipSenseand ort Research
EasylogCAEN RFID Srl
Intelligent Box Mondi Pic
CS Convergence Systems Ltd.
Temptr i p Temptrip LLC
3.1. Time and Temperature Indicators. Because of their sim-
plicity, low cost, aordability, and eciency, Time and Tem-
perature Indicators (TTI) have been widely used to monitor
Journal of Sensors
Fresh Used soon Should not be used
Life in service
9860 D 01 2345
10∘C (50∘F), 1 week
Do not use if the
circle is pink
F : Schematic representation of the TTI. (a) Fresh-Check; (b)
Timestrip; (c) MonitorMark; (d) CheckPoint.
and translate consumer quality of foodstus . A prereq-
uisite for the eective implementation of a control system
based TTI is the kinetic study and modeling of loss ratios food
quality and response . Dierent types of TTI trade have
been developed on the enzymatic base and polymeric and
biological reactions . To ensure the safety and quality of
food products that need a certain temperature, it is important
to monitor changes in the parameters of temperature and
time from production to the nal consumer [, ]. TTI can
be placed in transport containers or individual containers
as a small sticker; an irreversible chemical change will be
reected if the food is exposed to a dierent recommended
temperature  (Figure ). TTI are particularly important
for the quality and safety of chilled or frozen food, where
cold storage is a critical control point during the transport
and distribution .
3.2. Integrity Indicators. e gas composition in the package
may change due to the interaction of food with the environ-
ment. Gas indicators are a useful means of controlling the
toxic composition of the gases produced from decomposing
food in a food container that can endanger the health of
consumers ; as a control measure, a change occurs in the
indicator color by chemical or enzymatic reaction (Figure ).
e tag is activated at the time of consumption, the seal is
broken when a timer goes o, and a color change is expe-
rienced over time . Indicators must be in direct contact
with the gaseous environment immediately surrounding the
(0.1% or less)
Absence of oxygen
Presence of oxygen
2-3hours aer oxygen level has reached oxygen-free status (25 ∘C)
About 5minutes aer contact with oxygen (25∘C)
F : Schematic representation of the leak indicators.
food in a container. e presence of oxygen may indicate
that the package was sealed incorrectly, is leaking, or has
been tampered with. Reference  describes the synthesis
and manufacture of a nontoxic surface coating activated
by exposure to molecular oxygen of a substrate through
the irreversible formation of colored spots. Plastic optical
uorescent lms are highly sensitive for the detection of gases
and dissolved CO2. e detection of CO2in modied
atmosphere (MAP) and conventional packaging have gained
considerable attention in the industry IP .
3.3. Freshness Indicators. A freshness indicator directly indi-
cates the quality of the product; it is usually in the form of
labels on the container. Typically, these indicators focus on
etc.). ese changes are detected by the indicators and
transformed into a response, usually a color response which
can be easily measured and correlated with the freshness of
is response can be conditioned by the modications of
substances that are related to the metabolism of microorgan-
isms, such as the occurrence of volatile nitrogen compounds,
amines, organic acids, carbon dioxide, ethanol, glucose,
or sulfur compounds during storage indicating microbial
is type of indicators is based on indirect detection
of metabolites through color indicators (e.g., pH) or based
on direct detection of metabolites by biosensors. COX
Technologies solutions company launched the Fresh Tag
indicator (colorimetric indicator that informs users about the
formation of volatile amines in shery products) but this
product was removed from the market in . Label
sensor is manufactured based on methyl red; red/methyl
volatile amines decomposition. It was successfully used as a
sensor label for real-time monitoring of fresh meat of broiler
chicken . RipeSenseis the rst intelligent sensor label
that changes color to indicate the ripeness of the fruit . It
works through the reaction of the aromas released by the fruit
as it ripens; initially it is red and then graduates to orange and
nally yellow, depending on the selection of the desired level
of maturity when it comes to eating the fruit (Figure ).
e indicator SensorQdeveloped by DSM NV (pH
sensor based on anthocyanins capable of reporting formation
of biogenic amines in microbiological origin meat) is an
Journal of Sensors
See when it is ripe
Read the sensor
F : Schematic representation of the RipeSense indicator.
a polymer matrix which contains a solution with green
dye bromocresol sensitive to the pH, by monitoring colour
changes in the compounds volatile, on the basis of the
quantity of amines . is last freshness indicator did
not achieve a successful commercialization. Additionally, the
authors in  developed a new colorimetric sensor for
monitoring the deterioration of sh meat.
3.4. Radio Frequency Identication (RFID). RFID tags are an
advanced form of support data information that can identify
waves. ese are classied into four types: active, passive,
semiactive, and semipassive, depending on the power supply
for communication and other functions. ese devices may
several meters away and beyond the line of sight ; active
RFID have a reading range of m or more and also have
a battery that enables them to communicate autonomously.
Passive tags have no internal power supply; therefore, they
reader is activated. e radio frequency eld produced by the
reader provides enough power to the integrated circuit of the
label, to be able to reect energy to the reader. Its transmission
range can reach as much as m. RFID systems are classied
depending on the frequency range used: low frequency
(LF), between and . KHz; high frequency (HF),
. MHz; ultrahigh frequency (UHF), – MHz; and
active frequency or microwave frequency, . GHz. RFID
technologies are grouped within systems called automatic
identication (Auto ID).
RFID is still an expensive alternative on top of several
obstacles to overcome implementation in certain sectors,
% data reliability, and specic limitations (short-range,
narrow bandwidth, and low power) . e long-term
vision is able to print RFID labels directly onto paper or plas-
tic instead of silicon, while investments in the components
(sensors, tags, antennas, readers, connectors, cables, net-
works, controllers, soware, and consulting and implemen-
tation processes) are expensive. Currently, inkjet printed cir-
cuits have a very low resolution and cover large surface areas
compared to traditional circuits .
RFID systems consist of two major components:
transponder or tag and interrogator or reader, which create
wireless data transmission. Each RFID tag applied to food
packaging transmits the identication information to a
reader, which allows communication with the RFID tag. e
tag then transmits information back to the reader . is
information in most cases is passed to a computer (Figure ).
Readers are available as handheld computers or xed devices
that can be placed in strategic locations. According to ,
RFID tags can be read-write (you can add information to the
label or write on existing data) or read-only (information
stored during manufacturing process).
Many advances have been made in this eld such as the
development of a pH sensor embedded in a radio frequency
transmitter without batteries, for in situ monitoring of dete-
rioration processes of sh products ; RFID tag to control
the freshness of meat ; RFID tag with an optical oxygen
indicator for use in MAP ; RFID tag with a temperature
sensor, a gas sensor, a reader, and a server, making up a
tracking system for the freshness of pork ; RFID tag with
sensors capable of measuring temperature, humidity, and the
presence of volatile amine compounds, to estimate cod sh
freshness ; RFID tag along with CO2and oxygen sensor
for monitoring the freshness of vegetables ; system real-
time evaluation of the freshness of packaged milk, marketing,
and distribution using RFID tags .
4. Contribution of Nanotechnology in the
Monitoring of Food Security
Nanotechnology involves the study, design, creation, syn-
thesis, manipulation, and application of materials, devices,
and functional systems through the control and exploitation
of phenomena and properties of matter on a very small
scale, usually between and nanometers’ length. e
new packaging technologies will depend on the develop-
ment of nanomaterials and nanoparticles; these may include
nanoparticles, nanotubes, fullerenes, nanobers, nanocylin-
der, and nanosheets . e unique optical and electronic
properties of this nanomaterial enable the development of a
new generation of electronic devices, for example, nanotran-
sistors to build future nanoprocessors and nanomemory ,
nanobattery , and nanosensors [, ].
Nanotechnology is an interdisciplinary powerful tool for
the development of intelligent packaging systems. It has been
predicted that nanotechnology will have an impact on at least
Journal of Sensors
(1) Broadcasting of the signal by
(4) e antenna reads the
data and sends it to
(5) e reader sends the
(6) e computer sends data
based on information
stored in the tags
(2) e tag receives
signal and is loaded
(3) e loaded identication tag
sends the response back to
F : Schematic representation of the RFID system.
trillion in the world economy by , creating a demand
for million employers in various industries .
For the development of IP, the integration and the techno-
logical advancement of the sensors, nanosensors, and indica-
tors are essential. ese three terms are used interchangeably,
but they are not. A sensor/nanosensor measures only certain
aspects, while an indicator integrates measurement and
display. e sensors and nanosensor must be connected to
a device for signal transduction of the receptor, while an
indicator directly provides qualitative or semiquantitative
information of the quality for a visible change .
Nanotechnology enables the application of nanosensors
in the food packaging to control their quality, during the
quality to the nal consumer . Nanotechnology through
IP can help in providing authentication, tracking, and locat-
ing product features to avoid falsication, adulteration, and
prevention in the diversity of products intended for a specic
market . ere are still many concerns for consumers of
food nanotechnology; one of the most important is the uncer-
tainty of the behavior of nanoparticles in the body and the
toxic eects they could have. For this, it is necessary to estab-
lish a set of protocols and regulations on the food security of
IP implications. e use of nanotechnology depends on the
market and the geographical position; China’s consumers are
more willing to accept new technologies, while consumers in
4.1. Sensors and Nanosensors. anks to technological
advances and the research design, the fabrication of
nanoscale components is a reality. Such components are
used to set up basic structural and functional devices
called nanomachines (NM), whose size is expressed in
nanometers and unit of length equals a billionth part of a
meter ( nm = −9 m). Generally, sensors/nanosensors are
placed in food packaging to control internal and external
conditions of food . From a microbiological point of
view, the main objective is to reduce nanosensors pathogen
detection time from days to hours or even minutes. Several
and microorganisms and detection by surface enhanced
Raman spectroscopy (SERS) ; nanosensors in raw bacon
packaging for detecting oxygen ; electronic tongue
for inclusion in food packaging consisting of an array of
nanosensors extremely sensitive to gases released by spoiled
food, giving a clear and visible sign if the food is fresh or
not ; use of uorescent nanoparticles to detect pathogens
and toxins in food and crops , for example, detection
of pathogenic bacteria in food (Salmonella typhimurium,
Shigella exneri, and Escherichia coli O157: H7), based on
functionalized quantum dots coupled with immunomagnetic
separation in milk and apple juice ; nanosensors to detect
temperature changes [, ], where food companies like
Kra Foods are incorporating nanosensors that detect the
prole of a food consumer (likes and dislikes), allergies, and
nutritional deciencies ; nanosensors for the detection of
organophosphate pesticide residues in food ; nanosensors
to detect humidity or temperature changes due to moisture
; sensor for detecting Escherichia coli in a food sample,
Journal of Sensors
by measuring and detecting scattering of light by cellular
mitochondria ; biosensor for instantly detecting
Salmonella in foods  and sensor to detect CO2as a direct
indicator of the quality of the food ; biosensor for the
detection of the pathogen food, Bacillus cereus . Research
and development in nanosensors have led to important
scientic advances that enable a new generation of these
NM. Nanosensors researches applied to IP are in their early
stages of development.
4.1.1. Communication between Nanosensors and eir Applica-
tion in Intelligent Packaging. e IP incorporating nanosen-
sors will have great benets for the food industry. ese
NM in the form of tiny chips invisible to the human eye
bar code, which allows for the monitoring of food in all its
phases (production, processing, distribution, and consump-
tion) . ere is no record of any investigation that extends
this monitoring process until the last stage.
Communication between NM is a promising technology
that ensures the development of new devices capable of
performing basic and simple tasks at nanolevel (computing,
data storage, detection, and triggering) .
e nanosensors have a limited eld of measurement;
therefore, the development of the wireless nanosensor net-
works (WNSNs) is essential for the IP industry. Such net-
works are a set of nodes of nanosensors dynamically self-
use in any preexisting infrastructure . WNSN is in its
early stages of research and development for application in
IP. However, matrices sensitive to gases released by spoiled
food are developing nanosensors.
One major drawback is the limited energy that can be
stored in a nanosensor speck in contrast to the energy
required by the device to communicate. Recently, novel
collecting energy mechanisms have been proposed to replen-
WNSNs can overcome the bottleneck and even have innite
life (perpetual WNSNs) . For now, the limitations of size
and power of nanodevices limit the applicability of wireless
graphene, a nanomaterial of one-atom thickness, which was
rst obtained experimentally in . Graphene enables
wireless communication between nanosystems, because of
its ability to support surface plasmon polariton (SPP) in the
terahertz frequency range . e main dierence between
classical plasmonic antennas and graphene-based plasmonic
antennas is that SPP waves in graphene are observed at
frequencies in the Terahertz Band, for example, two orders of
materials . e SPP waves require less energy making the
communication between NM feasible [, ].
e current advance of nanotechnology has a high potential
benet to society especially for the food industry. e
development of intelligent packing systems is an emerging
eld that will focus on food security and will grow exponen-
largely on the technological advancement of nanosensors,
integration of a nanosensor in a food container, and generat-
ing breakthroughs in IP solutions. is new packaging system
can assist in the detection, monitoring, tracking, recording,
and communication throughout the supply chain. e inter-
connection of nanosensors can extend the capabilities of a
single nanosensor by allowing it to cooperate and share infor-
mation; thus, the WNSNs will have a major impact on almost
all areas of our society and change our daily lives. Currently,
these networks are at an early stage of research and develop-
ment; an example of this is the limitations that exist in the
nanocommunication and the nanobatteries. e commer-
cialization of this technology is linked to the advancement of
printed electronics for mass production; it is expected that
smart labels and smart packaging will reach low cost relative
to the food product.
e authors declare that there is no conict of interests
regarding the publication of this paper.
e authors acknowledge the nancial support of the “Center
for Multidisciplinary Research on Signal Processing” (CON-
ICYT/ACT Project) and the USACH/DICYT SG
Project and also the industrial designer Alexander Pereira, for
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