It is estimated up to 30 percent of the food produced globally is wasted. Much of this is blamed on bad or inaccurate labelling, especially when it comes to meat and dairy products.
One answer could be a prize-winning invention by a British design student. She says it’s all in the label.
“It’s a bioreactive expiry label which updates its status according to what the food in the package is doing, so it copies the food freshness: I’ve set a layer of gelatin over a textured, bumpy surface – I’ve chosen gelatin because it’s a natural substance and because it decays at the same rate as food does.
“Because jelly is solid when it’s first set, you can’t feel the bumps underneath. Gelatin has this property that when it completely expires, it turns back into a liquid, so when you run your fingers over it, you’re able to feel the bumps underneath, indicating that your food is no longer safe to eat,” says Solveiga Pakstaite.
So the label itself decomposes at the same rate as the food it is labelling and can be tailored to any kind of foodstuff. And, its inventor says, there can be other uses:
“It can be applied to anything perishable, so it doesn’t have to be just food, you could apply it to organ transportation to make sure it’s at the right temperature and that all the conditions are right. It could be applied to short-term pharmaceuticals that go off quite quickly, you don’t want to be ingesting those. It can be applied to anything that really goes off and has an expiry date, so long as it’s quite a short time,” says Solveiga Pakstaite.
One downside is that gelatin is an animal protein, which means vegetarians, for example, may not want to use the labels. On the other hand it is cheap and easy to use. Its inventor is looking for a commercial partner to help her make the label a reality.