For anyone who has ever gotten food poisoning from either expired or contaminated meat knows that it not only can ruin a good meal but could potentially ruin you for a couple of days after as well. As a mother, I feel the added responsibility to select food that is safe for my family and want to trust that it is. It’s important that we as consumers understand what date the food we are going to purchase expires on, or if it’s at risk of contamination.
Expiration dates on packages can be a great way to reduce the risk of eating or purchasing food that is past the shelf life date. This has been effective for the most part as long as the date is clearly visible on the package.
Heaven forbid I forget my reading glasses when going to the market. If you are like me, blind as a bat without them, you need all the help you can get when trying to decipher the teeny tiny, not to mention illegible expiration date printed on the most indiscriminate part of the package. As the frustration mounts, the negotiating and head tilting begins….hmmm looks like it could be a 6 or an 8. No, no it is definitely a 5, yeah a 5 or no definitely a 6, you hope.
Technology and innovation to the rescue!
In a recent article from Food Dive, we are introduced to some very cool and innovative ‘expiration date’ labeling initiatives. Here are some of them…
Insignia Technologies has designed a color changing label that displays how much time is left on a product before it spoils. The benefit of this type of label is that retailers will be able to tell what products need to be placed for sale and what products need to be thrown away. The consumer would also be able to determine if they want to purchase the product knowing shelf life date is close to the purchase date and that they must eat sooner than later.
Another creative label is what researchers at the University of Alberta in Canada are working on, they call this a smart label. This label is time sensitive and would have the ability to change color when it detects E. coli, salmonella or listeria. We have been conditioned and have become a color coded society. We know that red means stop, green means go, and for the 40 and up crowd blue light means “big sale”. I think you get the point.
Why not apply this way of conditioned response to food safety as well? The benefit for using this type of label would be to warn the consumer of contamination. Also the smart label would be placed on the food during the entire production phase so this would help in locating where and when contamination transpired. This would help the manufacturer reduce the chances of selling a contaminated product.
Also, a designer out of London has developed a label that spoils or goes bad with the product named Bump Mark. The label is filled with gelatin, an animal based protein, and as the meat decays the gelatin begins to soften. The consumer will be able to tell the quality of the meat by just rubbing his/her finger across the label.
So you see once again “necessity is the mother of invention.” New technology and innovative ideas can help make the expiration dates on foods easier to understand and help stores to remove expried product from their shelves…and this mother is grateful.