A revolutionary “smart food label” developed by European scientists, which would take the guess work out of use-by labels, could be mass produced by the end of this year, if it gets enough support.
The UWI Label, which can be used on a range of foods, contains a chemical-based indicator strip that tells you exactly how long that product has been opened.
Developed by Pete Higgins, in conjunction with scientists from Heriot-Watt University, in Edinburgh, Scotland, the inventors say the system could save countless food poisoning cases and significantly eliminate food wastage.
“The label on the back might have small print that says something like “once opened, use within 4 weeks” (or whatever the period might be) but, how do you remember when you first opened the jar?” the creators ask.
You don’t, that say, you forget and you then either take a risk or throw it away. Sound familiar?
“The label reacts as a soon as a food jar or packaging is opened, then gives a visual warning when the product is no longer safe to consume,” Higgins said.
The UWI Label knows when you opened the jar for the first time shows you how long it has been opened tells you when it has reached its “use within” period and when it may no longer safe to use or consume.
Indicator panels in the label progressively turn green to show the elapsed time from the opening of a product and a red panel alerts consumers when the “use within” period has expired.
UWI Label time ranges can be set as hours, days, weeks, months up to a six month and is pre-set during manufacturing of the product.
The inventors have made it to the final of the Barclays Take One Small Step competition, which helps entrepreneurs in Great Britain to turn their ideas into reality, with £50,000 funding, exposure and support.
The public voting starts 30 May and concludes 27 June, and the inventors say they “will be working tirelessly throughout this four week period to get as many supporters as possible.”
They say while the label would be extremely beneficial for food products, it could offer significant improvements to various industries.
“Beyond the obvious application for food production, the technology is also suitable in other sectors where products have a critical shelf life once opened – including industrial glues and sealants, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, blood transfusion services and veterinary,” Higgins said.