AI is being used to help you eat those leftovers in your fridge


The Meal Reveal app scans the contents of a fridge to generate customized recipes and reduce food waste. — AFP Relaxnews

While the upcoming Earth Day on April 22 aims to raise awareness about actions that we can take on a daily basis to reduce impact on the environment, we can also minimise our carbon footprints by reducing food waste. Is your fridge currently full of neglected food? An app could help you make better use of them so they don’t wind up in the garbage.

That piece of cheese wrapped in aluminium foil that is no longer recognisable, leftover pasta that was supposed to be your dinner on-the-go a week ago, or that bunch of radishes that got left in the produce drawer far too long before you found the right moment to bite into them... What refrigerator doesn’t contain abandoned foodstuffs? The food waste generated by households worldwide accounts for some 631 million tonnes per year, 60% of the total of food wasted, according to a report from the UN.

And the United Kingdom is no exception. In fact, at the end of March, the UK held a week-long campaign to raise awareness of the need to reduce food waste. On this occasion, residents were able to try out an app that could help them reduce the carbon impact generated by all this waste.

Developed by the Hellman’s brand, best known for its jarred mayonnaise, the module offers a solution to the problem of food left in the fridge. The brand, which is owned by the giant Unilever, even talks about “fridge blindness”.

Meal Reveal provides a time saving and convenient solution for consumers struggling to make sense of how the ingredients in their fridge can make a quick, simple meal,” claims the brand.

How does it work? You scan your fridge's contents using your smartphone's camera. The app identifies all the food and then generates recipe suggestions for finishing off any leftovers. How can it do that? It's powered by a database fed by Google artificial intelligence technology. The AI is thus able to detect ingredients.

Designed to be easy to use and free, the app can be launched by scanning the QR code on Hellman’s website. You can choose to make a video or take a photo of your fridge. The app reminds us not to forget the produce drawer.

While the approach is innovative and useful, that the app is connected to a brand and a food giant may make some consumers sceptical that they will get suggestions that encourage them to use specific products to complete the recipes. And food waste is becoming something of a marketing argument as Hellman's is far from the only food brand to offer this kind of tool.

A year ago, a Puerto Rican supermarket chain SuperMax developed an Instagram filter that lets customers find recipes for out-of-date dry foods such as coffee, rice and sugar. In a completely different approach, Dutch supermarket chain Makro has developed a range of stickers in Belgian supermarkets, distinguished by their evolving colour.

Affixed to fruit and vegetables, the stickers revealed their degree of ripeness, giving a visual indication of whether or not it was better to eat them quickly or whether they could wait a few days. – AFP Relaxnews

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