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A better way to monitor food expiry dates: Mimica Touch

Article explaining how the innovative food labelling system, Mimica Touch, works.
View from above of a Mimica label on a jar and one on packaged meat
© EIT Food

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You’ve seen how food date labelling contributes to food waste and why this is a problem that needs fixing urgently.
Food manufacturers work out expiry dates by determining a product’s ‘shelf life’. The shelf life is the minimum amount of time a food product should last, it’s a promise to the consumer. Regulation defines this as the ‘date of minimum durability’.
Manufacturers understandably want to ensure that products are safe over their entire shelf life and retain their optimal appearance, aroma, flavour, and texture. Products with a short shelf life which could potentially pose a risk to health are marked with a ‘use by’ date. More stable products which lose their quality over time but do not pose a health risk are given a ‘best before’ date. Testing involves exposing the products to varying conditions and companies often choose the date that reflects the worst case scenario to stay on the safe side. If the shelf life is set too generously, loss of quality might impact consumer acceptability. But if it’s set too conservatively, there’s an impact on food waste [1].
Trading one priority off against the other is no longer an acceptable solution so finding a new way to monitor and display the shelf life more dynamically is needed [2].
This is what UK-based start-up Mimica Lab have done. Mimica’s first patented product Mimica Touch is a responsive label or bottle cap that turns bumpy when food or drinks spoil. The main material used in Mimica’s technology is a vegan gel which is produced and set as a solid layer that conceals a sheet layer of plastic bumps beneath it. The unique gel chemistry can be calibrated to mimic the spoilage rates of different food and drink products and matches the temperature sensitivity of the food. The bumps are revealed when the gel spoils and turns to a liquid, which happens at the same time as the food begins to spoil. Mimica Touch will turn bumpy much quicker if the food is kept incorrectly because it responds to the same temperature conditions as the food.
The label is simple to use: the user needs only to run their finger over the surface. When it feels smooth, it means that the food is still fresh, and when it feels bumpy the food is no longer good for consumption.
Mimica says, ‘Using Mimica Touch enables us to understand the true longevity of food freshness so we can consume it for longer, safely. It provides an accurate, real-time indication of the product’s freshness and is the logical next step from the current printed date system.’
As well as making food expiry dates a lot less confusing, it’s also suitable for the visually-impaired for whom the existing date codes are unreadable.
The use of this innovation could cut ‘unnecessary waste in half’, claims Mimica and could also improve profits and efficiency for food companies and retailers by reducing the amount they have to throw away and increasing sales due to improved consumer confidence.
3 examples of Mimica Touch labels on milk, meat and orange juice
This case study video describes the problem of overcautious printed expiry dates resulting in perfectly fresh food and beverage products being thrown away when they are safe to consume, and how Mimica’s innovative solution can have a direct impact on unnecessary food waste.

This is an additional video, hosted on YouTube.

References

  1. Food and Beverage Stability and Shelf Life, Kilcast, D. & Subramaniam, P. [Online]. [Accessed 28 May 2020]. Preface chapter available online at Google books.
  2. Vision 2020: The new food waste horizons report.
© EIT Food
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From Waste to Value: How to Tackle Food Waste

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