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Bio-reactive expiration labels could spell the end of spoiled food

Think fast: Today’s date matches the expiration date printed on the carton of milk in your fridge. Do you throw it out, or live on the edge and pour it over your frosted flakes with reckless abandon?

It’s a tough call, for sure, but not to worry — soon you might not have to resort to the sniff test to tell if your milk (or any other food for that matter) has gone bad.

Recently crowned the winner of the UK James Dyson Award, the Bump Mark is a clever new food label designed to decay at the same rate as the food inside the package and thereby provide a more accurate indication of whether or not it’s safe to eat.

bump mark 3Designed by industrial design student Solveiga Pakstaite of the University of Brunei, each Bump Mark starts out as a smooth label, made mostly out of a specially-engineered type of gelatin. As the gelatin breaks down, the surface of the label slowly changes textures and exposes small bumps underneath. These bumps can be felt by a person running their finger over the label, and will become increasingly apparent as the gelatin decays further.

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What’s more, the gelatin used for the labels can be engineered to break down at different rates, making it possible to match the expiration label with the decay rates of a given food. “The label simply copies what the food in the package is doing, so the expiry information is going to be far more accurate than a printed date,” Pakstaite says.

The project is still in the prototype stage at this point, but if it adopted on a broad scale, Dyson claims these Bump Labels could save the average UK family more than £700 a year on wasted food.

As a regional winner of the James Dyson Award, Pakstaite will receive £2,000 to further develop her prototype, and will progress to the international stage of the competition. The international winner will receive £30,000, with an additional £10,000 awarded to their university department.