Time’s Up

From Japan comes the neat idea of meat labels that go dark when the food becomes unsafe, preventing bar code scanning. Fresh Labels work by detecting levels of ammonia in the meat, preventing stores from tampering with expiration dates, a recent problem in Japan.

image courtesy of To-GenkyoI love the idea, since it focuses on when the food actually isn’t fit for eating, not a comically cautious “best-before” date or an ambiguous “sell-by” date. Of course, the discussion now would be around what “unsafe to eat” means.

I’m wondering: do these stickers also have an expiration date? Any Japanese readers out there able to do some translating? Here’s a better image, from the designer’s site.

In addition, since the topic was posted on a design site, I’d be remiss if I didn’t compliment Fresh Labels’ hourglass shape. Clever!

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  1. Sakura Mizuno
    Posted September 1, 2009 at 11:37 am | Permalink

    Just found your blog via another blog. To answer your question. there is no expiration date.

    top row states, Pork, thin sliced meat

    second row: Ingredient name, origin /Pork (domestically produced) that is, Japan

    third row: price per 100 grams (in this case 248 Yen per 100 grams, Actual weight of package (this case 190 grams)

    bottom: package price (in yen) 471 yen

    Hope that helps!

  2. Posted September 1, 2009 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

    Thanks Sakura! That’s really helpful. I guess when the sticker turns dark when the meat goes bad, that’s your expiration date.

  3. Sam
    Posted October 12, 2009 at 9:33 pm | Permalink

    This label is a fantastic idea to combat issues with unsafe meat. It makes me think of the recent NYT article “Woman’s Shattered Life Shows Ground Beef Inspection Flaws” (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/04/health/04meat.html) that I believe you referenced in another post. What would be really interesting would be if these labels could perceive any other harmful pathogens besides ammonia and could prevent the types of infections like Stephanie Smith experienced.

    What would be most helpful would be some kind of at-home E.coli test since a label like the Japanese one above would only work on fresh meats and not frozen. For some reason, I think we implicitly assume that frozen meat is less dangerous than fresh which has been clearly proven not to be the case. Consumers should be empowered to test the quality of their meats themselves since meat processors are clearly not taking that responsibility seriously.

    Another concern I have about this label is its potential effect on food waste. Consumers would probably not purchase meat has started to approach expiration (but may still be perfectly good for another day or two) and that meat would likely have to be trashed without any use. I suppose we just need to understand what kind of psychological effects these sorts of labels would have on consumers.

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