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TimeTemp develops smart label
Nov. 15, 2010, Ås, Norway – Expiration dates may soon be a thing of the past, thanks to a Norwegian company’s new intelligent packaging label.

TimeTemp has developed an adhesive label that uses non-toxic chemicals to analyze product freshness. The plastic labels are designed to analyze the temperature changes a product undergoes from the moment it is packaged, displaying its freshness in an easy to read format.

“Our indicator is attached on food producers’ production lines and will follow each consumer package all the way to the consumer and, at all times, show remaining shelf life of the food product,” says Lars Ove Brenna, TimeTemp’s sales and marketing manager. “Time and temperature are the two major factors degrading food products and hence our indicator technology will be a better way to tell consumers [a product’s] actual remaining shelf life.”

The indicator label features a bar that gradually fills in, changing colour as a product nears the end of its shelf life. When the whole bar area has changed colour, the product has expired.

TimeTemp created the label to reduce the amount of food waste created by the current industry practice of labeling temperature sensitive products with best before or sell by dates that fail to take product storage and handling into account.

“To set such a date, one needs to guess what temperature the product will be exposed to throughout the cold chains,” explains Christian Aasland, TimeTemp’s general manager. “Because such average temperature assumptions never will be correct for an individual product, large portions of the food we waste because of bad dates are perfectly fine. The TimeTemp technology provides a more accurate indication of quality thus expiration is based on the actual storage conditions each individual product is exposed to. “

This could have huge implications in Canada, where the average food waste per person is estimated at 183kg annually. The city of Toronto alone throws out an estimated 3.6 billion kg of food every year, approximately one-quarter to one-third of which goes into the trash untouched or unopened.

Although TimeTemp’s intelligent label was developed to determine freshness in products that degrade faster in higher temperatures, Brenna says the chemical composition of the label could be reformulated for use on products that are more sensitive to time than changing temperatures. According to Brenna, tests on less temperature sensitive products also show “good results.”

TimeTemp is aiming to launch its new label in the Norwegian market before next summer. No timeline has been established for an international launch, however, if the Norwegian launch goes well, the company plans to extend its reach to the North American market.