We've all stared at that last hot dog in the wrapper or sniffed at a carton of milk with crossed fingers. Thanks to some Scottish scientists working on a new "intelligent plastic" that changes color once food is spoiled, our stomachs will no longer be at the mercy of our dubious testing methods.
Professor Andrew Mills and co. at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, Scotland are actually cutting out a middleman you probably never even knew was around. In the world of modified atmosphere packaging, food such as meat, cheese, veggies, fresh pasta and anything really is placed in a plastic bag that then has all of its air sucked out and replaced with a cocktail of protective gases. This lengthens the amount of time the food will stay good to consume, and also determines what a little label insert will say when it comes to expiration dates.
Well, instead of having to print out labels and the like, Professor Mills's smart plastic would let the consumer know, instead. (Wouldn't we still need a number in the end, though? It'd be pretty awful to open up your fridge and find out all the stuff you bought yesterday is rotten.)
It's unclear how the Strathclyde plastic works, exactly, but the benefits gained by using it could go beyond the simple labels. It could, for example, alert a buyer that a package's seal has been damaged or the contents inside were tainted somehow. That right there sounds worth the price of admission to me. There was this one time I needed a whole bunch of shrimp for appetizers for a party and — well, let's just say no one let's me plan the parties now.