Fighting food-borne illness with technology

A New York City startup is trying to put an end to food-borne illness with a simple two-second test.

PathSpot is a system that protects food service companies and their customers by scanning employees' hands to see if they have any harmful contamination that could make someone sick, in less than two seconds, says Christine Schindler, the CEO and co-founder of PathSpot.

It's a hand scanner that tells employees if their hands are clean or not. It mounts on the wall by the sink in restaurant kitchens.

Dutch Waanders, the CTO and co-founder, says the device uses visible light fluorescent spectroscopy, which means it essentially uses light, optics, and image processing to determine if something is there.

Christine and Dutch are both biomedical engineers who were inspired to do something after the Chipotle crisis. They felt like there was a different instance of food-borne illness on the news every day. So they decided if no one else was doing instant detection of food-borne illness, then they should try to.

First stop? Radio Shack. Christine says they went to Radio Shack's going-out-of-business sales and bought a lot of electrical components. Then they started iterating their algorithm using wires.

At the beginning, the whole device was just wires taped to a dinner plate. The scanners are now more advanced and come with a 24/7 data dashboard.

Clients can go online and see all of the handwashing going on across all of their locations and then use that data to see what time of day people are not washing their hands and try to understand the core reason behind the trends in sanitation.

The service costs $50 to $200 depending on the size of the restaurant and the number of devices.

They've already picked up some big clients. Chopt has been an incredible supporter, Dutch says. The chain's feedback and help improving the device to fit within a fast-casual restaurant was key for PathSpot.

So does it work? Christine and Dutch say most customers see a 60-percent drop in contamination in the first month.

They're hoping to also put the hand scanners in farms and shipping facilities to stop contamination at the source.