An Ireland-based startup has devised a packaging solution for preventing food waste and reducing plastic packaging.

A team from Senoptica Technology has developed an ink-based oxygen sensor that can be placed inside hermetically sealed food packages for products like meat. The sensor will change color when conditions within the packaging change — primarily when oxygen enters the packaging, suggesting that the packaging has failed.

Responsible for a significant amount of food waste, package failures could potentially be caught using the oxygen sensor even before the package has left the food manufacturer’s plant, according to the sensor’s developers. This means that interruption to the supply chain would be minimal once caught and fewer spoilage events before sell-by dates will occur after the product has been purchased.

Current methods for conducting such testing are destructive wherein a handful of packages are selected, usually at random, and destroyed in the process. This creates added food and plastic waste. According to the developers, the Senoptica method would eliminate the need for a destructive testing method. Instead, the sensors would signal that oxygen has entered the packaging. That way, unnecessary destruction of both food and plastic would not take place.

In addition to reducing food and plastic waste, the developers see the oxygen sensors as also potentially enabling food traceability.

Several companies and researchers throughout the world are attempting to prevent food waste via packaging. Recent efforts include U.K. researchers developing food labels that change texture as food ages. Likewise, researchers from McMaster University have developed a transparent patch that also reflects changes within packaged food.

Meanwhile, researchers from the Imperial College London have also developed a sensor, this one a paper-based electrical gas sensor that detects gases that indicate meat spoilage.

The oxygen sensors are currently under trial.

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