Key Questions

  1. Do people have a high awareness of food safety?
  2. Who could be our target users?
  3. What is the acceptable price range for our users?
  4. What attributes do our users look for in our test kit?

Key Findings

  1. People have a low awareness of Fried Rice Syndrome due to the low frequency of food poisoning.
  2. People's improper habits of storing leftovers at room temperature can put them at high risk of cereulide poisoning.
  3. Thoroughly reheating leftovers ensures food safety is a common misconception. They are unaware that cereulide cannot be degraded in high temperatures and can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and other food poisoning symptoms if ingested with contaminated leftovers.
  4. The main concerns for genetically modified bacteria-embedded test kits are safety, reliability, and the wait time for results.

Key Actions

  1. We would create the test kit with safety and reliability as our ultimate goals, and optimize the test kit for a reasonable wait time for result production.
  2. Keeping the cost per test kit to HKD 15-45 to ensure affordability.
  3. We would launch educational events online, in schools, and in the community to raise awareness of Fried Rice Syndrome and proper storage of leftovers.
  4. We would mainly sell our rapid test kits to organizations that produce large batches of food boxes to maximize efficiency.


      Since our project idea of using genetically modified bacteria to detect a toxin found in food is novel to the general public and our target business owners, we would like to know how they view our innovation and what they value in rapid tests and user experience. We started distributing our survey to students, professors, iGEMers, business owners, and the general public in June online and at the Hang Hau MTR station. In the end, we collected 145 responses and analyzed the data. You may view our survey here.


We have some interesting observations from analyzing the data.

      To our surprise, over half of the respondents and the people they know have not suffered from food poisoning. This could be the reason behind their low awareness of Fried Rice Syndrome, cereulide, and food safety hazards. 14 respondents heard about Fried Rice Syndrome from the news. Others heard from Zhihu, family, and friends.

      Most respondents thought their cause of food poisoning was improperly stored food, such as not consuming cooked food promptly or consuming food that had not been refrigerated for a long time. Another two popular causes are eating food that is not thoroughly reheated and consuming contaminated leftovers. Improper storage of leftover food at room temperature is the hotbed of cereulide poisoning. From this result, we can see that people can be careless in storing leftovers, putting them at a high risk of cereulide poisoning.

      Thoroughly reheating leftovers ensures food safety is a common misconception. Even though food is reheated, cereulide remains undegraded and toxic to consumers.

      People are generally indifferent about safety measures and guidelines about the storage and reheating of leftover rice.

      When asked about the concerns they have for biosensors containing genetically modified bacteria used as test kits, the rankings are as follows:

  1. Safety
  2. Reliability
  3. Time for Result
  4. Complexity of the test kit usage procedures
  5. Environmental Pollution

      We would create the test kit with safety and reliability as our ultimate goals, and optimize the test kit for a reasonable wait time for result production.

      We are happy to see that the majority of respondents are supportive of our idea of creating a test kit for the food safety of starchy foods and would like to use the biosensors themselves.

      Among the 31 respondents who originally did not like to use the biosensors themselves, some changed their minds and decided they could accept using the biosensor themselves when being given 3 more pieces of information about our test kit in the survey.

  1. Bacteria are immobilized in a hydrogel to ensure biosafety. (12/31, 39% changed from 'no' to 'yes')
  2. Our design includes a kill switch. (17/31, 55% changed from 'no' to 'yes')
  3. B. subtilis in our test kit is gut probiotic bacteria. (22/31, 71% changed from 'no' to 'yes')

      Most people agree to use the test kit when they find B. subtilis familiar as probiotic bacteria. 'Kill switch' and 'hydrogel' are distant concepts to them, making them doubt the safety and utility of the biosensor. We can continue to develop safety designs with hydrogel and bacteriocidal measures while educating the public about genetically modified bacteria when used positively to relieve them from concerns and unknowns in synthetic biology.

      About 66% of respondents can accept a price range of HKD 15-45 for a biosensor test kit. We would keep the cost in this ideal range as we develop our hardware.

      69% of respondents (61/145) have increased confidence in brands that use Cereulide rapid testing for their food products. Therefore, our test kits can help food manufacturers and distributors enhance their image and trustability in terms of food safety.

      The limitation of our survey results is that the sample overrepresents students. If we had a chance to conduct the survey again, we would reach out to a more diverse group in the general public to better understand the views of people from different age groups and professions.

      In conclusion, this survey provided us with concrete starting points to develop our rapid test kit. For promotion, we can use familiar biotechnology to help consumers understand our innovation, for example, using the COVID-19 test kit to describe the sampling and result observation and probiotic bacteria to give consumers confidence that we are using bacteria with low health risk to humans. We also got a clearer idea of the price range, and the important criteria of safety, reliability, and speed people look for in novel biosensors.

Marketing Advisor


Key Questions

  1. How can we enhance science communication so people can understand the mechanisms of our test kit and accept it as a food safety checker?
  2. Why are people not ready to change their improper storage behaviors even if they know the risk of food poisoning?
  3. How can we build credibility and trust for our test kit, and for the food manufacturers who are our target users?

Key Findings

  1. The human temporal and spatial scales limit people's attention to their own interests and short-term benefits.
  2. Science communication can be enhanced with data visualization for better storytelling, body gestures, tailoring content to the audiences' understanding, and use of realistic scenes.

Key Actions

  1. We would think of techniques that help business owners and individuals realize the significance and urgency of the cereulide poisoning problem to them, here and now.
  2. We include real scenes of rice frying in the school canteen, as well as students enjoying lunch as usual, to lead onto our introduction of cereulide poisoning in our promotion video. For our presentation video, we would film our lab environment and take an engaging approach to storytelling by following members to different key spots on campus while introducing the work of different modules.


About Profesor Puig

      Coral Puig Garrigo combines her expertise in evolutionary anthropology, neuro-marketing and consumer psychology to help businesses navigate the ever-evolving landscape of market trends, with the only constant that we have: the human brain. In addition to her work in the private sector, Coral serves as an Adjunct Marketing Professor at HKUST's Business School.

Professor Puig as our Advisor

      Professor Puig is an anthropologist and marketing strategist. Since we met her in the Summer, she has been giving us valuable marketing and IHP advice as our instructor! For our video shoot, she taught us the use of body language, voice, commitment, and an interactive way of explaining the start of our idea. We accepted her game-changing advice on using realistic scenes in the canteen kitchen and student hall to enhance audiences' engagement with our video, relating the test kit to our daily life applications. Professor Puig also introduced us to the human temporal and spatial scales concept. Humans are naturally inclined to focus on things that affect us here and now and dismiss things that are distant to us. That's why making people willing to sacrifice and change for uncertain future rewards is very difficult. For instance, using time and effort to test if the rice is safe before eating or selling it to save someone from food poisoning does not bring immediate tangible benefits to food companies. Therefore, we need to communicate the urgency and significance of the cereulide food poisoning problem as we talk with firms and raise awareness of the general public towards this neglected food hazard. Moreover, firms and individuals alike sought after coolness and status. If we create an image of superior quality products with our cereu-free verification scheme, consumers would be more likely to trust and purchase the food products from the companies, giving them a unique edge over their competitors. Our test kit can help both the consumers and the companies to achieve a win-win situation - consumers can know what they buy is safe and of high food safety standards, while companies receive the trust and loyalty crucial for their businesses. With these inspirations, we continue visualizing our data and raising awareness of the significance of cereulide poisoning with continuous improvements.

      We are so grateful to have Professor Puig on our team as our instructor. Her advice deepens our understanding of the clever fusion of biotechnology and business so we can apply these tactics to enhance our project delivery outside the laboratory.