Steven Britz, a scientist at the US Department of Agriculture’s Food Components and Health Laboratory, knew that ultraviolet (UV) light helped extend strawberries’ life soon after harvest, but he wondered if there was a way to transfer that same benefit to the common refrigerator. Working with LED experts, he came up with a solution: A cooler containing LEDs that emitted dim UV light. After nine days in the cooler, strawberries stored there “showed no mould, retained most of their moisture, and had lost few of the health-promoting anthocyanin compounds that give them their colour.”
What’s the Big Idea?
A susceptibility to fungal diseases is what makes strawberries so notoriously short-lived. While UV light exposure helps prolong their life, it’s also dangerous to humans. Britz’ proposed compromise for a fridge of the future: “[A] UV-proof drawer containing UV-LEDs that turn on automatically, and only when the door is closed.” In supermarkets, a specially equipped case could switch off its lights when the door is opened. Britz will present his research this week at the Conference on Lasers and Electro-Optics in San Jose, CA.