Can smart labels reduce perishable food waste?

Perishable food wastage is very high for most countries and is becoming an issue of great public concern. Lack of studies that analyze the causal factors of food losses in this context also adds to the problem as one is unable to pinpoint the most wasteful stage in the supply chain- from harvesting stage till it reaches the consumer. As for the manufacturers, they often assume that something will go wrong in the supply chain or even in our homes and so they build in a shorter date to compensate for this. But most of us will keep food better than what the food manufacturer expects and so good food ends up being wasted. Is there something that can be done about this?

Why should we care about food waste?

Wasting food feels wrong morally when so many people go without. All the world’s nearly one billion hungry people could be fed on less than a quarter of the food that is wasted in the US, UK and Europe. According to the European Commission, around 88 million tonnes of food waste are generated annually with associated costs estimated at 143 billion euros. Compared to this, India wastes $14 billion worth of food in a year and the United Kingdom wastes £9.7 billion of food each year.

As Solveiga Pakštaitė, Founder & Director of Mimica puts it, “If food waste were a country it would be the 3rd largest emitter of greenhouse gases after China and the US.” And with 820 million people going hungry every day, one should think twice and think hard before wasting the food. When the food is thrown in the bin, it is not food itself that was wasted. What it also entails is the toil the farmer put in to grow the raw material, the energy that was used to process and transport the raw material and also the finished goods to the grocery stores, the energy then consumed by these stores for refrigeration and other fixtures and the list goes on. So, believe it or not you are inherently contributing to global warming as rotting food also releases methane which is a greenhouse gas.

What is the solution?

Mimica Touch- Bio responsive gel to measure food freshness

What if the food packaging label could still tell us whether or not the food is still fresh? Like this, the manufacturer need not “guess” the expiry date based on assumptions but the food can tell us the truth. This is exactly what Mimica Lab, a UK based firm is all about. They have come up with a patented smart label called Mimica Touch. The label contains a material that is mapped and matched to the specific food product so that it actually experiences decay at the rate as the specific food it is labeling. It adjusts to conditions along the way, so if you’ve kept it well, it will stay smooth for longer, but if you’ve left it out a bit too long on a warm day, it will warn you when the food is no longer good to consume. This label can be used for juices, red meat and dairy products.

Mimica Touch- Smart Label by Mimia Labs

Such innovations coupled with lifestyle changes can help reduce food waste significantly. For instance, one can adopt apps like Olio or ResQ that help share leftovers with those who need it. Sometimes for free, other times for a fraction of the cost. Next time when you go to a buffet restaurant and are about to stock up your plate with a mountain of food, consider this- how about making multiple trips to the buffet counter taking smaller portions each time? Like this, you get your daily dose of cardio that will also help you digest and make space for the scrumptious dessert that you may be longing to have and also will stop you from over-estimating your capacity that would have eventually lead to food waste. It is just the basic things in life that make a difference.

Published by Kshitij Tiwari

Roboticist, martial artist, solo traveler, environmentalist

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