Food Label Changes Color As Food Ages

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A feature attraction at the Good Design Awards, an awards program organized by the Japan Institute of Design that evaluates and encourages unique design, was To-Genko’s proposed new method of tracking food expiration dates with the use of a visual aid dubbed The Fresh label.

The label changes colors based on the level of ammonia the food emits as it ages. After it has passed its expiration date the barcode is no longer readable, making it impossible to sell the product.

The label has one layer of information for the food with the barcode, and another on top with special ink reactive to ammonia; the ink is made of non-toxic, pigment of purple cabbages.

The following is a description of the Fresh Label from the company:

“False labeling on food is a worldwide concern. Many consumers carefully check the food labels. However, expiry dates typed on the labels in characters are easily faked and there is a limit for its reliability.

“To solve such problem, we suggest a food label which changes its color by reacting to ammonia given off by food when it is becoming spoiled. When the food is no longer edible, the food label makes a bar code non-scannable and non-purchasable with pattern. This food label is reliable and difficult to counterfeit since it directly reflects freshness.

“An hour glass, which is a symbol of time, is chosen as a motif to let consumers intuitively know the freshness. The fresh label will create a new relationship between consumers and food through visualization of ‘Freshness’ which used to be difficult to be shown by the existing food labels.”

Examples of this type of label date as far back as 2007.

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Spence Cooper
Inquisitive foodie with a professional investigative background and strong belief in the organic farm to table movement. Author of Bad Seeds: A FriendsEAT Guide to GMO's. Buy Now!
Spence Cooper
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