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These Living Food Labels Disappear As Your Food Goes Bad

The gelatin-based Bump Marks reveal the truth about your food better than a printed label ever could.

These Living Food Labels Disappear As Your Food Goes Bad

There are several reasons why you might want to design a new type of food expiration label. Visually impaired people can’t read text. Labels are notoriously over-cautious, and often inaccurate. And they clearly aren’t doing much to reduce food waste. America throws away about 40% of everything it produces.

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This is why Solveiga Pakstaite came up with a strange new alternative: labels created using a “bio-reactive” substance. Bump Marks, as she calls them, are made of gelatin that degrades at the same rate as the food inside a package. When the gelatin becomes runny, it reveals a ridge underneath, indicating that the food is on its way out.


“Gelatin is protein, so it decays at the same rate as protein-based foods,” Pakstaite says. “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, who recently graduated from a college in London, developed the idea as a third-year project. She now has a patent pending, and is looking for partners to take the concept forward. The design is an entry in this year’s Dyson Awards.

She argues that the Bump Marks give a more intimate impression of of the condition of packaged food and sensitizes people to the food waste issue. “I wanted to create a solution that would change people’s attitude towards throwing away perfectly good food, and in turn their behavior,” she says. “This convinces them the food is fine, provided retailers have been honest and stored the food safely.”

Gelatin isn’t the only possible material for Bump Marks, which will please vegetarians. Pakstaite is looking into plant-based gels as well.

But what about the potential ooze from a jelly-like label?

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“The jelly is completely contained and sealed within plastic film, so there’s no slime oozing about,” she says. “The film allows the gelatin to better replicate the conditions of the sealed food within the package.”

About the author

Ben Schiller is a New York staff writer for Fast Company. Previously, he edited a European management magazine and was a reporter in San Francisco, Prague, and Brussels.

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