Imagine sitting down to a meal, and finding out exactly how nutritious your food is the moment you stick your fork in it.
Two Grade 11 students at Vancouver's West Point Grey Academy have pioneered technology that could do just that.
Madeleine Liu and Angela Wang are the minds behind Culitech, which produces special cutlery that can scan food for nutritional content — as well as allergens, toxins and bacteria.
Eating could take a whole new dimension with smart cutlery. (Photo: Getty Images)
"In Canada, one in 13 people have a food allergy, and in the U.S. every three minutes somebody is sent to the emergency room for a food-related allergy," Liu told The Globe and Mail. "So right now there is a need for medical innovation."
The Culitech cutlery uses infrared waves and a spectrometer to analyze a food's molecular breakdown and identify its caloric, sugar or protein content.
"All food molecules vibrate in their own way, creating a unique optical signature," according to an explanatory video posted to YouTube.
The invention, which comes as a spoon, fork or chopsticks, won $10,000 in prizes and first place at Startup Weekend Vancouver in November, along with a "Most Disruptive Idea" award.
Liu said she was inspired by learning about the infections and allergies associated with Helicobacter pylori, a bacteria that can cause ulcers and gastritis, CTV News reported.
"We knew that there are Helicobacter pylori bacteria in the world and it's especially common in China, where it spreads through cutlery," Liu told the outlet.
"We wanted to think of a way to prevent it before it spreads."
A Merlion Pharmaceuticals Pte. scientist measures some of the company's Finafloxacin drug, developed to fight Helicobacter pylori infections. (Photo: Jonathan Drake/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
Helicobacter pylori is less of a problem in Canada, but she still believes the technology can help people watch what they eat.
The cutlery is still in its research and development phase as Liu and Wang work to shrink the size of the spectrometer, The Globe and Mail reported.
But they hope the product will eventually be small and portable like an EpiPen, said CTV News.
B.C. is turning out quite a few teen inventors recently.
Victoria's Ann Makosinski recently appeared on "The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon" after inventing a mug that can charge your cellphone.
She first made waves in 2013 for inventing a flashlight powered by the warmth of your hands.
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Ann Makosinski, who lives in Victoria, B.C., has created several inventions before age 18 that have won major prizes.
At 15, she created a battery-free flashlight. The "Hollow Flashlight" runs off the heat from the palm of the hand, using special tiles that generate electricity from the heat flowing between the palm on one side and the ambient air on the other.
The flashlight nabbed her the top prize in her age group at the Google Science Fair in 2013, beating out thousands of other budding young scientists from around the world to be one of four winners.
She was named one TIME's top 30 people under 30 in 2013.
Ann Makosinski shows off her invention to host Jimmy Fallon during "The Tonight Show" on Feb. 19, 2014.
In 2014, she created a hands-free version of her battery-less flashlight that would be handy for emergency kits and for camping.
According to the Times Colonist, the self-described "tinkerer" also took time off from school in November to fly to Los Angeles to speak at a Red Bull event, receive an entrepreneurship award in Vienna and fly to San Francisco for a summit arranged by early Facebook investor Peter Thiel.
She credits her family for encouraging her interest in science. She told Google Science Fair judges that her first toy was a box of transistors.