How many times have you looked at items in your fridge and wondered if they’re still okay to eat?

Food products come with a number of dates—”Best By,” “Sell By,” “Enjoy By”—that can get seriously confusing.

GMA recently spoke to Dr. Michael Hansen, a senior scientist with Consumer Reports. He told them all those labels actually mean nothing.

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Enter the Bump Mark. It’s a bio-reactive label created by London-based designer Solveiga Pakštaitė, which uses gelatin that breaks down at the same rate as the food in the package. Obviously it wouldn’t work for every type of food, but it would be ideal for meats, poultry, and fish.

Pakštaitė explains

Gelatin is protein, so it decays at the same rate as protein-based foods. 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.”

food expiry labels 2

How does it work? You simply run your finger over the label. If the label is smooth, your food is fine. If you start to feel bumps, that means the gelatin is breaking down—just like your food inside the package—and you should proceed with caution.

This system is ingenious, because we’ve all seen those packages of meat that some customer took from the cold case, then abandoned—nowhere near a refrigerator case—in the chip aisle. No other expiration date labeling system keeps track of the temperature changes that food item has gone through.

Pakštaitė sees Bump Mark as an answer to a larger problem: food waste. She told FastCo

“I wanted to create a solution that would change people’s attitude towards throwing away perfectly good food, and in turn their behavior. This convinces them the food is fine, provided retailers have been honest and stored the food safely.”

food expiry label 4

FastCo adds that Pakštaitė is also looking into using plant-based gels in place of gelatin, so if Bump Marks end up in use on vegan food items, there won’t be a conflict of interest.

For anyone worried about gelatin oozing out as it decomposes: don’t. Pakštaitė says, “The jelly is completely contained and sealed within plastic film, so there’s no slime oozing about. The film allows the gelatin to better replicate the conditions of the sealed food within the package.”

Big Think notes that Pakštaitė is currently looking for a commercial partner to bring this labeling system to market. Bump Mark won the Inclusive Design Award and the James Dyson Foundation scholarship in this year’s Dyson Awards.

[via Big Think, FastCoExist]

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