Smart Food Packaging Technology To Indicate Food Expiration

Most of the people assume that the dates mentioned on the food packaging are expiration dates and they throw food away. This is leading to a lot of food waste. Our smart packaging technology changes colour when the food is expired and visually indicates expiration date.

Economic Impact

U.S. Department of Agriculture's economic Research Service estimates that in 2010, a total of 31 percent, or 133 billion pounds, of the 430 billion pounds of the available food supply at the retail and consumer levels went uneaten, with an estimated retail value of $162 BILLION.

This translates into 141 trillion calories (kcal) of food available in the U.S. food supply but not consumed in 2010. Expressed on a per capita basis, food loss at the retail and consumer levels in 2010 totaled roughly 1.2 POUNDS OF FOOD PER PERSON PER DAY, with a retail value of OVER $1.40.

Today, retailers and consumers rely on 'Sell by date' and 'Use by date' as the only mechanism to tell if their food is edible. They throw away the food thinking that it is not edible but according to US Department of Agriculture, 'sell-by date' and 'Use by date' is intended to convey the quality of food (food freshness) and not food safety (safe to eat). Food is perfectly edible to eat after the 'sell-by date' and 'Use by date' unless it smells bad or tastes bad.

Environmental Impact

EPA estimated that in 2015 in the US, more food reached landfills and combustion facilities than any other single material in our everyday trash, at 22 percent of the amount landfilled and at 22 percent of the amount combusted with energy recovery. Reducing food waste will help the US address climate change, as 20 percent of total U.S. methane emissions come from landfills. By keeping wholesome and nutritious food in our communities and out of our landfills, we can help address the 42 million Americans that live in food insecure households.

Confusion with Food labels

A new survey (Feb/2019) examining U.S. consumer attitudes and behaviors related to food date labels found widespread confusion, leading to unnecessary discards, increased waste and food safety risks. The survey analysis was led by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future (CLF), which is based at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Among survey participants, the research found that 84 percent discarded food near the package date “at least occasionally” and 37 percent reported that they “always” or “usually” discard food near the package date. Notably, participants between the ages of 18 to 34 were particularly likely to rely on label dates to discard food. More than half of participants incorrectly thought that date labeling was federally regulated or reported being unsure. In addition, the study found that those perceiving labels as reflecting safety and those who thought labels were federally regulated were more willing to discard food.

Raw chicken was most frequently discarded based on labels, with 69 percent of participants reporting they “always” or “most of the time” discard by the listed date. When it came to prepared foods, 62 percent reported discards by the date label and 61 percent reported discards of deli meats. Soft cheeses were near the bottom of the list with only 49 percent reporting discards by the date label, followed by 47 percent reporting discards of canned goods and breakfast cereals.

Among foods included in the survey, prepared foods, deli meats and soft cheeses are particularly at risk of contamination with listeria which can proliferate in refrigerated conditions. Despite concerns of listeria, soft cheeses were rarely discarded by the labeled date. On the other hand, raw chicken was frequently discarded even though it will be cooked prior to consuming and is not considered as big of a risk. Unopened canned goods and breakfast cereal pose the least concern based on time since packaging, but were still discarded by just under half of respondents.

What is the Solution?

At Spend Less, we have developed a food packaging technology that changes color when the food gets spoiled. Our technology provides a visual indicator of food spoilage. Retailers and consumers using Spend Less food packaging technology can use and sell the food until the food packaging changes colour.

Digital Solution

Apart from a visual indicator, consumers can also scan the QR code on the packaging to find out the shelf life left on their food so that they can prioritize their food consumption.

This QR code data also gives us an indicator of when consumers consume their food and this data will also help us to accurately predict an expiration date.

If your food is spoiled, we will alert you

Sustainability is on our mind

Our packaging technology is made with a byproduct of bio-diesel and it is completely biodegradable and compostable.

The Science

Spoilage-detecting packaging film for food based on pH-sensitive dye

pH-sensitive nanoparticles for detecting and preventing food spoilage

Nanoparticles can be used to detect and prevent food spoilage. As a result, food retail stores will offer healthy food options that are free from health risks.

An expiration date or expiry date is a previously determined date after which something should no longer be used, either by law or by exceeding the anticipated shelf life for perishable goods. Expiration dates and consequently sell-by dates are one of the retailers most significant losses and most of the time they are very conservative. A pH-driven indicator will provide real-time knowledge of whether a perishable product is safe to be consumed.

Spoilage should be monitored through production, transportation, distribution, and storage and should be monitored ongoing. This invention provides a real-time view of whether spoilage is occurring and to what extent

The physical structure of the nanoparticles enables it to be a potential and useful tool for food suppliers. At the core of its composition, nanoparticles contain a hydrophobic core, meaning that the particles will never completely react with water. This core can contain multiple agents that will indicate the condition of food spoilage.

The first, essential agent is either a hydrophobic dye or a hydrophobic antimicrobial agent. The hydrophobic dye will permeate if the food is in a condition of food spoilage. The hydrophobic antimicrobial agent will prevent the outgrowth of the bacteria.

On a chemical level, the structure of the nanoparticles changes as the condition of the food changes. The reason is that the change in condition induces a change in pH. The change in pH will cause the opening of the hydrophobic core, releasing the hydrophobic agent.

In order to maintain the efficacy of the nanoparticles, the core contains a copolymer repeat unit and a pH responsive dendrimer. Both agents will interact in a way where the structural integrity of the nanoparticles is maintained in a change of conditions.


A study of pork at differing temperatures was conducted. The study proved that the film with red dye was able to calculate the pH within 0.5 pH interval. In addition, the color changes were apparent over time, implying that a developed pH nanoparticle solution can provide a real time visual of the condition of meat products.

Kalyan Kalwa

Located in Boston and Toronto