Packaging That Knows When Food Is Going Bad

Professor Andrew Mills with food packaging incorporating the intelligent plastic indicator. (Credit: Image courtesy of University of Strathclyde)

Packaging that alerts consumers to food which is starting to go bad is being developed by researchers at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow.

The project aims to improve food safety and cut unnecessary food waste by developing a new type of indicator, made of ‘intelligent plastics’ which give a warning, by changing colour, of when food is about to lose its freshness because it has broken or damaged packaging, has exceeded its ‘best before’ date or has been poorly refrigerated.

An estimated 8.3 million tonnes of household food- most of which could have been eaten- is wasted in the UK each year.

The indicator is to be used as part of a form of food packaging known as modified atmosphere packaging, which keeps food in specially-created conditions that prolong its shelf life.

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Freshness indicators typically take the form of labels inserted in a package but these come at a significant cost. Strathclyde researchers are looking to create a new type of indicator which is an integral part of the packaging, and so is far less expensive. The project has received £325,000 in support from the Scottish Enterprise Proof of Concept Programme.

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