Food safety company Alvarita has launched the world's first portable nitrate and radiation detector in South Africa.
GreenTest is a compact, award-wining, device that tests nitrate levels in fruit, vegetables, meat, and water, helping people to quantify their daily nitrate intake and make healthier choices. The food safe nitrate levels are determined on the bases of World Health Organisation (WHO) standards.
Nitrate occurs naturally in fruit and vegetables, and in small amounts is not harmful, but over the years the levels of nitrate occurring in food has increased due to modern agricultural methods.
According to GreenTest manufacturer, Anmez, Nitrogen is the most-used fertiliser in the world, and today we are using almost 20 times more than we did 50 years ago, which is posing serious health threats.
"Sadly, most people are not aware of the risks they face daily when shopping for fruits and vegetables; foods that we know are good for us, but the issue is the excess of nitrogen in what we are consuming, that our bodies convert to damaging carcinogenic nitrates," says Damian Michael, owner of Alvarita.
WHO recommends a maximum daily intake of 3,7 milligrams of nitrate per 1kg of body weight, and we now ingest 10 times more nitrate than recommended. According to many health studies, an excess of nitrates can lead to medical issues including diabetes, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's disease, and even baby blue syndrome, which is characterised by an overall skin colour with a blue or purple tinge, called cyanosis.
Registered Johannesburg-based dietitian Lila Bruk highlights the importance of consumers being able to test their own food. "As consumers we are becoming increasingly aware of not only the nutritional value, but also the safety, of the food we eat.
"With conditions like cancer on the rise, it is clear that greater precautions need to be taken to choose foods that will not only provide immediate nourishment but will also manage our future health and wellbeing. Nitrates in food have been linked with cancer and thus are very important to be conscious of in our food. Therefore, the ability to test our own food for nitrate content is both revolutionary and extremely empowering for the consumer."
The technology was conceived by a group of specialists from Russia, the US and Taiwan in 2006, who gathered with the aim of developing a revolutionary technology that would promote healthy living. In 2014, Anmez was established in China and started the development of the GreenTest device.
Currently, the company operates globally through exclusive distributors in over 20 countries.
"I was introduced to this product when I attended the 37th Gitex Technology Week in Dubai in October 2017, and immediately saw how this innovative technology could be relevant in promoting the health of South Africans," says Michael. "There are close to 10 000 new cases of diabetes in South Africa each month, and we have the highest incidence f type 2 diabetes on the African continent. With the current drought that parts of the country are experiencing, there is also concern around water quality."
Michael, who is also the owner of tech company, Innovo Networks, believes in empowering consumers by giving them choices. "I want people to be armed with the knowledge they need to make the choice that's right for them. What I love about GreenTest, is that it only takes three seconds to measure the levels of toxins in your food, enabling you to make a choice right there and then."
Currently, South African regulation does not make provision for mandatory package labelling of nitrate and nitrite concentration in foods. In this light, Michael hopes to put the power back into the consumers hands by encouraging the lobbying of retailers and food producers to start including nitrate content on food labels.
"We also want to encourage restaurant chains and independent foodies to practice better sourcing of their meat and fresh produce," says Michael.
A percentage of all GreenTest sales is donated to Operation Smile South Africa, a global organisation dedicated to helping children with cleft lip and cleft palate.