Integrated food safety indicator

While many retailers do respect product handling rules for sensitive food products, many still do not. Overfilled warehouses and overloaded refrigeration units do not stop retailers from meeting customer demand for various products. It’s easier to cut corners here and there in food storage and transportation directives, then to build or rent a new section of a warehouse. From most prestigious supermarkets to the small grocery shops, all kinds of stores engage in questionable practices, depending on the management’s decision. It is not uncommon for shops to turn off refrigerators for the night to save on electricity bills. Or for retailers to stockpile fresh yogurt in blazing sun for a day because of overbooked warehouse capacity.

One way for consumers to be sure about product retaining it’s intended and original qualities is end-to-end control, that is from manufacturer to the consumer. This idea represents one such solution.

Food product that leave manufacturer are often either packaged or labeled. Packaging and labels travel along with the product itself from the manufacturer to the customer virtually unchanged. By altering packaging in a way, that could report improper handling, customers can make informed decision which product they buy. For example yogurt and many other diary products require to be stored at temperatures inside a certain range. For example, if yogurt requires to be stored at temperatures ranging from 0°C to 8°C, it might be okay to temporarily store it at temperatures from -5°C to 15°C, but certainly not okay at temperatures like -15°C or 30°C. Storing yogurt at 30°C can make the product hazardous to health, and storing it at -15°C will severely reduce it’s quality once thawed.

 Example of integrated food safety indicator

Example of integrated food safety indicator

By simply integrating a combination of liquid crystal thermometer, or alternative very cheap solution, that records minimum and maximum temperatures encountered, consumers can avoid all the diarrhea’s and vomiting that result from  dodgy grocery stores that turn off refrigerators for the night to save on electricity bills. Such package improvements can also help brands, since consumer experience is more controlled. Consumers that buy products that they know were not properly handled will expect lower quality and will not associate low quality with the brand.

In the end, everybody who intends to do serious business will benefit from such improvements. Consumers will happily pay a small premium for guarantee of their health. Reputation of the brands will improve, since no harm will be done to consumers by rotten products. And retailers that cut corners at expense of consumer health will loose revenue from unsold goods, which will push them to improve their business.

Thermometer can be altered to change colors gradually, so that the temperature is recorded only when experienced for several hours. It can also be significantly simplified indicating using three fields (frozen, good, heated) or one field (good/not good). Other types of measuring instruments can be integrated as well, for example instruments that react to oxygen and therefore can inform if the packaging was broken.

Below are examples of min/max thermometer integrated into packaging of a product. One of the products was once frozen, another always stored at the correct temperatures, third one was at least once stored in the warm temperatures, and the last one was both frozen and stored in hot temperatures.

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