Image credit: bandita, used under Creative Commons license.
Food waste is a serious issue. And while schemes ranging from biojet fuel made from organic trash to mandatory food waste collection might help divert that waste to a good use, it would be much better if it was never thrown out in the first place. Now researchers are hoping to create packaging that helps warn us before our food goes off—hopefully encouraging consumers to adopt a more frugal approach to buying, eating, and disposing of their food.Developed by researchers at the University of Lancaster, smart food packaging could soon help identify when food starts to go off. According to the Lancaster and Morecombe Citizen, the idea of modified atmosphere packaging is not new, but rather than rely on expensive labels, the researchers have developed ways to integrate the technology in the packaging itself, thus cutting costs considerably. Lead researcher Professor Andrew Mills explained the impetus to the newspaper:
"At the moment we throw out far too much food, which is environmentally and economically damaging. Modified atmosphere packaging is being used increasingly to contain the growth of organisms which spoil food but the costs of the labels currently used with it are substantial. We are aiming to eliminate this cost with new plastics for the packaging industry."
Avoiding food poisoning is, of course, a worthy cause in and of itself—but I do have niggling doubts about how much this technology will actually cut food waste. After all, in the germophobic society we live in, many people will be likely to discard food as soon as the label tells them it may, possibly, just maybe be starting to go off. But I guess that will depend on how and what the labels actually communicate...