Specficially, DuPont’s Surlyn brand resin was used to create a duo-chamber pouch package with purified water on one side and dried infant formula on the other. The unique design allows the contents to withstand a difficult transportation to remote areas and still last up to 12 months without refrigeration. To mix the contents, the person using it simply squeezes the pouch to activate the mixing and it’s ready to consume.
DuPont is also working to address food waste by introducing packing solutions that extend shelf life and satisfy the demand for single-serve options. For example, FreshCase Packaging by Curwood, Inc.--A Bemis Division--USA, took top honors in the 2012 DuPont Awards for Packaging Innovation for packaging that preserves meat’s color while extending shelf life 10 times longer than store-wrapped meat.
According to industry reports, demand in the U.S. for meat, poultry and seafood packaging will grow to $9.5 billion over the next five years, led by consumers’ desire for single portion, vacuum packed pouches of fresh, frozen and processed items.
In another example of smart packaging and its impact on food safety, Colorado-based Chromatic Technologies, Inc. (CTI) announced the development of patent-pending ‘reveal inks’ that provide “return to fridge” reminders for high-risk producs like milk, yogurt, salsa, pickles and ketchup.
With roughly one-fifth of foodborne disease outbreaks occuring at home, “Most parents know that food safety at home is a big deal, but they need help understanding how long they can keep something out of the fridge,” acknowledges Patrick Edson, CTI’s chief marketing officer. “Food companies are understandably hesitant to put warning labels on their packaging, so the problem continues to exist. The simple solution is a ‘return to fridge’ reminder that appears on packaging when the product starts to warm up and the product can become vulnerable to spoilage. When the temperature is fine, the reminder is ‘off.’ When the package is getting warm, the reminder turns ‘on,’” explains Edson.
CTI’s ‘reveal inks’ can be printed on cans, paper labels, cartons and film and is powered by a combination of thermochromic inks. When the product, such as milk, is at a safe temperature, the message reads “drink milk,” but when the carton reaches a target warm temperature (e.g. 40 degrees Fahrenheit), a color will disappear revealing a “return to fridge” reminder to the consumer. The company’s process also allows the message, which is enabled to be “on” or “off” throughout the life of the package, to be customized.
Infratab, Inc. is another technology provider whose products aim to answer the question: “How fresh is it?” The Oxnard, Calif.-based company’s Freshtime technology platform monitors, tracks and traces the condition of perishable goods with smart sensors and software.
Freshtime solutions consist of RFID sensor tags and software (data capture dashboards, cloud databases and analytics), which provide real time business intelligence about the freshness of perishable goods. They are also compliant with GS1 and EPCglobal tag and data standards.
Confusion over ‘best by’ dates
The advancements in food packaging and labels, while commendable, is unfortunately undermined at times by confusion over the ‘sell by, use by, and best before’ dates, which unintentionally contribute to food waste.
Last month, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and the Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic issed a joint report: The Dating Game: How Confusing Labels Land Billions of Pounds of Food in the Trash.
According to the report, “All those dates on food products--sell by, use by, best before--almost none of those dates indicate the safety of food, and generally speaking, they’re not regulated in the way many people believe. The current system of expiration dates misleads consumers to believe they must discard food in order to protect their own safety. In fact, the dates are only suggestions by the manufacturer for when the food is at its peak quality, not when it is unsafe to eat.”
The issue of food waste is gaining more attention, and this report highlights the staggering scope of the problem. For example, 20 percent of food wasted in British households is due to misinterpretation of dat labels. If the same were true for the U.S., it would mean the average household is discarding $275 to $455 per year of good food because of confusion over date labels. And, businesses too are wasting food. It’s estimated that $900 million worth of expired product is removed from the supply chain annually.