Edible barcode could ‘revolutionise weekly food shop’, inventors say

A spin-out business from the University of Sunderland has devised an edible barcode that could reduce the amount of plastic packaging on food

A University of Sunderland startup has invented an edible printed ink code that it said will “transform food industry packaging”.

The new ink codes can be printed on fish, meat, fruit, vegetables, baked goods and drinks and could significantly reduce food packaging, inventors said.

Label Says Ltd, led by associate professor Derek Watson and Sunderland graduates Daniel Almond and Dominic Hutchinson, has developed machinery that can print an code, which, when scanned, could reveal information about the item’s origins, production, ingredients and allergen contents.

The codes, currently in the process of being patented, could be applied at farms, factories and supermarkets and may help reduce the amount of plastic packaging on food.

The application we have developed enables customers to get the relevant information they need about nutrition, sourcing allergies and how to dispose of any waste, without the need for excessive packing.
– Peter Woods, Label Says Ltd

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A hand-held electronic device could scan the codes and reveal where the product was made. Inventors say the code could also contain recipe ideas. Businessman Peter Woods, who helps lead the startup, said “the way we buy our food will drastically change in the coming years”.

“Climate change, as well as the demand from customers, is driving supermarkets and other food providers to drastically reduce their packaging. The application we have developed enables customers to get the relevant information they need about nutrition, sourcing allergies and how to dispose of any waste, without the need for excessive packing. Ultimately it is better for the customer, the food supplier and our planet,” he said.

The new technology will meet the food quality standards framework and has the potential for future company growth and employment, the University of Sunderland said.


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Prof Watson, leader for innovation and technology transfer and academic industry collaboration, said: “The project hinged on two very talented students working in the area of augmented reality, and we were exceptionally lucky to have Daniel and Dominic who have proved themselves in the commercial arena.

“We all worked as a team and have grown from this project, there was a great synergy felt by all from our group dynamic. We are now at a stage where we can pitch the product to the food industry.”

The project was part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and the Great Exhibition of the North and was delivered by NewcastleGateshead Initiative (NGI).

More information about the code can be found at www.labelsays.com

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