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Chinese firm dishes up smart chopsticks to test food safety

A Chinese firm has invented a pair of "smart chopsticks" that can tell users if their food is safe to eat or not.

A spokesman for the Internet search giant, Baidu, revealed that the device was originally conceived as an April Fool's video before the firm began taking the idea seriously.

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The company added that it had no serious intention of pursuing the device before "it generated a lot of excitement both internally and externally."

Baidu released a video this week showing a user placing the electronic chopsticks into three different cups of cooking oil. Sensors then detect the oil's temperature and suitability for consumption, with results displayed via a smartphone app.

A red light is displayed when the cooking oil has a higher than 25 per cent level of total polar materials (TPMs), an indicator of freshness.

Food safety is a key area of concern for Chinese citizens, particularly the practice of using "gutter oil." Gutter oil is illegally produced cooking oil made by reprocessing waste oil or by dredging leftovers from restaurants and marketing it as new.

Last year, health authorities arrested over 100 people over the process, leading to 20 imprisonments, two of them receiving life sentences.

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So far the firm has only produced a limited number of prototype chopsticks, with details thin on the ground regarding release date and price. The reaction from China's social media users has, so far, been mixed with some lamenting the need for the device in the first place.

Barclay has been writing about technology for a decade, starting out as a freelancer with IT Pro Portal covering everything from London’s start-up scene to comparisons of the best cloud storage services.  After that, he spent some time as the managing editor of an online outlet focusing on cloud computing, furthering his interest in virtualization, Big Data, and the Internet of Things.