An award-winning perishable label that reacts to protein decomposition could herald a change in the way the freshness of food is measured, according to its London-based designer, raising the prospect of reducing consumable wastage and even improving organ transportation. Joel Flynn reports.
The World Bank has called it "shameful" - the amount of food thrown away every year. Estimates vary - some as high as 15 million tonnes in the UK alone. But design student Solveiga Pakstaite says she might have an answer to reducing this - and it's all in the label. SOUNDBITE: Designer and British James Dyson Award Winner, Solveiga Pakstaite, saying (English): "It's a bioreactive expiry label which updates its status according to what the food in the package is doing, so it copies food freshness by, I've set a layer of gelatin over a bumpy surface, and the reason I've chosen gelatin because it's a natural substance and because it decays at the same rate as food does, and because jelly is solid when its first set, you can't feel the bumps underneath, and gelatin has this property of 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 that food is no longer safe to eat." The label itself decomposes at the same rate as the food it's labelling. Depending on the concentration, it can be tailored for any food - but its applications might not stop there. SOUNDBITE: Designer and British James Dyson Award Winner, Solveiga Pakstaite, saying (English): "You could apply it to organ transportation to make sure it's at the right temparture and that all the conditions are right. It could be applied to short term pharmaceuticals that go off quickly, you don't want to be ingesting those. It can be applied to anything that goes off and has an expiry date, so long as it's quite a short time." There are still kinks in the product - gelatin is an animal product, so the label could be shunned by vegetarians. But even if we don't see Solveiga's product on our shelves soon - traditional food labelling still looks to be past its sell-by date.